Minorities don’t need help

“I already got a 1470 on the SAT the first time I took it. It’s high enough. It’s good enough. I don’t want to take it again,” I said to my mom, who was pressing me to retake the test. With my decent grades and awards, I felt the slightly-lower score shouldn’t have been too dark of a stain on my college applications.

This only made my mom angrier, “You don’t understand. The truth is that Asians and Asian Americans need to get higher scores to get accepted into the same colleges as white people or black people.”

Though my mom didn’t name it, affirmative action was most certainly what she was describing. Affirmative action, in the context of college applications, is a “positive discrimination”—some sort of policy enacted to favor those who are discriminated against.

It’s certainly helpful for encouraging (or at least, forcing) diversity. It’s a boon for minorities. Most of them, except Asians. According to one study conducted in 2009 by Princeton, “Asians experience the greatest disadvantage in admissions vis-à-vis other comparable racial/ethnic groups.” Even college strategist Greg Kaplan emphasized in his book, Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting Into Highly Selective Colleges, for Asians to “decline to state [his or her] background if [he or she] identifies with a group that is overrepresented on campus even if her name suggests affiliation.” With this sort of situation, political activists cannot make a white vs. every-other-race argument.

Is this sort of “positive discrimination” simply diversity for diversity’s sake? After all, admissions are already brutal as is with their requirements. The playing field may not be equal in terms of finances and academics, so it makes sense to try to level things out, but race is something that cannot be changed and is a very touchy subject.

In the same study by Princeton, Asians had to score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites and hundreds of points above other races to have the same chance of admission to many of the nation’s top universities. One college counselor at Hunter College High School complained that a Harvard admissions officer noted that some of the school’s students were not admitted because the Asian students “looked just alike” on paper.

From 1909 to 1933, Harvard’s president, Abott Lawrence Lowell, took action to encourage diversity—fixing “the Jewish problem” by decreasing Jewish admission rates. In fact, the “holistic” evaluation of students for college admissions was created by Lowell as a way to limit the number of Jewish students.

Legally, affirmative action gets a pass. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) ruled that racial quotas were unconstitutional, though race could be used as a factor for admission. As a more recent case, Fisher v. University (2016) ruled that race could be used as a factor for admissions, with some judicial scrutiny.

Though I believe merit and qualifications should be the key factors in selling a college candidate, there are benevolent goals that affirmative action is trying to accomplish. Affirmative action cuts back on overrepresentation on the campus, allowing otherwise disadvantaged minorities a chance.

However, limiting certain races via college admissions simply isn’t the way to go. The best way to help disadvantaged students is to fundamentally improve K-12 education for them. Minorities shouldn’t need to have an artificial limiter to push them forward if they can earn it on their own with work and effort.