Today, in a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court ruled that universities cannot use race as a factor in the admissions process. This decision effectively rolls back affirmative action and decades of progress and educational opportunity for students of color. The lawsuit was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a coalition of Asian parents and students created for this purpose — a coalition that was created, supported, and presided by Edward Blum, a conservative legal activist who has worked for decades to overturn Affirmative Action in higher education.
As an Asian American, specifically a Chinese American, I am abhorred that Asian and Asian American parents (of which I am one) participated in this suit, rolling back decades of progress for ALL students and families of color. For over a century, Asians have been used as a pawn and a wedge in this country’s ongoing struggle for civil rights. We are often painted by politicians and the media as the “model minority”, a myth that is a) a myth, b) disregards the benefits and progress that civil rights, equal opportunity, and affirmative action has afforded Asians and other people of color, and c) does not take into consideration the very large disparities in economic status and education of the Asian immigrant community — one that has over 40 cultural identities. This broad Asian American diaspora MUST educate ourselves about this country’s long history of oppression based on race, the long-standing historical discrimination against Asians including mass incarceration and explicit laws forbidding immigration and citizenship attainment, and the more recent manipulation of narratives and ideology to hold back equal progress for ALL people of color. We cannot and must not allow our communities to be the instruments used to continue centuries of oppression and wealth-building on the backs of ALL people of color.
Interestingly enough, in a footnote in his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts exempted military academies from this decision, allowing for the assumption that race-conscious admissions is good enough to facilitate entry for people of color to be trained to fight for and potentially die for this country but not “fair” enough to allow people of color to have the same access to higher education. Justice Jackson summed up this paradox perfectly in her dissent, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom.”
We at TSNE believe in equitable access to educational, work, and life opportunities for ALL people of color and our communities; that means access that takes into consideration race, socioeconomic status, gender/gender identity, and other attributes and experiences that impact our identities. Race neutral, separate but equal, and colorblind policies do not work. And while today’s ruling is a blow to equity and progress for all, TSNE is committed, now more than ever, to supporting and embedding equity and advancing racial equity in all that we do.