The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 21st

Column: Giving Asian-American students their voice back

In 2014, a faceless litigative group, entitled the Students For Fair Admission, sued UNC on grounds of admissions discrimination by race. By tomorrow night, the Asian American Students Association will have voted on whether or not their name is inscribed on an amicus brief in support of Carolina’s race-conscious policy. The AASA executive board has endorsed the University’s position, and we strongly encourage that you support this measure.

The anonymous plaintiff behind this case has been disclosed as a white male. Moreover, the legal strategist (read: non-lawyer) responsible for SFFA and this nationwide attack on affirmative action is none other than Edward Blum, a white conservative man. And yet — Asian Americans are the face of this anti-affirmative action movement. This is incredibly unconscionable. It’s clear that Blum holds no regard for the well-being of Asian-American students on this campus — this is for his personal agenda. Do not let him speak for you. 

Regardless of the broadly-defined legalese utilized in SFFA’s court documents, SFFA’s track record against University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University, as well as their own website, show a commitment to dismantling race-conscious admission practices, thereby ignoring decades of historical discrimination and privilege. As a result, any decision in the favor of SFFA would be a landmark blow to affirmative action.

Make no mistake: the choice of UNC as a defendant was completely intentional. UNC is one of the top public universities in the country, and one of the few with published research on possible race-neutral college admission alternatives. Prior to the litigation, UNC instituted a private committee to model five unique race-neutral alternatives to admission. The answer, each time, was the same: “the analysis of each alternative resulted in a decline in racial diversity, a decline in academic quality, or both.” 

Support for affirmative action isn’t to say that UNC doesn’t owe Asian-American students an improved commitment to representation and support. Considering Asian Americans as a homogenous group, fulfilling the “model minority” stereotype, is incredibly dangerous. Asia is a large continent, ranging from Indian immigrants to Cambodian refugees, with many wealth disparities in between. Southeast Asians have disproportionately low high school graduation rates in the U.S. when compared to East and South Asians. To ignore these struggles would effectively be marginalizing entire minority communities and their unique struggles.

The voices of Asian-Americans have been silenced in American society, to be exploited whenever necessary by those who hold power in this school and nation as a whole. Too often has our narrative been overlooked. This “model minority” stereotype is specifically utilized to pit minorities against each other, a futile attempt to move Asian Americans to the right by winning them over using affirmative action. 

UNC specifically owes a tremendous amount of commitment to representation and support of Asian Americans. Recognizing this is essential for administrative accountability, but realizing the ramifications of this case takes priority, as institutional racism and privilege are set to dominate college admissions in a race-blind admission system. So please — defy every negative connotation associated with your voice. Speak loud, speak clearly and vote to stand with your fellow minorities in dismantling this system of privilege we live within. Your voices are important, now more than ever.

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