Statement on Affirmative Action and Harvard/UNC Lawsuits

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AARW and API Movement-Boston came together to express our disappointment in the recent lawsuit against Harvard and UNC regarding Asian American students and Affirmative Action. 

As Asian Americans, we speak out against the suit filed by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina and its implied attack on affirmative action. We believe that Asian Americans have benefitted and do benefit from affirmative action programs and should support them for the reasons below:

1. The suit is not designed to support Asian Americans and is politically motivated. The suit is a furtive attack on affirmative action for African Americans and Latinos. Edward Blum, a conservative campaigner against affirmative action, has cherry-picked for students as plaintiffs and has funded the suit. This suit is not only not designed to support Asian Americans, but is a strategy to create divisions between Asian Americans and other communities of color. Asian Americans have stood, and should continue to stand, with Black and Latino communities and must resist being used as a wedge against affirmative action.

2. Affirmative Action policies have historically opened opportunities for Asian Americans. Affirmative Action was won through the lengthy civil rights struggle against discriminatory and segregationist educational admission policies, particularly through the efforts of African Americans. Although Affirmative Action is a small step, it is an important one. Through these policies, many more Asian Americans, as well as other people of color, were able to access schools that historically privileged white students. 

3. Asian Americans need Affirmative Action today. Affirmative Actions policies serve to create a more diverse (though not representative) student body. All students, including Asian American students, benefit from learning to live within a diverse community.

Furthermore, we know that our communities are not monolithic and educational outcomes depend heavily on socioeconomic status and immigration history. Not all Asian Americans have the same stories of educational opportunities, and this should not be erased in discussions of Affirmative Action. Asian American communities encompass some of the highest income and some of the lowest income people. However, due to the model minority stereotype, the wealth and academic achievement of a few Asian Americans, many of whom are East Asian, have hidden the reality for many Asian American students whose lives do not reflect the stereotype. Therefore the social inequities and resulting educational disparities many Asian Americans face often go unnoticed.

Today, because of recent legal decisions of the U.S. judicial system, race is only allowed to be considered as a secondary and not a decisive factor in admissions within educational institutions. Thus, these policies are not effective enough to discriminate against  any group of people, and instead are an acknowledgement that these social disparities, and thus educational disparities, exist.

In addition, we know that another type of Affirmative Action already exists de facto at Harvard for wealthy and legacy students. The average household income for a Harvard student is three times the median household income of a typical U.S. household. Harvard, and other colleges and universities, have a variety of admissions practices that preference certain students, but Affirmative Action is the only policy consistently under attack.

4. Asian Americans have an obligation to stand for social justice and stand with other communities of color. Asian Americans are indebted to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements and must see ourselves in community with other people of color.  In standing for fairness and equity, we will build a better society for all, including Asian Americans.