The current U.S. Supreme Court case involving alleged discrimination at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina has the potential to upend decades of affirmative action policy. At issue is whether race can be used as a factor in college admissions, and the case could have a major impact on the way colleges across the country consider race in their admissions processes. According to the lawsuit, Harvard gives Asian American applicants lower “personal ratings,” which are supposed to denote characteristics like leadership and grit.
Asians are often seen as the “model minority” in the United States, meaning that they are seen as success stories who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and achieved the American dream. It’s a frustrating label to be stuck with, and it’s one that many of us struggle to understand. What does it mean to be a model minority? And why are we considered one in the first place?
These are complicated questions with no easy answers. But they’re worth discussing and exploring because the model minority stereotype is something that affects all of us. Asian Americans are not a monolith, and we should not be treated as such. There are 25 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the USA who trace their roots to more than 50 countries each with unique histories, cultures, languages, dialects, and other characteristics. We are individuals with our own unique experiences and perspectives.
Some people argue that affirmative action programs, which take race into account in admissions decisions, discriminate against Asian American students. They point to data that shows that Asian-American students have to score higher on standardized tests and have higher grades than other groups to be admitted to elite schools.
Others argue that affirmative action is necessary to create a more diverse and inclusive student body. They point to the fact that Asian Americans are still underrepresented at many top schools, despite their high test scores and grades.
There is good news and bad news in the current situation. On the one hand, the model minority myth is starting to be challenged for the right reasons. But Asians are likely to be used as a “wedge” in the 2023 decision for the Supreme Court case.
Asian Americans deserve better than to be pigeonholed, stereotyped, and used to divide the narrative on race. We deserve to be seen as the complex, diverse people that we are.
We should all be paying attention to this case and its potential implications. It could have a major impact on higher education in the United States, and it could affect the way colleges consider race in their admissions processes. It could also have implications for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives across corporate America. This is an important issue for all of us, and we should be paying attention to it.
[Image credit: Madison A. Shirazi, The Harvard Crimson]