“Sucks you have to put down you’re Asian,” a classmate told me my senior year while I was applying for colleges. “It’s going to be so much harder for you to get in.”
It’s a sentiment I’ve been hearing for years, and one that came onto the national stage last month, when the Department of Justice backed a lawsuit from students claiming Harvard University’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American students. It’s a move by the Trump administration's Justice Department to end affirmative action, which has been backed by white conservatives for years, and more recently, small groups of Asian Americans.
Ironically, Asian Americans are cast aside in the debate over affirmative action on both sides. Asian Americans are diverse in more ways than one — there are Chinese immigrants who have been here since the Chinese Exclusion Act, South Asians (or ‘my kind of Asian,’ as was told to me more than once), Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. There is also diversity in the significant disparities between the highest and lowest-earning Asians, despite Asians being one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in the country.
Being stripped of an individual identity makes us easy political pawns, especially in the affirmative action debate.
Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times that highlights how our ‘model minority’ label is exploited by both conservatives and liberals. It’s a stereotype that my own family fits into.