Column: We are not your model minority

O n Monday, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. filed a federal lawsuit against UNC and Harvard University. It alleges these institutions violated affirmative action guidelines set by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling on Fisher vs. Texas, and seeks the implementation of race-neutral alternatives in college admissions.

When questioned in an interview with Colorlines as to why his website prominently featured Asian faces, Edward Blum, the executive director of the conservative Project on Fair Representation, denied he was rousing Asians to buy into his scheme or pitting people of color against one another.

It is not Asians filing this suit. Rather, it’s a white man trying to use Asians as a tool to gain support for his anti-affirmative action crusade.

“Were You Denied Admission to the University of North Carolina? It may be because you’re the wrong race,” reads the website.

This narrative portrays Asian Americans as the “model minority” and paints an overly positive (and manipulative) caricature of Asian immigrants as doctors, businesspeople, academics and politicians to prove that America is a land of equal opportunity and a color-blind meritocracy.

Belief in the myth pits Asians against other people of color, where we contrast “our success” with “their failure.” As a result, any lack of success among people of color is ascribed to lack of effort, rather than being grounded in historical and ongoing inequities.

The model minority myth, perpetuated by this lawsuit, is among the latest weapons being deployed against Black and Latina/o students.

The group behind the lawsuit suffers from historical amnesia — when have race-neutral admission policies ever existed at our so-called “Southern Part of Heaven?”

Until recently, people who were deemed the “wrong race” were outright barred from attending UNC. Until the first Black men matriculated in 1951 after a heated battle in federal court, only white students were allowed to apply and enroll at UNC.

Even today, legacy-based admissions and standardized tests whose results correlate closely with income are race-based measures that disproportionately benefit white students.

Our scapegoating of Black studies in the aftermath of the Wainstein report and the allegations of this lawsuit are nestled within a history that excludes and exploits people of color. And this University continues to do so.

We tell athletes that they must be grateful that they have a shot at a UNC degree. We call their college education a salary for the entertainment and millions of dollars that athletes provide to the university and its fandom.

We are comfortable throwing around the term HBCU — historically black college or university. But let’s be historically accurate for a moment. Let’s call the University of North Carolina what it is — an HWCU, historically white college and university.

Thanks for reading.

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