華人家長不爽的根源:Affirmative Actions 兩篇長文

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BLM 運動之後,大學教育是否會反思 affirmative action (優待黑人、拉丁裔,往往加上打壓東亞裔),還是變本加厲呢?
兩篇最近的長文,有空可以看看:

The New Yorker: he Rise and Fall of Affirmative Action
Hua Hsu, Oct 8, 2018

Stories of AsianAmericans penalized by 233lite schools are amplified by Chineseimmigrant newspapers and social media.

Stories of Asian-Americans penalized by élite schools are amplified by Chinese-immigrant newspapers and social media.Illustration by Tim Enthoven

In 2012, Michael Wang, a senior at James Logan High School, in the Bay Area, was confident that he had done enough to get into one of his dream schools: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. He had the kind of G.P.A.—4.67—that looks like a typo to anyone older than thirty-five. He had aced the ACT and placed in the ninety-ninth percentile on the SAT. But Wang didn’t want to be seen merely as a bookworm—he was an accomplished member of the speech-and-debate team, and he had co-founded his school’s math club. He played the piano and performed in a choir that sang with the San Francisco Opera, and at Barack Obama’s first Inauguration.

The following spring, Wang was rejected from all the Ivy League universities he had applied to, except the University of Pennsylvania. (He made the wait lists at Harvard and Columbia, but was eventually turned down at those schools, too.) He was devastated, and wondered what more he could have done. Then he started thinking about all the impediments that no amount of hard work could overcome. Some of his classmates who had got into these schools, he thought, had less impressive credentials than his. But they were Hispanic and African-American. Had he been rejected because he was Asian?

Wang had always been told that Asian students in America were held to higher standards than everyone else. When he was young, his parents suggested that, if he wanted to go to a school like Harvard, he would have to outwork other Asian students. Swearing off television became a competitive advantage. In high school, his friends, who were predominantly Asian, believed that their race would work against them in the admissions process. Wang knew students whose families were mixed Asian and white who identified themselves as white on their applications, lest they be lumped in with all the other overachievers. The Princeton Review has, in the past, encouraged students of Asian descent to try to conceal their cultural identity. There are admissions-counselling companies, like Asian Advantage, in the Bay Area, that help students strategize their extracurricular activities (less piano and tennis), and others, like Ivy Coach, based in New York City, that promise to make students “appear less Asian” in their application materials.

Wang found this notion troubling. “How are you not supposed to be proud of who we are?” he asked me, in August, when I met him for lunch in San Francisco, where he works as a paralegal. His office is in the financial district, on the border of Chinatown. As we walked a few blocks to get noodles, passing from one San Francisco into another, he recounted his story.

In 2013, Wang began talking to family friends familiar with the law about his options. That June, he filed a discrimination complaint against Yale, Stanford, and Princeton with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. (He did not include Harvard and Columbia, since he was still on the wait lists there.) At first, he said, he hoped to “reap the benefits” himself—never mind that these schools were unlikely to reconsider an applicant who was trying to sue his way into the freshman class. But Wang came to see the issue as one of fairness, and he thought that perhaps he could help someone in the future. He studied the history of Asian-Americans and college admissions, and eventually came across the work of a conservative activist named Edward Blum, a financial adviser who has devoted his life to overturning race-conscious laws. Blum has shown a talent for pinpointing vulnerabilities in civil-rights law and attacking them in the courts. Wang and Blum spoke on the phone and they agreed to keep in touch. At the time, Blum was heading a nonprofit called the Project on Fair Representation, and was working with Abigail Fisher, a white student who, in 2008, had been rejected by the University of Texas at Austin. The school guaranteed admission to Texas students in the top ten per cent of their high-school class; from those under the threshold, like Fisher, admissions officers chose applicants through a process that considered, among other criteria, race and family background. Fisher sued the university, alleging that this policy was unconstitutional. Blum helped assemble, and cover the bills for, Fisher’s legal team. (The Supreme Court eventually ruled against Fisher, in 2016.)

Blum, and other activists, gave a narrative shape to Wang’s grievance. Asians were being discriminated against in the college-admissions process, and among those taking their spots were the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, like African-Americans and Hispanics.

Wang’s curiosity about the process has helped launch a chain of events that might ultimately alter the course of civil-rights history. In 2013, as Wang was preparing to go to college—he attended Williams—he was interviewed by officials at the Department of Education. Colleges generally say little about their decision-making processes, describing them as a “secret sauce” that makes each school distinct. (Being vague also protects them from legal liability.) But one of the investigators looking into Wang’s claim confirmed that many Ivy League admissions officers had, in the past, talked stereotypically when evaluating Asian-American applicants. “Oh, typical Asian student. Wants to become a doctor. Nothing special here,” Wang said, paraphrasing what the investigator had relayed to him. (The Office for Civil Rights did not make a judgment in Wang’s case.)

Few people knew about Wang’s complaint until July, 2014, when he wrote an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News describing the “anger” that Asian-Americans felt about being held to unfair standards. Wang’s article and his case were picked up by Chinese-immigrant newspapers and social media. Though Wang professes to be in favor of affirmative action, the most egregious aspects of his story captivated a small but vocal network of Chinese-Americans, who had heretofore shown little interest in American politics. Spurred by WeChat, a Chinese social-media platform, and encouraged by what they saw as the next great civil-rights struggle, they threw their support behind Wang and other Asian-American students penalized by the college-admissions process.

These activists found an ally in Blum. That November, Blum filed a federal lawsuit against Harvard University. The suit advances a surprising line of argument. Instead of claiming that the process is unfair to whites—an increasingly tough sell, at least in the media—the suit suggests that affirmative action, a mechanism intended to help minorities such as Asian-Americans, is actually being used to harm them. Blum hopes for a college-admissions process in which there would be no race or ethnicity boxes to check, and students would be evaluated more or less anonymously. To bring the suit, Blum created Students for Fair Admissions, a membership organization roughly modelled on the A.C.L.U. and the N.A.A.C.P., which sued the university on behalf of its members, some of whom were students with stories similar to Wang’s.

S.F.F.A. alleges that Harvard attempts to curate the racial breakdown of each incoming class. In order to achieve classes that, in recent years, have been roughly half white, twenty per cent Asian-American, fifteen per cent black, and twelve per cent Hispanic, Harvard routinely gives Asian-American applicants—who often excel when it comes to standardized testing, grades, and extracurricular activities—lower marks in the more subjective “personal” category, which includes everything from the student’s admissions essay to letters of recommendation and alumni interviews. If S.F.F.A. can prove that Harvard engages in “balancing,” which is illegal, the school could be forced to remove any considerations of race and ethnicity from its admissions process. Harvard maintains that its process is a “whole person review,” in which applicants aren’t reduced to a single factor, whether it’s academic excellence or their racial and ethnic identity. “We do not discriminate against applicants from any group,” Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokesperson, told me. “I don’t use the term ‘balance,’ because we don’t balance.”

After the Harvard filing, Blum gave talks at Asian-American community functions, and at any event that would have him. He found people who were eager to join his movement. On October 15th, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in Boston, will begin hearing S.F.F.A.’s suit. The day before, organizers are planning to hold a rally outside the courthouse, to be attended by predominantly Chinese-American anti-affirmative-action activists from throughout the country. (S.F.F.A. has also filed a suit against the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, alleging that its race-conscious admissions policy is unlawful, though no trial date has been set.)

This alliance, between a white conservative tactician and a comparatively inexperienced base of recently energized Asian-American activists, has complicated the traditional optics of the civil-rights and diversity debates. Winifred Kao, a lawyer at the Asian Law Caucus, said that Blum was not “a champion for Asian-Americans, by any means.” Rather, he was “using Asian-Americans as a wedge, as we’ve often been used, throughout our racial and civil-rights history.” Many of Blum’s critics point to a video in which he admits that he “needed” Asian plaintiffs to pursue this latest challenge to affirmative action. “I feel that the Asian-American student population and community is being used as a pawn in a chess game, around limited resources in élite sectors of American society,” Prudence Carter, a sociologist and the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. “I think that the entire world can see that.”

If Blum’s suit is successful, the effect will be felt far beyond Harvard. It will limit the freedom that academic institutions have often had in pursuing their unique educational missions. The lawsuit, and Blum’s efforts to change the cultural conversation surrounding diversity and discrimination, could end affirmative action in higher education as we know it.

Affirmative action has never been adequately defined. Historians often trace the concept to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal provisions insuring equal-employment opportunities, regardless of “race, color, or creed.” The term first appeared in a policy context in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which allowed workers to unionize without fear of retribution. Employers who were found to have discriminated against an employee were required to rehire him, or to make amends, through “affirmative action.” Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior under Roosevelt, went one step further, establishing a quota system to insure that Public Works Administration projects employed a fixed percentage of African-Americans. (Many local officials refused to comply.) Throughout the forties and fifties, there was a broad, top-down drive to build fair-employment practices and to integrate institutions like the armed forces and public schools. But the first time the government used the term in relation to race was in March, 1961, when John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925, which required government contractors to “take affirmative action” to help realize the nation’s goal of “nondiscrimination.” (Hobart Taylor, Jr., a young lawyer who helped draft the order, chose the phrase for its alliterative quality. We could all be debating “positive action” instead.)
“O.K., you’re ready to go on to the less embarrassing weights.”

The premise of affirmative action was that, for African-Americans, the status quo was innately negative. To act affirmatively was to acknowledge the history of denigration and inequity that continued to define black life, and to come up with ways in which the future could be different. But Kennedy’s efforts didn’t prescribe any specific remedies. When, a few years later, in a new executive order, Lyndon Johnson reiterated the commitment to affirmative action, he didn’t have anything specific in mind, either, though one draft memorandum, dated January, 1964, listed twenty-five possible interpretations, from eliminating segregated smoking areas and cafeterias to publicizing equal-employment policies. (In 1967, Johnson amended his order to ban discrimination on the basis of sex. In the affirmative-action debate, the gains for women in education and in the workplace aren’t often considered.)

In the face of government slowness, affirmative action came to be defined by the judicial system. In 1978, the Supreme Court considered a case brought by Allen Bakke, a white man who believed that, if he had been a minority, he would have been admitted to the medical school at the University of California, Davis. Bakke’s claim of “reverse discrimination” galvanized the long-simmering resentment that some whites felt in the wake of the civil-rights era. Justice Lewis Powell was the case’s pivotal figure; he joined four Justices in striking down Davis’s admissions policy, which included a quota for underrepresented minorities. But he joined the other four Justices in upholding affirmative action as permissible under the law, singling out for praise Harvard’s admissions system, which regarded race or ethnicity as a “plus” rather than as a determining factor. Unlike his colleagues, who largely supported affirmative action as a corrective to historical injustice, Powell based his decision on the principle of “diversity.” This was not the original impulse of the civil-rights movement—the presence of African-Americans at the lunch counter wasn’t about enriching the environment of Woolworth’s. Powell’s compromise changed the terms of affirmative action. Admissions policies could no longer acknowledge the past; they could only advance a more diverse future. Diversity eventually became a self-rationalizing principle, and produced an entire industry of counselling and compliance.

Throughout the seventies, higher education and business were expansive in their duty to act affirmatively—an effort supported by both Republicans and Democrats. But there were also seeds of backlash, which drew on the accusations of reverse discrimination that had animated Bakke’s grievance.

In the early nineties, Glynn Custred, an anthropologist at California State University, Hayward, who had told the Washington Post that affirmative action was like “reversed Jim Crow,” met Tom Wood, a Ph.D. recipient who believed that affirmative action was the reason he could not find a professorship. Together, they drafted Proposition 209. Known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, Prop. 209 would ban affirmative action in educational settings. For the first time, American voters were given the chance to weigh in on large-scale affirmative-action policies. Prop. 209 passed in November, 1996.

The effect on the enrollment of people of color was immediate. Between 1995 and 1998, offers of admission to African-Americans at Berkeley and U.C.L.A. declined by fifty-five per cent. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at U.C.L.A., was a faculty member at Berkeley at the time. “You end up with the University of California at Berkeley or U.C.L.A. looking more like Ole Miss, where most of the black students are athletes, not there for academic reasons,” he told me.

In the following twenty years, a wave of ballot initiatives inspired by Prop. 209 were successful, in Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Arizona, and Oklahoma. (In addition, affirmative action was outlawed in Florida, through an executive order, and in New Hampshire, through legislation.) In some states, like Texas, California, and Florida, colleges and lawmakers explored other ways to maintain racial diversity, such as considering socioeconomic factors in admissions decisions, or creating programs to guarantee admission to public colleges for the top graduates from each high school. But the most powerful defense of affirmative action came, once again, from the courts. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled, in Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan Law School, and in Gratz v. Bollinger, regarding the University of Michigan’s undergraduate-admissions policy, that educational institutions had a compelling interest in promoting diversity. Elise Boddie, a professor at Rutgers Law School, observed that the conservative challengers to affirmative action “keep losing.” “When you have Bakke, the Grutter case, and now Fisher—those are three cases where the Court, over the period of [forty] years, has affirmed the importance of diversity as a constitutional value,” she said.

Cases like these, which involve college admissions, tend to draw headlines. But, in 2007, the Supreme Court made an important ruling in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. At stake was whether a school district could use race as a “tiebreaker” when assigning students to different campuses, as a way to achieve diversity and avoid what amounted to segregated schools. The Court deemed such attempts at “racial balancing” in educational institutions to be unlawful.

The effect of this back-and-forth has been that we tend to consider affirmative action only in a narrow spectrum of activities. Nearly sixty years after Kennedy’s broad mandate, which arose out of a desire to transform society, our understanding of it—and our wrangling about it in the courts and in the media—has come down to the relatively small issue of school admissions. Even victories for affirmative action establish precedents that draw the circle of acceptable practices ever smaller.

Suspicions about the fitness and the qualifications of nonwhites didn’t begin with affirmative action. But it has become the most prominent way that these suspicions are aired, since the stakes are so clear. Life rarely seems so zero-sum as it does when we imagine that we are vying for the lone seat in the classroom.

“Affirmative action is part of a larger struggle,” Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School, told me. “The much larger struggle is the struggle against the idea that the United States is a white man’s country. Do people of Asian ancestry benefit from that larger struggle against the notion that America is a white man’s country? Yes, absolutely.”

The origins of affirmative action assumed a racial binary of whites and blacks. “Asian-Americans often don’t have the opportunity to be complex in mainstream portrayals,” Vincent Pan, the co-head of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization, told me. Stories of academic overachievement came to define how many outsiders understood Asian-Americans. In 1971, Newsweek praised Asian-Americans for “out-whiting the whites.” This trope of the “model minority” has proved to be a persistent stereotype, a tribute to a community that seems to work hard and complain very little. Michael Wang felt that it was only recently that Asian-Americans, long fearful of rocking the boat, had grown tired of accepting “second best.”

This past summer, I met Joe Wei, the managing editor of the World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper with bureaus in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, at a café in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Wei, who has a broad face and a gentle but assertive voice, has been a reporter and an editor at the World Journal for twenty-six years. The paper is a vital resource for new immigrants, providing information about voting, garbage pickup, and civic rights. “We’re helping them become citizens,” Wei, who was born and raised in Taiwan, told me. “We help them as a live encyclopedia.”

“Let’s start here,” Wei said, unfolding a napkin and drawing a horizontal line with a pen. He began recounting the history of Chinese people in America, beginning with westward expansion and the gold rush, in the mid-nineteenth century, when an influx of largely poor Chinese immigrants provided cheap, often indentured, labor. They were the ones who founded the Chinatowns. Wei marked a spot on the time line: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, born of xenophobia, which effectively ended Chinese immigration for sixty years. And then, coinciding with the Cold War, another mark on the line: the sixties, as the United States began recruiting talented students, particularly in the sciences and math, from places like Taiwan and Hong Kong. Wei was describing people like my parents, who came from Taiwan in the early seventies, for graduate school. It was no surprise that communities like the one I grew up in were seen as the model minority—our ranks had been selected to come to America and pursue largely untroubled middle-class lives. As the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was remapping the rights of America’s minority populations, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which favored skilled labor, and attracted young science and engineering students from Asia, was reshaping who those minorities were.

Moments of crisis reminded the diverse, far-flung Asian-American community of the need to unify across lines of class, geography, and national origin. Wei added a mark at 1982, the year that Vincent Chin, a young Chinese-American man, was beaten to death in the suburbs of Detroit by two white men. They pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and were given three years’ probation and a modest fine. The lenient verdict prompted outrage and nationwide organizing, and became a turning point in Asian-American politics.

At the nineties, Wei drew a heavy vertical line. After the massacre in Tiananmen Square, in 1989, the United States began welcoming immigrants from mainland China in large numbers. The Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 provided green cards to nearly fifty-five thousand Chinese nationals, and this influx accelerated in the two-thousands, particularly after the financial crisis spurred a desire for foreign investment. As of 2016, there were an estimated 21.4 million Asians in the U.S., approximately 4.9 million of whom were of Chinese descent. Wei said that the more recent immigrants included engineers and tech workers, among others, with enough resources to move straight to the suburbs. They have arrived at a time when China is ascendant. “They don’t know about Chinese Exclusion,” Wei said. “They don’t know who is Vincent Chin.”

Many of these immigrants can be found on WeChat, which is something like a messaging app combined with Twitter, and was introduced in China in 2011. It quickly became the primary way that Chinese people engage with the digital world. “You turn [off] your WeChat in Beijing airport. Then you turn on in J.F.K., and everything comes on,” Wei said. “You never go out of China, because everything is in WeChat.” In the past few years, researchers have grown concerned about misinformation on WeChat, which has more than a billion users. Chi Zhang, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication, told me about fake stories of Muslim terrorism, lawless sanctuary cities, and schemes to contaminate the blood supply, all designed to stoke fear among Chinese immigrants.

In October, 2013, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” aired a brief segment that became one of the least likely geopolitical turning points ever. While asking children for their views on some of America’s biggest problems, Kimmel pointed out that China owned much of our debt. What should be done? A six-year-old said that we should kill all the Chinese. Rather than scolding him, Kimmel deferred to a late-night host’s most trustworthy tool: a bemused, knowing grin. The bit went viral in the Chinese media, where an abbreviated, translated version had Kimmel advocating genocide against Chinese people. The World Journal picked up the story. Kimmel apologized. The White House eventually had to weigh in, saying that the comments did not “reflect mainstream views of China in the United States.” Vincent Xie, who was inspired by the incident to start a WeChat account called Civil Rights, told me that it didn’t matter if Kimmel was joking. “Would he have made such a joke about African-Americans or Jews?” he asked me, in Mandarin.

Among Chinese immigrants, particularly first-generation ones, the Kimmel segment became part of a story about how liberals in this country took Asian-Americans for granted—“the sense,” Chi Zhang said, “that Chinese-Americans are sacrificed in the left agenda to achieve so-called equality for other minority groups.”

The following year, SCA-5, a bill that sought to overturn Proposition 209 and restore the consideration of race in school admissions, passed in the California State Senate. Polling data suggested that California voters were open to the bill. A survey from 2012 showed that Asian-Americans supported affirmative action by a three-to-one margin. But many Asian-Americans who had rarely participated in grassroots politics began mounting a campaign against SCA-5, which some called “Skin Color Act 5.” A post on a Web site for South Asian professionals called it “the most racist bill in the history of California.” The most fervent activism came from Chinese-Americans, who used WeChat as an organizing tool. For many lawmakers, unaware of WeChat, or the gateway effects of the Kimmel affair, this loud and aggressive opposition to SCA-5 came as a surprise. Much of the Chinese-American organizing was happening beyond the reach of mainstream media. Activists coördinated mailings to flood politicians’ offices, and staged demonstrations dramatizing their plight as an overlooked minority. In March, 2014, SCA-5 was withdrawn.

Yukong Zhao, who lives in Florida, was one of the activists. Zhao arrived in the United States in 1992, and focussed on graduate school in urban affairs and business, finding a job, his visa and citizenship, and family life. He rose through the ranks at Siemens. During the financial crisis, Zhao noticed that many Chinese families had not lost their homes. He began exploring the cultural differences between Asians and everyone else, and self-published a book on the subject in 2013. After the Kimmel incident, Zhao became more engaged. He read about SCA-5, and published an op-ed denouncing it in the World Journal. The next year, he started an organization called the Asian American Coalition for Education. Later, the issue came closer to home. He told me that his son had been a victim of discrimination: despite superlative grades and test scores, he was not accepted to a “top” college. “He has a classmate, who is Hispanic—she got admitted by Johns Hopkins but he did not,” Zhao said.

Zhao met Edward Blum through a Chinese reporter. “I noticed that when a black kid is wrongfully accused by the police, many African-American organizations stood up behind that kid,” Zhao said. “But, when Asian-American children are discriminated, no organizations stood up.” The work of conservative activists like Blum helped give context for what Zhao and others were already doing. “Asian-Americans are the most discriminated by this kind of race-based college admissions,” Zhao said. “We need to let the American society know our suffering.”

Zhao was adamant that they weren’t “tools” of Blum. On the contrary, he continued, “the complaints against Harvard really originated in the movement against SCA-5.” In 2016, Zhao got more than sixty Asian-American advocacy groups to file complaints with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, alleging discrimination by Harvard. (The Department of Education dismissed the complaint, but the Department of Justice opened an investigation in 2017. In September, it began investigating Yale’s admissions policies as well.)

Though Joe Wei was broadly supportive of people like Zhao, he was apprehensive about what might result from their efforts. He wasn’t sure that newer immigrants understood the “history of struggle,” or the importance of diverse schools that weren’t “one hundred per cent Asian.” “I feel like, ‘Hey, stop it. Don’t push this hard,’ ” he said. “Because you don’t want to ruin everything. After all, we are latecomers. We are new to this country.”

In May, 2015, about six months after filing the lawsuits against Harvard and U.N.C., Blum went to the Bay Area to speak to the foundation arm of a small organization called the Silicon Valley Chinese Association. He paid his own way, and talked to a couple of hundred Chinese people curious about his legal strategy. There was a buffet afterward.
Blum believed that he was advancing a strong legal challenge to affirmative action, but he hadn’t yet found the kind of popular support that his movement needed. He wasn’t going to find it, he said, among his “buddies at A.E.I., Hudson, and Cato,” the conservative think tanks. At the time, the membership of Students for Fair Admissions had plateaued at “a few thousand,” he told me. After his visit to the S.V.C.A., the group’s leaders encouraged its members to spread the word. Many took to WeChat. Within three days, Blum says, about fifteen thousand people had joined S.F.F.A., crashing the organization’s Web site.

Events like these, which went largely unnoticed by the press, began to reshape how Chinese immigrants understood affirmative action. But they confirmed what researchers like Karthick Ramakrishnan, at U.C. Riverside, and Janelle Wong, at the University of Maryland, have found: although Asian-Americans consistently support affirmative action, since around 2012 support among Chinese-Americans has noticeably fallen. Wong believes that the change in Chinese-American attitudes had to do “with the spread of information and misinformation” on WeChat. Although liberal WeChat accounts, like one called Chinese American, have emerged in response to the popular conservative ones, they are outnumbered.

In 2016, OiYan Poon, an assistant professor of higher education at Colorado State University, interviewed thirty-six Asian-Americans who disagreed about affirmative action. She was surprised to find that thirty of them, on both sides of the issue, couldn’t accurately explain what affirmative action was. “Quite frankly, the public generally has no goddam clue of how admissions work,” Poon said. When asked for their ideal system for a place like Harvard, thirty-three of them essentially described “race-conscious holistic review, which is exactly what we have today.” Poon has worked as an admissions-application reader in the University of California system, and she was impressed by Harvard’s comprehensive approach, which required each application to be read and vetted by multiple people, and then voted on by a forty-person panel.

“My anxiety about this case is really with folks who think they’re allies, and who say they support affirmative action,” Poon said. The opponents of affirmative action had so thoroughly dominated the terms of the debate that supporters were often unconsciously perpetuating a distorted vision of what actually happens—repeating claims that Harvard undervalued Asian students’ “personalities,” for example, an argument that ignores the complexities of the “personal” category. “They’re actually parroting some of the points that Ed Blum is making, and it’s killing me,” Poon said.

Vincent Pan, the co-head of Chinese for Affirmative Action, told me that when he describes affirmative action in terms of employment opportunities, or hiring more Asian-American judges or college faculty, people overwhelmingly support it. He rued how narrow the discussion had become, confined to a few places at the nation’s élite institutions. He pointed out that there are more Asian-Americans in San Francisco’s community colleges than in all the Ivy League schools combined.
While the Harvard admissions process sucks up the headlines, Asian-Americans have benefitted as much as anyone else from increased opportunities in education, employment, and government service. And the current terms of debate don’t capture the full complexity of the Asian-American community. Researchers believe that efforts toward “data disaggregation,” or the breaking down of large categories, like Asian-American, into smaller, more descriptive subgroups, could bring increased focus to poor, underserved populations, like Southeast Asians.

The first time I spoke with Blum, he stopped me after I introduced myself and asked that I repeat my name. He wanted to get it right. “I’ve had a lot of practice over the past three or four years,” he said. Blum looks and sounds a bit like a gentler, more affable version of the sports pundit Skip Bayless, with a long face, deep-set, probing eyes, and a slight frown. In 1992, while living in Houston, Blum ran for Congress as a Republican. As he canvassed, he realized that the district had been drawn in a way that consolidated the black vote. Blum lost the election. He believed that this “racial gerrymandering” violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and he, along with fellow-plaintiffs from across Texas, sued the state. The case, Bush v. Vera, eventually went to the Supreme Court, which in 1996 struck down Texas’s redistricting plan. Since then, Blum has become known for pairing potential plaintiffs with novel legal strategies. He describes himself as a matchmaker.

Blum is conscious of being cast as a villain. He told me that he had hoped that keeping the plaintiffs anonymous would “unshackle” the conversation, and allow people to discuss the issues of affirmative action or anti-Asian discrimination on their merits. But he has nevertheless become a focal point. His pretrial court filings have provided revealing glimpses into Harvard’s secretive process. A Web site devoted to publicizing the school’s side of the story singles him out by name. Rachael Dane, the Harvard spokesperson, reiterated the school’s position, that this was “a politically motivated lawsuit brought by Ed Blum and the organization he created.” What’s at stake, she told me, isn’t just the school’s admissions policy; it’s the ability of Harvard to pursue its stated mission, to “provide a diverse living environment” to “the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society.”

Blum is confident that his legal team has constructed a compelling argument. He giggled as he described its opening brief, which cites the quotas of the twenties and thirties which kept Jewish students out of Harvard, as being “like a Michener novel,” with “bones in the ground.” “America agrees with us,” Blum told me, referring to a 2016 Gallup poll, conducted in the wake of the Abigail Fisher decision, showing that about two-thirds of Americans disagreed with the Court’s ruling. “Sadly, it’s the courts that have been dragging their feet.” He drew an analogy to gay marriage. “Our nation said, ‘You know, I know a gay couple. I know a lesbian couple. And I like ’em. I’ve gone out to eat dinner with them, they’ve been over to my house. Everybody likes ’em. If they want to get married, fuck, let ’em get married.’ That was a galvanizing moment. How did that happen? The Court didn’t lead America there. America led the Court there. That’s what this movement is about.”

Blum saw the Harvard case as attempting to return to “the original vision of the civil-rights movement,” he said. “The longer this goes on, the more polarizing it becomes for our nation’s fabric. Stopping it restores what the nineteen-fifties and sixties civil-rights movement was all about.” Yukong Zhao had also echoed the traditional language of civil rights, saying that affirmative action was “against Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words, right? He said, ‘I want my children to be judged by the content of their character, not by their skin color.’ ”

Randall Kennedy, the law professor, said that, in fact, he was “surprised that it took so long” for a legal challenge to involve Asian-Americans. In early reverse-discrimination cases, like Bakke, Kennedy said, “many people thought, Gosh, how rich. White supremacy in the United States . . . and now all of a sudden white people are the victims of racial oppression? But now, even better to have a ‘people of color’ victim. In the court of public opinion, this made a lot of sense, and I think it’s been quite effective.”

In late August, Blum returned to the Bay Area to update the Silicon Valley Chinese Association on the case’s progress. His work is funded largely by DonorsTrust, an organization that distributes money from various conservative and libertarian contributors, but he wanted to make smaller, grassroots groups like S.V.C.A. feel empowered as well.

A couple of nights before the event, I visited Alex Chen, the founder of the S.V.C.A., at his house in the serene, recently developed hills of east San Jose. It was almost dinnertime, and I heard various Asian languages as I walked up and down the block, trying to find his house. Chen, who is forty, greeted me warmly. He has a round face, with attentive, constantly blinking eyes, and sprouts of chin hair. He led me to a table in his kitchen, where there were bottles of whiskey and baijiu, and a plate of freshly roasted peanuts. Outside, his two children took a break from their homework to jump on a trampoline.

Chen speaks Mandarin with a lusty Beijing accent, which gives his English a choppy, dramatic rhythm. He came to the United States in 2006, on an H1B visa, to work as a computer-chip designer. (He received a green card in 2013.) Chen’s initial impressions were that the air-conditioning in America was magnificent but the roads were poor. He poured most of his free time into skiing, shopping, and, eventually, a sport-fishing club.

He was drawn into Chinese-American issues after seeing the Kimmel clip. As he read about SCA-5 on the Internet, he grew concerned about the effect that repealing Prop. 209 might have on his children, who were just starting school. He felt an obligation to do something; having overseen his fishing club, he thought that he already had some leadership skills. On February 15, 2014, after his family had gone to sleep, he went on MITBBS, a Chinese-language message board for Chinese-Americans, and announced that he was starting the S.V.C.A. We clinked glasses of baijiu and he smiled. “That date is very special to me,” he said.

The S.V.C.A. initially comprised about ten people—mostly Chen’s fishing buddies and members of his college alumni network—but they began recruiting people outside Chinese grocery stores and community functions. The S.V.C.A.’s tactics were old-fashioned: it encouraged people to send local politicians snail mail, rather than e-mail. The S.V.C.A.’s mailing list grew quickly, even after the defeat of SCA-5. Chen volunteered for local candidates who supported his group’s agenda, pointing to the election of the state assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who also opposed SCA-5. Today, there are about eighty thousand people in the group’s database.

Another S.V.C.A. leader, Timothy He, joined us. His eyes seemed to glow when he spoke of his political campaigning and organizing. Prior to 2013, He and Chen had known virtually nothing about American history or social issues. “We were just engineers,” He said. “We had no understanding about politics.” He had learned about S.V.C.A. through WeChat, and he was proud that they had not only taught themselves how the political process worked but influenced it, too. He, who is fifty-one, quit his job and started his own business, so that his schedule would accommodate his organizing work.

Chen and He had fully embraced the notions of tough love, hard work, and self-determination, and they were glad that Chinese-Americans had become central to the affirmative-action debate, which they interpreted as race-based quotas. He felt that these policies encouraged their beneficiaries to “be lazy.” “I don’t need to work hard,” Chen said, paraphrasing what he believed to be the prevailing attitude among such people. “I don’t need to study hard, I still can get into a top school.”

He said that it wasn’t the percentage of Asians at Harvard that he focussed on. “I care about the spirit. Everybody will be working hard.”
“Other races cannot just enjoy their life and go to the top school,” Chen said, envisioning this future. “They have to study hard. Over all, the result is good for America.”

I asked Chen and He if they had ever witnessed this “laziness” for themselves. They were quiet for a moment. Then Chen mentioned how, in 2014, Jesse Jackson had come to Silicon Valley and, in Chen’s words, said, “Oh, too many Asians.” (In a speech on the tech industry’s lack of diversity, Jackson floated the idea of eliminating H1B visas.) So, Chen and He explained, companies invested in diversity. He didn’t have much firsthand experience with the results of this effort, but he felt that it went “against the capitalist system.” “The N.B.A.,” Chen continued. “How many Asians there? If you want to do diversity, how about doing diversity in the N.B.A.? I think the show would be not good.”

It’s possible that immigrants are the only ones who speak about meritocracy and fairness without a trace of irony. (After all, an H1B visa literally attests to one’s merit.) Yukong Zhao, the Florida activist, kept mentioning the American Dream as though it were a contractual arrangement: “The American Dream says that each U.S. citizen should have equal opportunity to pursue prosperity and success through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

By now it was dark outside in San Jose, and absolutely tranquil on this sprawling hillside. A pile of peanut skins sat on the table next to an empty plate. Finally, Chen and He said, Chinese-Americans were doing something for future generations. “If we are for ourselves,” Chen said, “we do not need to do this.”

Up the hill beyond Chen’s house is the Point, a South Bay megachurch with a panoramic view of San Jose’s haze, where Blum spoke to the S.V.C.A. There was still evidence of a recent movie night: a “Mission: Impossible” banner hung across the entrance, and, in the lobby, a six-foot-tall carton of popcorn was bursting with volleyball-size kernels. I followed the red carpet into the auditorium, and a man jumped out of his seat and introduced himself as Jeff Wang, Michael’s father. Michael’s admissions grievance had transformed his father, who has plunged into politics. He is now a school-board member, and he hosts a weekly political radio program. He handed me a copy of the amicus brief that a coalition of Asian-American advocacy groups had recently filed in support of S.F.F.A.’s Harvard lawsuit. Michael was at home studying for the LSAT.

Before the event began, I chatted with Nathaniel Yu, a recent high-school graduate. He and his family had travelled from Danville, a couple of hours north. Yu was wearing a suit and a checked shirt, and his hair was perfectly parted. Perhaps it was the setting, but his wiry coolness reminded me of Tom Cruise. Yu was whisked onstage by one of the event’s m.c.s, a playfully droll woman named Lily Ding. She introduced Yu as a community hero, a young man who had been bullied by his school’s teachers and administrators.

In 2017, a student-body-election video that Yu had made with some friends was deemed “inappropriate” by school staff, who stripped Yu of his title of junior-class president. (It was a James Bond spoof, in which he played the hero, and his friends, who are Muslim-American, played the villains.) Poor judgment is the province of teen-agers, and perhaps, in a different time, this would have been little more than local news. But the episode went viral, with all the requisite cycles of conservative and liberal moralizing, hate mail, and GoFundMe campaigns. The S.V.C.A. had stepped in to help Yu and his family with a First Amendment lawsuit.

Yu praised the young people in attendance for coming, instead of staying at home playing Xbox or PS4: “Big pat on the back for all of you guys here.” He talked about how affirmative action undermined American values of hard work and determination, especially when it came to education. He sighed with theatrical weariness. “It’s really tough being an Asian person,” he said.

As families trickled in, Ding and her co-host, a grave man named Jason Xu, told jokes about Alex Chen’s slowly receding hairline, a kind of chronicle of S.V.C.A.’s hard work over the years. Ding shared her dismay at Harvard, which she had once considered “the lighthouse of social and moral justice.” Finally, it was time to introduce Blum. “We’re all here because of you, Mr. Blum,” she said.

Blum explained that he intended to prove that Harvard’s admissions process sacrificed high-achieving Asian-Americans in the name of racial balancing. When he mentioned Abigail Fisher, heads in the first row started nodding, as if he were a pop star who had just played the first few notes of his hit single. He spoke for about twenty minutes, finishing with a call to action. He wanted everyone to join S.F.F.A. and, if possible, to donate. He got a standing ovation. “Wow. I’m actually pissed,” Xu said, as he walked back onstage. Ding, referring to Blum’s attack on the “personal” category in Harvard’s admissions process, said that she didn’t believe that Chinese-American students were “any less personable than any other group.” Then they called for audience members to fly to Boston for the rally the day before the trial: “We should make every effort to be there, to show solidarity and support.”

There were about five hundred people at the Point, and many more would learn of the event through WeChat and the World Journal. Blum had told a story that featured Chinese-Americans at the center, as potential heroes. Harvard deserved all the accolades, he had emphasized. But it was not treating people fairly, and it was up to them to make sure that America understood this. They could make change.

For previous generations of Asian-American activists, affirmative action was a key component in the struggle for multiracial justice. In the late eighties, the Department of Education investigated a series of claims alleging that Berkeley, Harvard, and other élite institutions had put a limit on the number of Asian-Americans admitted. The claims had been lodged by young, largely progressive Asian-American activists, for whom affirmative action was the solution to the problems they were identifying, not the cause.

In most cases, the students’ suspicions of unfairness were well founded, and Asian-American populations at these schools began to grow. This history captures the almost paradoxical position of many Asian-American supporters of affirmative action. Nicole Gon Ochi, a lawyer at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, has been working with former, current, and prospective Harvard students, trying to insure that their support for the school’s race-conscious admissions policies is included in the debate. She said that Blum and S.F.F.A. had successfully yoked the question of anti-Asian bias to affirmative action, and she thought the issues were mostly unrelated. Research suggests that if race-conscious admissions were abolished the largest gains would be enjoyed by white applicants, calling into question which groups are actually in competition with one another. “Maybe the ultimate goal is for Asian-Americans to be the predominant group in the élite schools, as opposed to whites,” Prudence Carter, the Berkeley dean, said. “I don’t have a problem with that. But I do have a problem with picking on the few numbers of black and brown students in those schools.” Ochi was adamant that her support for Harvard in this lawsuit did not imply blind approval of all of Harvard’s admissions policies, or deny the need to interrogate claims of institutional bias.

Margaret M. Chin, a sociologist at Hunter College, was involved with the pro-affirmative-action movement as an undergrad at Harvard in the eighties. She has wrestled with the difference between progressive students’ efforts to take Harvard to task for a seemingly low acceptance rate for Asian-Americans, when she was there, and the current conservative movement. “It’s a different historical moment,” she concluded. She was baffled by the resentment the plaintiffs felt toward Harvard. “Why would any of you sue Harvard for doing this? For not accepting you? They reject ninety-five per cent of the people. To me, I was, like, ‘Oh, my God. These kids are really entitled.’ ”

Perhaps, I wondered, one could feel sympathy that the plaintiffs had put so much faith in meritocracy. Chin grew up in public housing on Sixty-fourth Street, the daughter of a restaurant worker and a garment worker. Now she lived across town, a Harvard- and Columbia-educated sociologist, whose son also attended Harvard. I went to Harvard for graduate school, and I pointed out that, in the eyes of a prospective high-school student, or his worried parents, we had already won.

Harvard’s a tough place, Chin said; many Asian-Americans were stuck on its name. She pointed to how élitist Harvard remains, how those who “have the most” are still the white kids who populate the campus’s secretive Final Clubs. “Our kids are not those kids.”

In an echo across time, the Berkeley activists of the eighties had called themselves the Student Coalition for Fair Admissions. An internal investigation at the school showed that a change to the admissions standards, in 1984, had dramatically affected Asian-American applicants. The beneficiaries were white students. In April, 1989, Berkeley’s chancellor, a law professor named Ira Michael Heyman, apologized to Asian-Americans. The following year, he stepped down. Heyman had been a civil-rights lawyer and an advocate for racial justice, but he had apparently not thought much about the unique position of Asian-Americans, and he seemed to have underestimated their political will.

I attended Berkeley in the mid-nineties, in the wake of this moment. At the time, I didn’t realize that the new chancellor, an engineering professor named Chang-Lin Tien, had got the job in part as a result of his work mediating between Heyman and the activists. It was not uncommon to hear that the University of California had been overrun by Asians. U.C.L.A. was “University of Caucasians Lost Among Asians.” U.C.I. (Irvine) was “University of Chinese Immigrants.” The jokes seemed to suggest that these schools weren’t as good as they once were. It was a reminder of how the goalposts of achievement and excellence could be moved. I often asked people who blamed affirmative action for holding the Asian-American population at around twenty per cent at Harvard what share of the pie would satisfy them. Did they want Harvard to be fifty per cent Asian? It seemed evident that, if this ever happened, the prestige, the aura of selective élitism, wouldn’t accrue to such a student body—Harvard would no longer be Harvard.

I was a sophomore in November, 1996, when Proposition 209 passed. The school newspaper endorsed Prop. 209, leading to protesters stealing nearly all twenty-three thousand copies. Once the result was clear, I went to the base of the Campanile, the campus’s bell tower, where students had gathered. Some of them had climbed it and refused to come down until affirmative action was reinstated. A person ran up the slope toward us to say that Mario Savio, a hero of Berkeley’s free-speech movement in the sixties, had just died. Through a bullhorn, another person recited the famous speech that Savio had delivered on the steps of Sproul Hall: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that, unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

I remember wondering whether we weren’t actually defending the machine. Our idea of freedom seemed so limited compared with that of the people who came before. Decades after John F. Kennedy’s grand vision to act affirmatively, affirmative action’s last stand involves seats at the most élite universities in the world.

One of the most ephemeral qualities that admissions officers say they look for in young college applicants is something called “grit.” Unlike other soft qualities, like leadership, it’s clear when you see it. As I listened to Michael Wang talk about the scrutiny that he received after his complaint went public, I admired his spirit. He had launched his complaint in a moment of anger. People online had mocked his earnestness. But now he welcomed the chance to engage his critics, because his own ego was less important than communicating with others.

When Wang and I finished lunch, we returned to his office. We stopped to get bubble tea. As we waited, I asked him about the purple button-up shirt he was wearing—wasn’t that the color of Williams? He smiled, and began rhapsodizing about his time at the college: Thanksgiving dinner with his professors; making Asian food with friends; his twenty-first birthday, when a professor took him out to a bar. He started to talk faster, and the rote stiffness with which he’d recounted his complaint suddenly melted away. “The education I got at Williams was incomparable to what I would get at Harvard,” he said. “I still would have gone to Williams, even if I had gotten into those other schools, now that I’ve been at Williams.”

He didn’t regret his complaint. He still feels that the process is unfair, and that a bit more transparency would help Asian students in the future. But he had loved college in a way that felt special and rare.

What makes this debate so contentious is that it’s about counterfactuals, alternate versions of ourselves. It’s hard not to take things personally, even if the process traffics in a magical impersonality. There are all of the mythologies that intertwine in the process: the farce of a pure meritocracy, of color blindness; a misplaced faith in standard measures of achievement. We suspect that the system is unfair and nonsensical, but we try anyway. We hope that we will be recognized.

The night before Wang’s graduation, he and his friends stayed up late talking about the past few years, cherishing a few more hours together. He had spent all day packing up his room. The next morning, he and his friends listened as the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the commencement address. “Her message was, you know, when you go out into the world, do things that you won’t regret,” Wang said. “You’ve been given the tools to make an impact and change the world for the better. Go out there and do it.” He thought, Wow, that’s what I want to do.
 
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lfe634

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去年哈佛贏了官司。

Vox: The Harvard admissions case that could end affirmative action, explained
Alexia Fernández Campbell and P.R. Lockhart, Oct 2, 2019

On Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process is fair, and that it doesn’t discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

On the surface, the ruling is a huge win for affirmative action, as it upholds the university’s practice of considering a person’s race in the application process to create a more diverse student body. But the plaintiffs — an anonymous group of Asian Americans who were rejected from Harvard — have argued that Harvard caps the number of spots available to Asian students like them. Interestingly, the organization representing them is led by a white man. So yeah, it’s complicated.

The plaintiffs are planning to appeal the case, and if it ends up in front of the US Supreme Court, conservative justices like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh might end up outlawing affirmative action altogether.

Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard largely focused on whether Harvard violated the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against Asian Americans. This question was not directly connected to affirmative action, which was established as a way to weigh the applications of marginalized groups (such as women or people of color) in school admissions, job applications, and other areas where they have been historically shut out. But with the case almost guaranteed to be appealed to the Supreme Court, the questions that it deals with could have a huge impact on school programs meant to increase racial diversity, and could even make them illegal.

During the trial, which began last October, the plaintiffs argued that the only way to truly ensure that Asian Americans stand an equal chance in admissions is if race is completely removed from the process. The university disagreed, saying that there is no cap on Asian students and that its “holistic” admissions process is necessary to ensure a diverse student body and does not discriminate against Asian American students.

Judge Burroughs sided with the university.

“At least for now, ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions,” Burroughs wrote in her decision.

The trial raised complicated questions about the meaning of academic merit, and what that should mean when we think about race in college admissions. For Asian Americans, the case has also revealed significant divisions in support for affirmative action, making it clear that the demographic can hardly be treated as a monolith.

“The court’s ruling today confirmed what the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld: affirmative action policies expand equal educational opportunity for all people of color, including Asian Americans, and are legal,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Plaintiffs said Harvard limited the number of Asian Americans on campus
In November 2014, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed its lawsuit, alleging that Harvard is “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures in administering the undergraduate admissions program” that are biased against Asian American applicants.

The plaintiffs said internal data shows Asian American applicants are rated lower on personal metrics, despite outperforming white applicants in other areas. SFFA argued that Harvard effectively uses a quota to cap the percentage of Asian American admissions, and that the school engages in “racial balancing” to maintain a certain racial breakdown on campus.

To fix this, SFFA argued that Harvard, and ultimately all colleges, should no longer consider race in its admissions process, and that Supreme Court rulings in support of affirmative action have “been built on mistakes of fact and law.”

Harvard has defended its “holistic review” process that individually assesses each applicant and considers a number of factors, including academics, extracurriculars, and personal factors, with the goal of making each class diverse. The university says that while race is one of the many factors considered for assembling a class, it is never used against an applicant, nor is it a deciding factor for any applicant.

A white man created the group that sued
Identifying the plaintiffs in this trial is a bit complicated. SFFA represents a group of anonymous Asian American plaintiffs rejected from Harvard. The individual plaintiffs said they are remaining anonymous to avoid harassment for their part in the lawsuit.

Because of this, the public face of the trial was Edward Blum, a white, 66-year-old legal strategist. Blum leads the Project on Fair Representation, a group founded in 2005 to “support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts.” Blum also created SFFA to “restore the original principles of our nation’s civil rights movement” by completely eliminating the use of race in college admissions. In addition to Harvard, the group is suing the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on similar grounds.

Abigail Fisher stands with her attorney outside the Supreme Court in 2012. Fisher argued that she was not admitted to the University of Texas at Austin because of her race.
Abigail Fisher stands with her attorney outside the Supreme Court in 2012. Fisher argued that she was not admitted to the University of Texas at Austin because of her race. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Blum is known in legal circles for his efforts to get cases before the Supreme Court, all of them involving race in one way or another. In 1995, he was part of a group that brought Bush v. Vera before the court, successfully convincing the court to redraw several majority-minority electoral districts in Texas. He was also instrumental in Shelby County v. Holder, the case that gutted a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

But Blum is perhaps best known for his work with Abigail Fisher, a white woman who argued in a pair of Supreme Court Cases in 2013 and 2016 that she was denied a spot at the University of Texas Austin due to her race.

Here’s how Blum described his work to Mother Jones in 2016:
Blum insists he is fighting for civil rights, and he is adamant that he’s not just seeking white plaintiffs with racial axes to grind. “Groups like mine are not looking for Donald Trump-type supporters. We are looking for people who have honest, levelheaded opinions about equal representation. We reject people who are anti-immigrant. We reject people who are anti-Muslim. We reject people who have an antithetical view of American civil rights laws.” He says his efforts to find plaintiffs are no different from what civil rights groups and “the marriage equality people” do.
Blum’s open desire to end any consideration of race in college admissions, coupled with his action on other race-related court cases, has led his critics to argue that he is using Asian Americans as a prop to strike down affirmative action.

The case stirred racial resentment
Up until now, most cases about race in college admissions have been brought by white plaintiffs like Fisher, who argue that they are harmed by “reverse discrimination” and therefore pushed out of colleges by less-qualified applicants of color. Those cases have led to restrictions in how affirmative action can be used, but no case has actually ended the practice in its entirety.

If the Harvard case goes to the Supreme Court, it could change this. Rather than a white plaintiff, this case relies on a group of high-achieving Asian Americans arguing that a policy meant to help students of color is actually hurting them. Unlike Fisher, whose GPA and SAT scores were not as strong as her peers, the plaintiffs in this case have academic records that are much harder to criticize.

An appeal could have a drastic effect on how elite schools use race in admissions — especially since last summer, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance on race in admissions, urging schools to adopt a race-neutral approach. The Department of Justice also filed a statement of interest siding with the plaintiffs in this case, arguing that Harvard “failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian Americans.”

The Trump administration’s involvement has made it clear that it sees discrimination against Asian Americans as something to solve by eliminating any consideration of race at all. With a solid conservative majority now in place following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, there is concern that if this case makes it to the court, it will end affirmative action entirely.

Other colleges have been accused of the same thing
The Harvard case is not the first time that a college was accused of discriminating against Asian American students. In the 1980s, student activists noticed that Asian American college admission rates remained stagnant despite a rapid increase in the number of college-aged Asian Americans. They argued that the stagnation was largely due to biased admissions practices that kept the number of admitted Asian Americans relatively low, while favoring white applicants.

The complaints led to internal investigations of admissions practices at schools including Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and the University of California Berkeley. While some schools, like Berkeley, maintained that they did nothing wrong and that Asian American students were overrepresented relative to their share of the general US population, Stanford acknowledged that unconscious bias may have played a role in its process.

When the Reagan administration addressed the allegations of discrimination against Asian Americans in the late 1980s, it ignored that much of the claimed discrimination may have benefitted white students, instead arguing that the biggest hurdle affecting Asian American applicants was the affirmative action programs aimed at helping racial minorities. As Vox’s Alvin Chang notes, Asian American students accused the Reagan administration of “racial mascoting.” Affirmative action is now often framed as hurting Asian-American college applicants.

Civil rights groups like the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund say this framing pits Asian Americans against other minorities and also ignores how affirmative action benefits those from less-represented Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups. Research from academics Karthick Ramakrishnan and Janelle Wong has shown that most Asian Americans support affirmative action, although support has dropped off considerably among Chinese Americans.

Data shows that Asian American students are overrepresented at many of America’s most selective schools. At Harvard, for example, Asian American students were roughly 22 percent of those admitted in 2017 but Asian Americans were just 5 percent of the population.

Some observers, such as Yale Law’s Amy Chua, say that the success of Asian American students is largely due to cultural reasons, an argument that has often been used to frame Asian Americans as a “model minority.” But in 2014, a pair of California researchers found that Asian American students’ high level of achievement was more likely due to students having better access to resources and living and studying in close proximity to other high achievers due to a concerted effort by their families.

This isn’t to say that Asian Americans face zero bias in college admissions. Under the Obama administration, a Department of Education investigation into allegations of racial bias at Princeton, for example, revealed that admissions officers referred to Asian American applicants as “standard premeds” and “familiar profiles.”

The Education Department ultimately conceded that the admissions officers made comments “associated with Asian stereotypes,” but noted that similarly stereotypical comments were made about black and white applicants as well. The agency ultimately determined that the school did not discriminate against Asian American applicants and that race was not a deciding factor in the admissions process.

Protesters rallied on October 14, 2018, one day before the start of the Harvard admissions trial, to express dissatisfaction with policies they believe discriminate against Asian Americans.
Protesters rallied on October 14, 2018, one day before the start of the Harvard admissions trial, to express dissatisfaction with policies they believe discriminate against Asian Americans. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

SFFA said it has found evidence that proves Harvard is deliberately (and illegally) limiting the number of Asian Americans accepted, pointing to a part of Harvard’s holistic review process known as the “personal rating.” This part of the application process considers things like teacher recommendations, alumni interviews, and personal statements.

The plaintiffs say internal reports from Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research suggest the university regularly underscored Asian-American applicants on this portion of the review. They say Harvard regularly rated Asian Americans as less “courageous” or “less “likable” than white students, and admitted more whites than Asian Americans, despite Asian Americans besting whites on the other metrics.

Harvard countered that the reports were incomplete and did not fully capture the nuance of the school’s admissions process, and has said that weaker teacher recommendations are behind Asian American students’ lower personal ratings. Both sides presented dueling expert analyses over the data.

In the end, the judge ruled that Harvard’s actions were not discriminatory.

The controversy over affirmative action, explained
President John F. Kennedy established affirmative action programs for government contractors by executive order in 1961 to advance the goals of “nondiscrimination” within society at large. As the New Yorker’s Hua Hsu writes, the government did not create detailed guidelines on where or how affirmative action should be used. But as legal cases challenging affirmative action in college admissions increased in the 1970s, that became the main way the issue was discussed.

In some ways, framing affirmative action as problematic in college admissions isn’t entirely fair, and the conversation largely revolves around a small number of the most selective schools in America. At elite schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, admissions officers argue that given the limited number of black and Hispanic applicants to elite colleges, being able to consider race is the only way that these schools can maintain a racially diverse student body.

The schools also argue that basing decisions solely on grades and test scores would be impossible. In a legal filing submitted before the trial, Harvard officials said the school received more than 37,000 applications for roughly 2,000 spots in the class of 2019.

The university said more than 8,000 of those applicants had perfect grades, and more than 5,000 had a perfect math or verbal SAT score. Considering things like a student’s extracurriculars, volunteer work, and race in addition to their grades, the school argued, is necessary to achieve a more diverse class than it could get through test scores alone.

The plaintiffs said this argument — plus internal Harvard reports that suggest the numbers of black and Hispanic students admitted to the school would drop significantly if the university were forced to change its admissions system — is proof that less-qualified students are getting in due to their race.

That counterargument gets at an issue that has long animated debates over affirmative action. Some say acknowledging an applicant’s race automatically means penalizing another more qualified applicant for being of a different race. Critics of Harvard’s policies argue that affirmative action programs create an unfair system of rewards and penalties in which black and Hispanic applicants win, and white and Asian American applicants lose.

Harvard alumni, students, and other protesters rallied on October 14, 2018, to expressive support for the university’s race conscious admissions process.
Harvard alumni, students, and other protesters rallied on October 14, 2018, to expressive support for the university’s race conscious admissions process. Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

But for Harvard and the civil rights groups defending its admissions policy, being able to consider race — even if it is just limited to Justice Kennedy’s “factor of a factor of a factor” framing — is necessary to ensure that students of color continue to make it to Harvard and similar schools.

Their claims are supported by data: A 2017 New York Times analysis found that even with race-conscious admissions policies in place, black and Hispanic students are actually less represented at America’s top colleges now than they were 35 years ago. The analysis notes that Asian American students have been the demographic with the most growth at many of these top universities.

It is that last point that so strongly triggers the emotional response to this case. Harvard and other elite schools are considered the best in America, where connections and a diploma can open up doors that can drastically change one’s future. The debate over who gets into Harvard is about more than the importance of test scores — it is about who has access to America’s elite institutions in an age when power is increasingly held by a select few.
 
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lfe634

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我比較好奇的是,一些頂級大學在放行非裔和拉丁裔的同時,為什麼要同時打壓亞裔。難道白人也有保障名額?
 

rottenmelon

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历史原因,老白家底厚校友多...
 

lfe634

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历史原因,老白家底厚校友多...
但是加洲一些好大學、加拿大的大學入學就沒有 affirmative action。加拿大的白人 (~7/9) 比例還比美國 (~6/9) 高。
所以這種對亞裔的歧視不是一定會發生的事,也是有機會爭取到更平等對待的。
 

lfe634

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幾個想法,歡迎討論:
  1. (在中美交惡之前)川普政府是希望取消入學種族因素的,這也許是許多華人對川普有好感的原因之一。但以目前的 BLM 風向,川普這樣搞不太可能,幾年內不用抱希望。即使取消了,好處可能也輪不到中國間諜。也申請其他的好大學吧。
  2. 哈佛說亞裔申請者人格被評低分是因為推薦信不夠給力。家長、同學請多努力,讓老師、雇主看見內在美。
  3. 華裔子弟的特色太過相似,鋼琴網球,志向醫生,很難產生好印象。可以從小另僻畦徑,走出令入學辦驚豔的成長道路。
  4. 已經進去的亞裔支持 affirmative action,疑似擠上了公車以後就說車滿了。也可能是被洗腦了。真有這麼優秀嗎?
 
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flapjack_monkey

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幾個想法,歡迎討論:
  1. (在中美交惡之前)川普政府是希望取消入學種族因素的,這也許是許多華人對川普有好感的原因之一。但以目前的 BLM 風向,川普這樣搞不太可能,幾年內不用抱希望。即使取消了,好處可能也輪不到中國間諜。也申請其他的好大學吧。
  2. 哈佛說亞裔申請者人格被評低分是因為推薦信不夠給力。家長、同學請多努力,讓老師、雇主看見內在美。
  3. 華裔子弟的特色太過相似,鋼琴網球,志向醫生,很難產生好印象。可以從小另僻畦徑,走出令入學辦驚豔的成長道路。
  4. 已經進去的亞裔支持 affirmative action,疑似擠上了公車以後就說車滿了。也可能是被洗腦了。真有這麼優秀嗎?
想像这么一个场景:一群人出去野餐,每个人都自己带一个菜然后放在一起大家share。其中有一个人吃饭速度特别快,别人一轮菜还没吃完,他已经吃个五、六轮了。有人吃饭速度慢,导致最后没吃饱。这种吃饭方法对每个人公平吗?公平的分配方法是不是应该是给每一个人加一个量的限制:一个人吃得最多不能超过他带来的?
教育抛开表面,本质上就是对社会资源财富的分配利用,就象大家聚餐时带来的所有的菜。而各个不同的族裔就是参加聚餐的众人。学校分配名额时如果没有针对各族裔对社会贡献的多寡而进行的配额限制,就象是聚餐时大家可以没有限制随便吃。学习好的族裔能拿到更多的入学名额,就象吃得快的会吃得比别人多。
黑人问题一直是美国的社会问题,问题的核心是黑人的贫穷和教育水平落后,而贫穷又是和教育水平成负相关的。要想解决黑人问题从根上就是要解决教育问题。美国的AA平权初衷应该是针对黑人的,其它少数种裔只不过是或多或少跟着沾光。为了帮助黑人提高教育水平从而最终解决一直存在的社会问题,也为还白人当年奴役黑人欠下的道义上的债,白人在名额分配上降低自己的配额分给黑人,虽然黑人的平均水平低于其它族裔不少。
相信不少支持平权的亚裔也是从这个角度来看问题的,而不是被洗脑或简单纠结于本族裔的利害得失。
 

eclipse

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我比較好奇的是,一些頂級大學在放行非裔和拉丁裔的同時,為什麼要同時打壓亞裔。難道白人也有保障名額?

比例问题啊
我瞎写数字来说明,懒得查了。
假设人口比例 白人50% 亚裔 25% 黑人 25%
然后设一个分数线100分
所有学生超过100分各族占比白人50% 亚裔45% 黑人5%
如果按能力录取,就是按分数吧,这些亚裔就都上大学了。
如果要按种族,那白人没什么影响,还是入取中的50%
亚裔就有几乎一半超过100分的学生被拒绝,分数可能就提高到120分了,从而使得亚裔在入取的学生中仍然占25%
而黑人就只要80分就入取了,才能在入取学生中占25%。
 

eclipse

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想像这么一个场景:一群人出去野餐,每个人都自己带一个菜然后放在一起大家share。其中有一个人吃饭速度特别快,别人一轮菜还没吃完,他已经吃个五、六轮了。有人吃饭速度慢,导致最后没吃饱。这种吃饭方法对每个人公平吗?公平的分配方法是不是应该是给每一个人加一个量的限制:一个人吃得最多不能超过他带来的?
教育抛开表面,本质上就是对社会资源财富的分配利用,就象大家聚餐时带来的所有的菜。而各个不同的族裔就是参加聚餐的众人。学校分配名额时如果没有针对各族裔对社会贡献的多寡而进行的配额限制,就象是聚餐时大家可以没有限制随便吃。学习好的族裔能拿到更多的入学名额,就象吃得快的会吃得比别人多。
黑人问题一直是美国的社会问题,问题的核心是黑人的贫穷和教育水平落后,而贫穷又是和教育水平成负相关的。要想解决黑人问题从根上就是要解决教育问题。美国的AA平权初衷应该是针对黑人的,其它少数种裔只不过是或多或少跟着沾光。为了帮助黑人提高教育水平从而最终解决一直存在的社会问题,也为还白人当年奴役黑人欠下的道义上的债,白人在名额分配上降低自己的配额分给黑人,虽然黑人的平均水平低于其它族裔不少。
相信不少支持平权的亚裔也是从这个角度来看问题的,而不是被洗脑或简单纠结于本族裔的利害得失。

这个不能用吃饭来比喻吧。
中学小学是一回事,大学又是一回事。一个是基本教育,的确应该人人有份,所以给困难的提供午餐啊,免费集体活动啊,等等。都是应该的。
我个人觉得大学不算基本教育,因为这个是培养未来科学家,工程师的,应该有能力的上。
就像打冰球,谁打得好谁上,不能按种族分配名额吧。
本科上面还有研究生,博士生,还有教授,按这个路走就不是注重科学了,统统按族裔分配?

我支持帮助贫穷的人,但是想想大学名额并不能帮到真正贫穷的大多数黑人。
黑人中也有精英,其实是黑人的精英利用这个大学名额赚了便宜。
 

没有网名

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想像这么一个场景:一群人出去野餐,每个人都自己带一个菜然后放在一起大家share。其中有一个人吃饭速度特别快,别人一轮菜还没吃完,他已经吃个五、六轮了。有人吃饭速度慢,导致最后没吃饱。这种吃饭方法对每个人公平吗?公平的分配方法是不是应该是给每一个人加一个量的限制:一个人吃得最多不能超过他带来的?
教育抛开表面,本质上就是对社会资源财富的分配利用,就象大家聚餐时带来的所有的菜。而各个不同的族裔就是参加聚餐的众人。学校分配名额时如果没有针对各族裔对社会贡献的多寡而进行的配额限制,就象是聚餐时大家可以没有限制随便吃。学习好的族裔能拿到更多的入学名额,就象吃得快的会吃得比别人多。
黑人问题一直是美国的社会问题,问题的核心是黑人的贫穷和教育水平落后,而贫穷又是和教育水平成负相关的。要想解决黑人问题从根上就是要解决教育问题。美国的AA平权初衷应该是针对黑人的,其它少数种裔只不过是或多或少跟着沾光。为了帮助黑人提高教育水平从而最终解决一直存在的社会问题,也为还白人当年奴役黑人欠下的道义上的债,白人在名额分配上降低自己的配额分给黑人,虽然黑人的平均水平低于其它族裔不少。
相信不少支持平权的亚裔也是从这个角度来看问题的,而不是被洗脑或简单纠结于本族裔的利害得失。
NBA 都是黑人的天下,因为他们有天赋。上大学不是基础教育,就应该是公平竞争,最合适的人才得到机会。
 

Anakin

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这个不能用吃饭来比喻吧。
中学小学是一回事,大学又是一回事。一个是基本教育,的确应该人人有份,所以给困难的提供午餐啊,免费集体活动啊,等等。都是应该的。
我个人觉得大学不算基本教育,因为这个是培养未来科学家,工程师的,应该有能力的上。
就像打冰球,谁打得好谁上,不能按种族分配名额吧。
本科上面还有研究生,博士生,还有教授,按这个路走就不是注重科学了,统统按族裔分配?

我支持帮助贫穷的人,但是想想大学名额并不能帮到真正贫穷的大多数黑人。
黑人中也有精英,其实是黑人的精英利用这个大学名额赚了便宜。
上学按比例。那NBA球员也要按比例吧?各个学校的校队也按比例?美国总统以后40年至少有4年应该是亚裔美国人?这不是瞎扯蛋么
 

云霞

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诺贝尔奖可以按族裔比例来分配嘛?
 

lfe634

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要想解决黑人问题从根上就是要解决教育问题。美国的AA平权初衷应该是针对黑人的,其它少数种裔只不过是或多或少跟着沾光。
...
相信不少支持平权的亚裔也是从这个角度来看问题的,而不是被洗脑或简单纠结于本族裔的利害得失。
吃飯這個比喻是把一整個族群當成一個人,但事實上這個人裡面的細胞是不怎麼分享養分的。
我很欣賞白人贖罪的善意,但實際的情況卻是拿亞裔的名額(分數)去給非裔,白人沒有利害得失 :rolleyes:
 
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lfe634

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我支持帮助贫穷的人,但是想想大学名额并不能帮到真正贫穷的大多数黑人。
黑人中也有精英,其实是黑人的精英利用这个大学名额赚了便宜。
類似中國改開,讓一部分的人先富(教育)起來,在起初這一兩代會造成差距拉大。
先富的搬出去了,移民了。當然人才回流回流的速度也在增加,前景似乎不錯 :good:
 
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