I was having dinner earlier this week with a member of my extended family when the topic of race-conscious affirmative action and SCA-5 came up. My family member (who is not Asian American) was surprised to learn that I support affirmative action; he was under the impression that all Asian Americans were monolithically opposed to race-conscious admissions considerations. “What?” he asked, somewhat teasingly, “don’t you want Asians to be able to get into college?”
I have written extensively about how affirmative action doesn’t prevent Asian Americans from accessing college: 1) affirmative action does not permit race to be used as a determinative factor in admissions decisions so any use of affirmative action to deny Asian American access to college based on race alone is unconstitutional, 2) there are several ethnic groups within the AAPI diaspora, including Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who are contemporary active beneficiaries of race-conscious affirmative action, 3) East Asian Americans (e.g. Chinese Americans) who have been present in America longer than other AAPIs have traditionally been active beneficiaries of race-conscious affirmative action particularly in the mid-twentieth century when Chinese and Chinese American students were actively recruited to elite universities to end racial segregation; only in the last two or three decades have we no longer received additional consideration under race-conscious affirmative action, and 4) all students, regardless of race, benefit from the diverse student life that is achieved through race-conscious affirmative action considerations in college admissions through broader exposure to different viewpoints as well as better preparation for an increasingly globalized market.
All this aside, there is a persistent myth within the American political landscape that Asian Americans are universally opposed to affirmative action. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the affirmative action issue is one that highlights the diversity in Asian American political thought.