When Affirmative Action Goes Down, Who Benefits from the Aftermath? | Haiyun Lu | 6 Min Read

December 22, 2022

In 2020, the National Asian American Voter survey found that 70% of Asian Americans supported Affirmative Action, while only 16% of them opposed it. Despite this, some elite Asian American groups have been used as a racial wedge against other minority groups because they hold on to the false belief that their children’s chance of acceptance into an elite institution will only be increased once Affirmative Action ends. However, this misperception of Affirmative Action will end up hurting all Asian American communities.  


The issue is complicated. It all began with Ed Blum, the founder of Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), and his secretive agenda: Keep as many white students in elite institutions as possible, at the expense of students of color.

In 2008, the year Abigail Fisher applied to the University of Texas at Austin (UT), the rejection rate at UT was higher than at Harvard. With a GPA average of 3.56 and SAT score of 1180 out of 1600, Fisher did not stand out academically. Of course, unlike in China, many American university admissions offices do not only use test scores. In fact, they take a “personal achievement index” into serious consideration as well, which is a combination of leadership, required essays, activities, services, and “special circumstances.” Fisher did not score high on that front either.

It is true that in 2008, UT offered provisional admission to 47 students whose test scores and grades were lower than Fisher’s. However, only five of them were Black or Latino.  Could you guess the race of the remaining 42 students? Asian Americans? No! They were all White. Ed Blum never acknowledged these 42 White students publicly because he only found fault with the 5 students of color being accepted.

It was inevitable that Fisher eventually lost her Supreme Court case in 2016. However, that failure taught Ed Blum to be cannier. He turned his sights on the elite Asian American community. East Asian Americans have been stereotyped under the Model Minority Myth, which has been used as a racial wedge to shame Black and Latino communities for decades. If (elite) Asian Americans can succeed in this country through hard work, why do African Americans and Latinos fail to do so?  Well, it must be that they are lazy and unwilling to work hard. That narrative easily makes invisible the systematic and institutional racism, which have been serving as blockades for the Black and Brown communities for centuries.

So, Ed Blum began to search for his perfect candidates from a website he set up: Harvard Not Fair dot org. He carefully selected his recruits from Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.  He also created the narrative that since Fisher’s public exposure caused her so much mental and physical stress, he’d rather keep his recruits out of the public eye to protect them. How clever!  No one can find fault in a group of “invisibles.” SFFA claims that these high-achieving Asian American students, some with perfect GPAs and SAT scores, being denied entry to Harvard is due to the unfair advantage that Affirmative Action gives to Black and Latino students.

Really? Have Black and Latino Americans really taken spots away from Asian Americans and White students?

In “Affirmative Action and Anti-Asian Racism,” Jennifer Lee writes that at Harvard, more than 43% of White admissions were athletes, legacies, Dean’s interests list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). About three-quarters of white ALDCs would have been rejected absent from their ALDC status. However, this preferential practice that disproportionately benefits White applicants goes unchallenged.

Jay Caspian Kang writes in “Where Does Affirmative Action Leave Asian Americans?: A High Profile Lawsuit Against Harvard is Forcing Students and Their Families to Choose Sides” that it was rare at Harvard to find black students whose four grandparents lived through slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Among the 15.2% Black population at Harvard, two-thirds were international students, first- or second-generation immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean, or the children of biracial couples.  

The harsh reality is that few spots are available for Black and Latino Americans. Without Affirmative Action, Black and Latino Americans stand little chance of getting into elite institutions. Now, I feel the anger and frustration that some of my fellow Asian Americans might have toward me. They might ask: “You are an Asian American, why do you only advocate for Black and Latino Americans?”

Well, I advocate for all minorities, especially Asian Americans. Unfortunately, the term Asian Americans includes 43 different ethnic groups and fails to recognize the diversity of Asian Americans. Often, people perceive East Asian Americans as the Asian American face. At Harvard, in 2022, Asian American enrollment numbers (nearly 23%) have significantly exceeded their share of the general American population. In the University of California (UC) system, Asians are overrepresented, at often triple their high school graduation rate.  

Then, why did I say that I wish to advocate for Asian Americans?

According to the data released by Pew Research Center, Asian Americans are now the most economically divided racial group in the country, with the wealthiest 10 percent earning more than 8.7 times the amount of the poorest 10 percent. In 2014, nearly 40 percent of the Hmong people had less than a high school diploma. After coming to the U.S. as war refugees, they often end up in the poorest areas and get trapped in poverty for years. Many children of Hmong serve as translators in their families, take care of younger siblings when their parents work for meager wages, and carry out domestic chores before they can even begin their homework. They struggle to keep their grades up and lack information on how to apply to colleges. Without Affirmative Action, these Hmong children, just like Black and Latino Americans, stand little chance of getting into an elite institute. Why does their future matter less?

There is another question that has been on my mind: Why should the test score be the only measurement for some college admissions?  

The College Entrance exam, gaokao, in China is notorious. Unlike the SAT or any other standardized tests in the U.S., Chinese high school graduates only have one opportunity per year, over three brutally hot summer days, to determine which college they will get into. Much has been written about this spectacle. Many people have questioned how a test score alone can decide which school and student are good matches. If anyone has doubts about gaokao, then one must challenge Ed Blum’s notion that only academic merit should be used in college admissions.

A Georgetown study on “Selective Bias: Asian Americans, Test Scores, and Holistic Admissions showed that Asian American enrollment in selective colleges would increase by a meager 2% if test scores are the only consideration. However, 21% of the Asian Americans admitted under the holistic system would lose out. This is why I wish to advocate for all Asian Americans.

Without doing thorough research, anyone can be easily manipulated. In the name of fairness, Ed Blum has been using Asian Americans as a pawn for his own agenda, which is to carry out the doctrines of White supremacy. Before I dived deeply into this topic, I had concerns about whether my son, if his race was disclosed on his applications to elite institutions, would stand a chance for admission. Now, I know that is the least of my concerns.

You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Haiyun Lu for Intrepid Ed News.

Haiyun Lu

Haiyun Lu, a Chinese language teacher at the University School of Milwaukee (WI), is also a writer, blogger, trainer, curriculum designer, meditator, and Co-Founder at Ignite Chinese.

One thought on “When Affirmative Action Goes Down, Who Benefits from the Aftermath? | Haiyun Lu | 6 Min Read

  1. I cannot agree more with you, Haiyun Lu. AA, EH and ACA are three cornerstones of every one is created equal if we do appreciate how our founding fathers envisioned this country and what makes this country strong. The three cornerstones were not given but earned through many years of civil right activities, blood and tears. We cannot allow us to retract back to darkness and relive the life that we fought so hard to change.

    Wenbin Yuan

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