In a surprising move, four Asian-American groups have petitioned the Supreme Court to end race-based college admission decisions claiming they discriminate against Asian applicants.

This move is counter to the stance most Asian-American advocacy groups typically take and argues that using race as a factor in admission leaves Asians out in the cold.


Inside Higher Ed has more information on the brief:

“Admission to the nation’s top universities and colleges is a zero-sum proposition. As aspiring applicants capable of graduating from these institutions outnumber available seats, the utilization of race as a ‘plus factor’ for some inexorably applies race as a ‘minus factor’ against those on the other side of the equation. Particularly hard-hit are Asian-American students, who demonstrate academic excellence at disproportionately high rates but often find the value of their work discounted on account of either their race, or nebulous criteria alluding to it,” says the brief.

It was filed on behalf of the 80-20 National Asian-American Educational Foundation, the National Federation of Indian American Associations, the Indian American Forum for Political Education, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. 

The brief focuses heavily on research studies such as the work that produced the 2009 book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

The book suggested that private institutions essentially admit black students with SAT scores 310 points below those of comparable white students. And the book argued that Asian-American applicants need SAT scores 140 points higher than those of white students to stand the same chances of admission.

Several Asian-American groups — the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Asian American Justice Center, Asian American Institute, and Asian Law Caucus — have filed briefs opposing getting rid of raced-based admission practices. These groups argue that Asian-Americans have benefited from such programs and that the problem with college admissions isn’t that black and Latino students take spots from Asians, but that the system has become hyper competitive.

The news of this brief comes on the heels of a new study by the Pew Center, which held Asian Americans up as a sort of model minority, with higher education rates and incomes than their peers. However the study was published, many Asian Americans have been very vocal about the fact that their community isn’t monolithic and still faces very real challenges such a poverty.

The brief filed by the Asian-American groups is just one of three challenges to race-based admission policies the Supreme Court is considering. It will interesting to see how the highly partisan court decides in the coming year.

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  • KMO

    Just because the target audience is Black Women doesn’t preclude anyone else from enjoying or finding it useful. Way to perpetuate the ‘them and us’ mentality.

    Although, I find it rather odd that so many people are against my support of the idea of securing equality in terms of education regardless of racial background. Or are you (and others) clinging the idea that simply because a white person is saying it, they must have an ulterior motive?

    I must say, this is the first time I’ve ever received such a negative backlash for supporting racial equality. Seems at odds with the ideals I generally see promoted on this site.

  • Nikia

    But what about Asian-American groups who do not perform at the same levels as Chinese/Korean/Japanese-Americans, such as those from the Khmer, Hmong and Burmese communities, who may actually benefit from “race-based” admission?

    • KMO

      I can only really speak to my observations of Asian people that grew up in Asian societies (I live in East Asia), but I will assume that for the most part cultural ideology and values (for lack of a better word) still trickle down for the most part to their children who are raised in America, so if I’m wrong about that then please excuse my assumptions. This may be lengthy and sound a bit scattered or unrelated, but bare with me… I have a point, I promise.

      I’ll compare (in an anthropological sense) Eastern culture and Western culture (somewhat broadly, sorry). Western society is what is called a ‘Guilt Society’. Our moral code is shaped by an inner negativity we would feel when we do something that is morally unacceptable (be it religious, cultural, or personal in nature) and how *we* would feel if the negative action we committed was reversed and committed against us. For example, a young child takes a toy from another child. The parent teaches that child that it is wrong, and ‘How would you feel if they took your toy?’.

      In an Eastern society (Shame Society), moral codes are (mostly) based on how others will view their negative actions. How others will perceive them based on what they do (both right and wrong). In the same example, if a child in a shame society would take a toy from another child, the parent might say “If you do this, everyone will see that you’re a thief”.

      A more obvious comparison can be made when you look at how Western cultures tend to have high homicide rates, whereas Eastern cultures tend to have high suicide rates. Guilt and Shame. The same, but not the same.

      Now, I’m not making any observations on which society functions better with which brand of morality (I’ve lived in both and both have pros and cons). But in situations like this, it’s somewhat easier to see where people of Asian cultural backgrounds are coming from.

      Asian cultures put an enormous amount of pressure on their people to be the best. At any rate, at any cost. It’s not simply just about having the best (being rich, respected, loved, etc) but by actually being THE best. This is where the Shame Society comes into play. If you’re not actually *THE BEST* at whatever it is you’re doing, then someone, somewhere is looking down at you.

      As an American, this took me years to wrap my head around.

      So, what I imagine their internal beef with Affirmative Action is that even simply being *perceived* as having gotten to where they are based on racial background (even if it’s not the case, and I don’t believe that that is what Affirmative Action really is about) is in their minds not really being the BEST. Sort of like a shortcut. Regardless of whether or not that’s true (and I don’t believe that it is) it’s all a matter of perception and that’s how their culture functions. And quite frankly, it’s a stifling, suffocating standard to live up to.

      Although I think that the Asian Community requesting that A.A. be dismantled is pretty ridiculous, after living here for quite a while (I work with a non for profit women’s right’s group), I do see where they’re coming from.


    • KMO

      I meant bear* not bare… Sorry, I don’t hear English that much anymore.

    • Mademoiselle

      Very interesting observation. So using your logic, the two sides of this argument are:

      a/pro) AA serves to rectify the guilt of centuries of discrimination against the merit of minorities

      b/con) AA is a source of shame for anyone wanting to prove that they’re the greatest based on merit alone

      You said you think dismantling AA would be ridiculous, yet you sympathize with the Asian community. What’s your take on a middle ground?

  • NOitAll

    Interesting. Asian-Americans don’t like being considered the “model minority” yet they file a brief with the Supreme Court asking for things to be made easier because they are the “model minority.” They have become as adept at double talk and coded language as white people.

  • KMO

    @ Mademoiselle

    I don’t necessarily sympathize with their viewpoint on the issue, actually. Just from a cultural perspective I can see where they might be coming from. Only making an observation, really… I’m beginning to think I not all that adept at getting my point across and for that I apologize.

    Usually when I comment on topics like this I like to keep my personal opinions out of my observations… it taints my objectivity and can skew my views.

    So this is my personal opinion on the matter (so I guess take it with a grain of salt)…

    I feel as if there is maybe a disconnect in understanding in the Asian community (if not only the ones attempting to repeal A.A.) as to why these programs are necessary. Asian communities generally have unlimited access to high quality education as well as a deeply rooted cultural pressure to be successful (not that this pressure doesn’t exist in other communities, I would just say it’s stronger in Asian societies). I’m not sure if they fully comprehend the extremely unequal educational systems and support that is offered in urban communities. They live in a world where they (generally) have great educational tools available to them and a society that expects and pressures them to be successful at the risk of being shamed if not.

    On the other side in urban Black communities, you’ve got kids that are just as bright and capable as their counterparts, but are only granted access to a sub par educational system in a society that looks down on them only to later blame them for their lack of educational and professional advancement. This is why A.A. programs are important – if you don’t start on a leveled playing field, the bias will need to be evened out later in the game. I don’t think subject Asian community fully understands these issues because they’re not present in their communities.

    This is why instead of pushing for A.A. programs (not that I think they’re not valuable or necessary because I do), I just think that the bigger issue here is how American society is willfully denying Black children the educational resources and support that it provides to the rest of it’s society.

    High quality education is the most valuable investment a society can give to it’s members. It’s incredibly unfair that it should be denied to any individual, especially an entire group of people. Knowledge is power… Education sheds bias and opens doors for all when it’s available to all.

    • Insomniac

      @ KMO

      I’m late to this party…just got through all the posts.

      I don’t agree with a lot of what was in your ORIGINAL post, and I support a lot of what other commentators have said in opposition to what the Asians groups are saying in their petition to the USSC…these groups really need to take a step back and reflect for a moment.

      HOWEVER, I don’t agree with the post asking you why are you here on this site? Clearly you’re not a lunatic racist; so you’re welcome to throw in your 3 cents…hell, throw in a dime if you wish! We all rant at times, when we feel strongly about something. But as long as it is within the confines of the discussion, then so be it. I welcome your input and viewpoint…your thoughts evolved to reveal that your intentions were not sinister and diabolical.

  • I find it ironic that Asian Americans are in a similar situation that Jewish Americans were on this topic over 40 years ago. Here is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times’ “Times Topics” web page:

    “Affirmative action, however, met staunch opposition from Jews, who assailed what they called a quota system. Some leaders feared that it would create polarization jeopardizing the economic and political status of Jews and white middle-class people — that it was, in effect, reverse discrimination. Jews have long argued against the quotas of elite universities and colleges that were used to exclude them, regardless of academic merit. Jewish groups saw minority admissions programs as the reworking of the old, disreputable system.”

    A link to the article:

    Plus ça change…..

    I’m writing from Canada, and although we’re a very multicultural society (especially in cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal) we don’t have anything like affirmative action quotas. That would frankly strike us as completely ridiculous.

    That being said, Canada hasn’t had a history of slavery either, so we don’t have that historical baggage which seems to be a partial reason for American affirmative action programs.

    From a viewpoint of fairness, if affirmative action can be seen as a form of reparations for slavery, then it should stand – but it only should be applied to descendants of American slaves. This could be a partial solution to the issue of AA applicants leaving too few spaces for other applicants to obtain.