In 2018, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v Harvard, colloquially known as the Harvard Affirmative Action case, challenged Harvard University’s holistic approach to admissions. Under this policy, admissions officers consider a wide range of factors when evaluating a student’s application, including race and ethnicity. The plaintiffs in this case contended that this holistic approach to admissions resulted in the rejection of qualified and deserving Asian American students because they “were the wrong race.”
While the judge ruled in favor of Harvard and its continued practice of race-conscious admissions, we cannot dismiss the active participation of Asians Americans in this fight and their subscription to harmful rhetoric that further subjugates people of color.
President Edward Blum of Students for Fair Admissions, the aforementioned group that advocates against race-conscious admissions, has a history of attacking laws that aim to create an equal playing field for people of color; the laws contested by the group include protections on voting rights and race-conscious admissions in higher education commonly referred to as affirmative action.
Blum claims that by taking race into consideration, colleges discriminate against Asian Americans. His fight for a colorblind admissions approach highlights his refusal to acknowledge the ways in which systemic racial inequalities have an impact on an individual’s access to resources, social, economic and cultural capital and ultimately their livelihoods. Affirmative action is meant to be a holistic approach to admissions in which colleges recognize how an applicant’s race could have shaped their perspectives and opportunities — and Edward Blum does not see its importance.
To assume Blum’s mission is to support Asian Americans is naïve. If Blum truly believed in honoring students’ merits and capabilities regardless of circumstance, his fight would be against legacy admissions which favors the wealthy and white. Research conducted on 30 elite institutions shows that children of alumni are 45 percent more likely to be admitted to these schools than their equally qualified, non-legacy counterparts. Blum’s disinterest in dismantling legacy admissions policies prove that his main objective is to get rid of affirmative action. This would undoubtedly benefit white applicants at the expense of applicants of color.
Pitting people of color against one another is a long standing practice in the United States. Historically, journalists and politicians have leveraged the term “model minority” to describe Asian Americans because of their values regarding family and hard work and their perceived prioritization of education. The term is used as grounds to question why Black and Latinx Americans have not been able to achieve similar levels of success. Propagators of this concept fail to recognize that the examples of Asian American success they provide are products of immigration policy exclusively targeted to bring high-skilled labor to the United States.
Subscribing to the model minority myth racially triangulates Asian Americans. As whites valorize Asians in relation to Black and other people of color, they dominate both groups while placing a deliberate wedge between them. Unlike other racial minority groups, Asian Americans are ostracized and subjected to perpetual foreignization. By using Asian Americans as pawns to uphold white privilege and further disadvantage other people of color, Blum dehumanizes the very people who believe he is fighting for them. His leveraging of Asian Americans in his fight against affirmative action is an active manifestation of the racial triangulation theory.
Racial triangulation has resulted in Asian Americans subscribing to rhetoric that attributes negative qualities such as laziness, greed and malevolence to Black people. Such anti-Black beliefs have infiltrated the minds of many Asian Americans who lean on the model minority myth and racial triangulation to elevate themselves under the white eye. The subscription to such ideologies has fueled the beliefs of Asian Americans who are against affirmative action.