Why Affirmative Action Matters

In light of recent lawsuits against Harvard, and the increasing dissent against affirmative action in my own community, I decided to write this very extensive post.

Let’s get a few things straight: I believe affirmative action is a net good system with some current flaws that exist in its current operations. Yes, I am an Asian-American, but my personal identity should not excuse racist or discriminatory beliefs.

First and foremost, my original view of affirmative action (referred to in the rest of this post as AA) was largely influenced by my parents (in other words, I was brainwashed). I had internalized the model minority stereotype–that my high test scores were a product of individual hard work rooted in my “culture” and that I deserved to go to the most selective institution because of that 4.0 GPA and high standardized test scores. But not only me, rather, Asian-Americans deserved the best schools, teachers, and resources, because we “worked the hardest on education.”

This was what my parents taught me, infiltrating me with subtle anti-blackness while simultaneously praising the meritocracy. And thus, I hated AA. I believed it was an unjust system aimed at giving easier paths for “lazy” students, while purposefully limiting out Asian-Americans because we were the “yellow peril.”

However, after stepping away from my parents’ brainwashing techniques, and seeing how American society functions outside the privileged bubble I had spent the past sixteen years in, I have come to realize that my original beliefs were only 30% correct.

Why Affirmative Action is Necessary

Centuries of institutional racism and segregation cannot be solved through a few race-unconscious (I prefer not to use the word “blind“) policies that act as a facade for equality. Although it is true that in the past decades, civil rights groups have made significant improvements to material conditions for marginalized groups, the fight still has a long way to go. With incarceration disproportionately targeting Black and Latinx folk, school district lines aimed to segregate the rich and the poor, Trump in office, etc. have proven that status quo policies are insufficient and easy to roll back.

Policymakers are largely rich, white, and some are currently unqualified for their position. It makes little sense that people who have never experienced the conditions of minority groups are dictating how said groups should live their lives. But, to have control in the first place–to have representatives for your own demographic–America’s capitalist value of brand-names means that the more the prestigious the school, the more likely it is to have “power.” Dismantling stereotypes begins with giving historical compensations through programs like AA. It is definitely not an end point, but a crucial first step.

Race-unconscious Policies Don’t Work

White America continues to be racist, despite race-unconscious policies that have been implemented with the intent to promote equality. When one’s race is inextricably tied to their experiences, living conditions, etc. it is impossible to simply ignore it. For instance, a lower class white person does not face the same struggles as a lower class person of color. Thus, basing affirmative action solely on socio-economic status erases, quoting a friend of mine, “the critical role that race plays in academic privilege.”

Fixing the Current System

If college admissions and AA should be race-conscious, then how exactly would they function? This is a question I’m not an expert on, and I do not have a definitive answer. However, a few months ago during the civil rights unit of my AP US History class, I learned that programs like AA, forced busing, and the fair housing act implemented in the 1960’s were supposedly solutions that would begin to dismantle de-facto segregation and institutionalized barriers, not to create racial quotas. Thus, Asian-Americans, as a historically marginalized community, also deserve these reparations.

Therefore, it makes little sense for Asian-Americans to oppose AA. Why then, are there lawsuits left and right from Asian-Americans that target AA?

Asian-Americans are Exploited by White America

The majority of Asian-Americans who do hold dissenting beliefs are not angry at the flaws of a net-good system, but rather they slander the entirety of AA. However, the role that white America plays in fostering this hatred cannot be ignored.

The model minority stereotype arose as a form of social control during the civil rights era, and is often associated with the question, “if Asians can do it, why can’t XYZ minority?” In terms of education, Asian-Americans are also used as a tool by conservative groups to justify opposing AA as a whole.

Asian-Americans have bought into the model minority stereotype, and some have failed to realize that they are not experiencing a position of institutional equality. The original purpose of affirmative action is not supposed to harm them. White folk are still at the top of the hierarchy, and white supremacists are pitting minorities against each other without any consequences.

In summary, Asian-Americans are not supposed to be harmed by AA, but white America has forced them to believe that AA is terrible as a whole.

Subtle Forms of Resistance

Berkeley, California: a historically-known site of leftist thought and youth political engagement.

Yet now, during the information era, as a prestigious university just one hour north of Silicon Valley, revolutionary socialists are replaced by computer science geeks and prospective molecular biology majors. Artificial intelligence prototypes “run” on the streets, as if a glimpse into the dystopia of the future.

Nevertheless, as I roam around the UC Berkeley campus, I still catch traces of radical thought –

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Terrorism as an Exaggerated Construction

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Racism is bad. Terrorism is bad. These two statements seem quite intuitive and intrinsically true. Yet, under careful scrutiny, they are quite contradictory.

What do you think of when you hear “terrorism”? Is it the pixelated, daunting images of the 9/11 attacks? Is it throngs of men clad in all black, with their eyes the only humanistic characteristic left to see? Either way, terrorism sparks fear, danger, and a sense of frustration. After all, why would people have a motive to kill and bomb the United States, and their own countries as well? Generally speaking, we view terrorism as a very real current threat.

Yet, the risk of being killed by a terrorist in America is 3.5 million. According to Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, Americans are more than 3.5 times more likely to die in an accident involving a bathtub than from terrorism. Hence is the question: why is America obsessed with painting terrorism as a constant threat?

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One Fair Wage Campaign

I attended the ACLU membership conference this past weekend, which featured an incredible set of speakers, including Kerry Washington, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Patrisse Cullors! Be prepared for an influx of posts regarding the conference 🙂

What I especially loved about this conference is that the speakers gave concrete steps to take in order to support a larger movement (i.e. feminism, dismantling mass incarceration, etc).
The most memorable for me would be the One Fair Wage Campaign!

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Feminism is a loaded term at best, holding a myriad of interpretations ranging from associations with overrated social justice warriors to even the outdated and exclusive women’s movements of the past century. I myself tend to stray away from exclusively labeling myself as a “feminist,” especially for the latter reason, however I believe it is necessary to address many issues of modern-day feminism.

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ACLU Essay

Hi friends!

Today I received some exciting news: I won the ACLU Washington State youth essay contest, so I’ll be going to the ACLU Membership Conference in Washington DC in June. Some people have been wondering if I could share the essay, so here it is!

The prompt was: What do you think is the most important civil liberties or civil rights issue your generation faces? Why? How will you work toward a solution?

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Culture appreciation…or appropriation?

If you’re an avid user of social media, you’ve probably seen this tweet pop around:

Yet again, another post of a non-POC wearing ethnically significant clothing. However, while most would agree an action like non-black folk wearing dreads is not acceptable, this issue witnesses a split in Asian-Americans. There is both a large support for Keziah’s actions as cultural appreciation, but also fervent opposition that deems the dress as cultural appropriation.

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Is Violence Justified?

** note: this was a speech I gave at a debate event so there may be some awkward writing **

When reflecting on the civil rights movement, modern society often praises the non-violent actions of Martin Luther King and fails to do justice on civil rights leaders with different methodologies. America has become obsessed with the notion that movements must be achieved peacefully, through words and not actions, through assimilation and not individuality. Consequently, Malcolm X is often overlooked as an uncivilized radical. And thus, the we must consider if Malcolm X’s violent approach to civil rights was appropriate at the time. The way we must approach the resolution is first to define what “violent” is, how and why Malcolm X advocated for this approach, and finally if it was justified for the time period.

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The Danger of the Model Minority

A teacher of mine this year once said that each generation battles different social issues, and the prime issues that “Generation Z” faces are immigration policy, and equality for black folks. “Don’t worry,” he immediately addressed our largely-Asian class when he finished. “The day for Asian-American representation will eventually come.”

While I have no doubts that the two issues mentioned above are the most attention-worthy in the status quo, I (as someone very interested in Asian-American identity theory) did quite some thinking about how the model minority myth perpetuates these two issues. It was actually one day when an Asian-American friend of mine approached me and asked “what exactly is so bad about the model minority stereotype?” and I ranted for twenty minutes, that I realized how many underlying dangers the myth perpetrates.

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