Affirmative Action: The Policy, Reason, and Need

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

Many high school students strive to go to Ivy League colleges such as Harvard or Yale, but when they find that they fall short of their dream, it is natural for them as human beings to seek someone to blame. For many Asian American and Pacific Islander students, the scapegoat in this situation is the idea of “affirmative action.” Simply put, affirmative action is “is a policy in which an individual's color, race, sex, religion or national origin are taken into account to increase opportunities provided to an underrepresented part of society.” As a result of this policy, a college might find itself preferring an African-American over an Asian-American since they wish to promote two things: first, the diversity of its own institution, and, second, the education of some African-American students to help social mobility.

The Recurring Issue

In November of 2014, SFFA, or Students for Fair Admission, filed a lawsuit against Harvard, accusing it of discriminating against Asian American students in its admissions process. This lawsuit gained more publicity as it progressed and caused a controversial discussion on what “being just” is when considering the role race plays into college admission, the main topic of discussion being whether it should be considered. Gary Gutting from the New York Times outlines my thoughts on the topic very well as he claims that “when the purpose is sufficiently worthy, it’s right to prefer minority over majority applicants.”

When Asian-American students point our racial disparity in affirmative action, they forget that at one point in their history, the policy has helped them rise by providing them a basic necessity for education in the United States: understanding the English language. Although not exactly considered a part of affirmative action, the court case Lau vs. Nicols provided Chinese immigrants without English knowledge assurance that they would be taught English as federal law. The law was pushed forward by a group called Chinese for Affirmative Action, or the CAA, who served to “advocate systemic change that protects immigrant rights, promotes diversity, and remedies racial injustice.” This mirrors the situation currently presented in that both times a minority group has wished to increase its presence and encourage racial parity.