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Discrimination Against Asian Americans Reveals the Ugliness of Racial Selection

Two recent events show that our obsession with diversity and racial balancing is leading to substantial discrimination against a minority group—Asian Americans. The first is a lawsuit against Harvard for discriminating against people of Asian descent in admissions. While that suit has not yet come to trial, a note that I along with other Harvard graduates received from President Drew Faust made it clear that the university is girding itself for bad publicity. It complains that the evidence presented will be taken “out of context.” It intones that lawsuit is a threat to  “the integrity of the undergraduate admissions process” and “advances a divisive agenda.”

For all the opaque dudgeon of Faust’s prose, what the note singularly fails to claim is that Harvard does not today discriminate against Asians. That omission is not surprising. Even before trial, we know, for instance, that Berkeley, the most selective college in the California system which is prohibited by law from discriminating, has a class that whose composition is 44 percent of Asian descent—twice that of Harvard. The “integrity” of the undergraduate admissions process today seems to require that Harvard put a cap on the number of Asians just as it once admittedly put a cap on the number of Jews.

This week as well Mayor De Blasio of New York has announced a plan to destroy the best public schools in New York—schools that have been a transmission belt for those of modest incomes to become Nobel Prize winners and leaders across the arts, sciences, law and business. The problem for the Mayor is that these schools have student bodies that do not track the ethnic representation of New York, because they select by examination. And that disproportion is principally on account of the over-representation of Asian Americans. At Stuyvesant, the best of schools, students of Asians descent constitute 65 percent of the class! The mayor’s solution is to eliminate the exam and admit the top seven percent from any grade school although these grade schools themselves have hugely different standards of performance. The result will be to end elite public high school education in New York, as the previous standards of excellence will be impossible to sustain with students of widely differing abilities and preparation.

De Blasio and his school chancellor, being politicians, are less delicate and opaque than Faust. They are clear that the problem with the schools is their wrong racial representation. Indeed, they are so clear that they provide the opportunity for a lawsuit because their plan is the product of racial animus. We will see whether those who believe the Trump travel ban is discriminatory based on campaign statements are willing to express the same concerns about statements by the school chancellor defending official policy and complaining that no one community (i.e. Asian-Americans) should be able to “own these schools.” It is a comment on the relative decency of politicians of a previous era that they did not claim that the Jews thought they owned selective high schools because they gained admission in large numbers on neutral criteria.

These incidents are useful in that they take off the mask of theories of racial representation and show that they result in discrimination against people of modest means and relatively few connections, including particular minorities. These incidents are indeed divisive and happily so, because they will help people of diverse backgrounds recognize the inherent divisiveness of counting by race.

Reader Discussion

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on June 15, 2018 at 11:34:39 am

Who cares about the skin color of Americans? MLK. We need to recognize merit even if it does skew the PC measure of "diversity".

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JimB JD
on June 15, 2018 at 12:46:46 pm

Ah, but what about all those 'legacy' admissions? Endowments don't grow on trees...

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excessivelyperky
on June 15, 2018 at 14:21:35 pm

Legacy admits may be carved out of the racial quotas.

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Dave M
on June 15, 2018 at 15:44:56 pm

I guess that must mean that Asian Americans have not made donations to Harvard - right. Another example of Fractured Fairy Tale logic from one whose perkiness apparently rises so rapidly and so high as to interfere with logical faculties.

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gargamel rules smurfs
on June 15, 2018 at 15:49:49 pm

Hizzoner is thinking with his political wallet. Show the "envious" masses, deluded into thinking that they would otherwise rightly be admitted to some very fine schools were it not for their race or ethnicity, and Hizzoner's moral standing will rise commensurate with the decline in standards at these schools WHILE his political kettle will be filled with the monies flowing in from other "moral posturers" intent on making a demonstrative statement that they too are against racism / bias / genderism, and what the hell, speciesism!

I wonder if the Catholic School equivalent, Reigs High School, is still viable? Now that was a school!

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gabe
on June 15, 2018 at 15:55:13 pm

I would never have been able to withstand the temptation to work in "Faustian bargain", especially given how appropriate the term is in this circumstance.

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James T
on June 15, 2018 at 17:52:50 pm

I went to one of the New York City high schools where admission is based on one's score on a test, and from there to Yale. While I do not agree with De Blasio's plan or with Faust's explanation, I also do not accept that anti-Asian discrimination explains either one. Based on my experience, many of the students at the most-selective schools are simply not that impressive. Sure, they might have earned good grades and done exceptionally well on standardized tests. However, what that really means is that they excel in certain skills. It definitely does not mean that they are "smart." Remember, in the case of Stuyvesant, we are talking about students in their early teens taking a test. Further, my understanding is that a significant number of the students who gain admission (1) have been brought to the U.S. specifically to attend a specialized NYC high school, and (2) have taken admissions exam prep courses. Meanwhile, most NYC-born minority students wind up attending terrible high schools that close rather than open doors.

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Michael Sundel
on June 15, 2018 at 19:12:52 pm

Oops! should read: Regis HS

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gabe
on June 15, 2018 at 19:28:58 pm

I would've thought there was a distinction between how a private institution (Harvard) makes decisions, with that of a public institution (NYC schools). The argument might be that both Harvard and NYC's Elite-8 test admission high schools strive for meritorious students, but their methods are different, as are the obligations to their constituencies. And needless, the laws that proscribe their conduct.

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Forbes
on June 16, 2018 at 06:16:54 am

The primary point of this commentary, I suppose, is about the mucked up law of discrimination, made so by SCOTUS distorting Equal Protection prohibitions into diversity goals and mandates (thank you Justice Powell) and by educational and civil rights bureaucrats hoodwinking the public (taxpayers, tuition payers and employers) into accepting the notion that diversity was both an intrinsic educational and employment value and an instrumentally- valuable management tool for college administrators and for private and public employers, whereas diversity is neither and should be legally banned as a goal and a tool from public education and public and private employment and diversity as a word should be stricken from the lexicon of educators and employers.

But the constitution aside, there is much sociological and psychological insight in what McGinnis says in his commentary, "These incidents are useful in that they take off the mask of theories of racial representation and show that they result in discrimination against people of modest means and relatively few connections, including particular minorities. These incidents are indeed divisive and happily so, because they will help people of diverse backgrounds recognize the inherent divisiveness of counting by race."

The books "Night Comes to the Cumberlands" and"Hillbilly Elegy" describe and the opioid crisis and Donald Trump's election are testaments to the social and political consequences of ignoring (to use SCOTUS' discriminatory language in Footnote Four of Carolene Products which, after all, started this whole phase of mucking up the constitution) "discrete and insular minorities" that are Caucasian while doling out billions in government cash, foundation grants and educational and employment goodies to African Americans and Hispanics.

Lately, some nominal attention has been has been paid to the task of including Native Americans and Orientals within the racially acceptable, favored category of "discrete and insular" minorities entitled to the monetary and career benefits of diversity favoritism.

But still no Whites. And that's one of the really sad, insidious, invidious aspects of what McGinnis points out in the section of his essay which I quoted at length, infra.

When I was student chair of the "Speakers Committee" at the law school in which McGinnis now teaches (long before he arrived) I arranged for a lecture on civil rights in Chicago by University of Chicago Sociology Professor Philip Hauser, then the country's leading demographer and a pioneer in urban studies. During the Q&A I asked Hauser about the "civil rights" of the residents of a Chicago community called "Uptown," then the ghetto-like home to tens of thousands of Appalachian "Poor Whites" (see Sherwood Anderson) who had left the coal fields and migrated to Chicago (and other northern industrial cities) after WWII in search of manufacturing jobs and a better life, a life which they never found.
In response to my inquiry, Hauser said, "The Appalachian White is the only unrepresented minority in America." That was true in 1969, and it's true today largely due (as McGinnis points out) to "... discrimination against people of modest means and relatively few connections, including particular minorities... (and to) the inherent divisiveness of counting by race."

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Pukka Luftmensch
on June 16, 2018 at 12:02:24 pm

With all due respect, there is no correlation between a travel ban that serves to vet persons from Nations that are hostile to our Founding Judeo Christian values, and seek to do us harm, before they enter our Country, and discriminating against American Citizens due to Race/Ethnicity. A President has the fiduciary duty, as head of the military, to "provide for the common defense", as "Commander in Chief of The Army and Navy of The United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States, as provided for in our Constitution. This is not to say that I agree that all of the President's statements about providing for the common defense, have been made without prejudice, but only that in order to provide for the common defense, it is necessary to protect us from those who seek to do us harm.

While it is true that all of us are Blessed with many different gifts, not all that necessary translate into the ability to acquire material goods, which, for many elite schools, is the measure of success, it is important to note, that at the End of The Day, it is whether you use your talents to do Good, rather than "burying them in the sand", that determines whether you finish The Race, in a life well lived, and pleasing to God, serving The Common Good.

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Nancy
on November 14, 2018 at 05:47:19 am

[…] other hand, the academic world is one of the more race- and ethnicity-obsessed places in America. As the lawsuit against Harvard shows, elite institutions use different standards of admissions for different racial and ethnic groups, […]

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The Unjustified Attribution of Conservative Victories to Racial Animus
on December 29, 2018 at 10:49:06 am

[…] other hand, the academic world is one of the more race- and ethnicity-obsessed places in America. As the lawsuit against Harvard shows, elite institutions use different standards of admissions for different racial and ethnic groups, […]

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Image of The Unjustified Attribution of Conservative Victories to Racial Animus - Lawyers: Jobs, Career, Salary and Education Information
The Unjustified Attribution of Conservative Victories to Racial Animus - Lawyers: Jobs, Career, Salary and Education Information

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.