Public Rhetoric

Rough Draft: Asian American and Affirmative Action

From November to January, there are many holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. It is supposed to be an enjoyable time for family gathering and friends reunion. With all the applications, financial aid, scholarship, and recommendation letter piling up, it could also be an extremely stressful period for high school seniors who are applying for colleges. In order to get into dream colleges, everyone works hard throughout high school trying to maintain decent grades, participate in extracurricular activities, and do volunteer work. However, some people could get admitted to top colleges with lower requirements while some people have to prove themselves extra smart to get in. Affirmative action in college admission does not provide equality; rather it is a new kind of discrimination, especially toward Asian Americans.

Affirmative action was first introduced to society in 1960s by President John F. Kennedy to ensure job applicants and employees were treated equally despite their race and color. This policy is still being used in college admission today. Its initial approach was brought out positively to help those minority groups who had historically suffered from discrimination. These minority groups include African American, Mexican American, Hispanic American, and etc. While they receive lower standards for college admission, Asian Americans who are also a minority group do not receive the same treatment. A journalist writes, “Asian Americans need SAT scores 140 points higher than Whites and about 400 scores higher than Black and Hispanic high school students to get into elite schools with all other variable being equal.” (Shengdun) Although Asian Americans are considered as minority group, they are being labeled as “model minority.” Model minority refers to minority group that have achieved a high level of success. Asian Americans appear to be more hardworking and intelligent and because of this stereotyped image, many elite colleges are afraid of having a “too Asian” campus. This is where affirmative action comes in place. Elite colleges like Ivy Leagues and top liberal arts school purposely raise the requirements of admission to limit the amount of Asian Americans. Affirmative action indeed gives other minority groups a higher chance of getting into a good college, but many talented Asian Americans are rejected simply because of their race. If affirmative action only gives advantage to certain minority groups, then it loses its original purpose of providing equality.

College admission should be based on merits and not be affected by applications’ race. Why should Asian Americans be targeted by affirmative action and face discrimination? A mother of two children says, “We want our children can be treated equally. I see the kids studying until 2 o’clock in the morning and participate school debate teams and do social works. I want to live in a country where hard works are rewarded.” (Shengdun) It seems unreasonable to have a perfectly qualified Asian American student to lose the chance of getting a better education at an elite school to those who are less qualified. A study conducted by Princeton University uses SAT scores as a benchmark to show how race and ethnicity affect admissions. The study results reveal the fact that African Americans received a bonus 230 points, Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points, but Asian Americans are penalized by 50 points. (Shyong)

To college admissions, merits do not merely mean high test score and GPAs, but also many other factors like extra curricular that shapes a student to be well-rounded. Nevertheless, race and ethnicity should not be a factor taken into account. Hubert Zhao, Chinese American student with a weighted 5.3 GPA, is a victim of affirmative action. He filed a complaint against Columbia and Cornell Universities after being rejected for admission. According to AsAm News, “Hubert Zhao is a National Merit Scholarship winner, was the president and captain of his high school’s Science Olympiad, Debate, and Science Bowl Team … out of Zhao’s class of 700 students, only he and an unnamed Indian American student were named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Neither were accepted to any top 20 schools while others of other racial groups in their class were.” (Chan) Well-rounded is a subjective word and there is no definite standard for it. Nevertheless, Zhao clearly participated in many extracurricular activities other than school works. Zhao’s case proves that a more qualified Asian American was denied from top colleges whereas other race with less achievement can somewhat easily being admitted.

You might question whether Asian Americans would benefit from affirmative action bans. The answer is yes. California banned race-conscious admission on public college in 1996. Many Californians were upset about this decision made by the lawmakers. But data had shown, “After California forbade state universities to consider race in admissions, the percentage of Asian students at the University of California at Berkeley rose from 37 percent to 44 percent. At CIT … more than one-third of students are Asian.” (Zimmerman) The intention of trying to create a diverse environment in these elite colleges is great, even so they should not deny Asian American students’ effort when they work equally or harder than other students. If affirmative action could not provide equal opportunity for all minority groups, then it should certainly be banned.

As mentioned earlier Asian Americans would need to score 140 points higher than White American on the SAT to get into a top college. Affirmative action was carried out to help minority groups, but why did White Americans also benefit from this policy. The author of the article Asian-Americans, the New Jews on Campus writes, “That just doesn’t make sense. African-Americans and Hispanics have suffered discrimination across our history; whites haven’t. But if we make whites compete on a level playing field with Asians, our colleges will become too Asian.” (Zimmerman) Asians had suffered in history just like other minorities. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act signed by President Arthur in 1882 prohibited all Chinese immigration. Chinese labors also had to deal with horrible treatments and anti-Chinese sentiments. In addition, Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and put in War Relocation Camps during World War II after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. By definition, Asian Americans are minority. Although this may be true, not only they do not get the advantage supposedly provided by affirmative action, they are hurt by it. White Americans did not endure any kind of inequality, but benefit from their race. With affirmative action, Asian Americans are being punished for working hard and being high achievers.

As an Asian students myself, I do not like the idea of affirmative action. From my graduate class in high school, two intelligent and well-rounded female students were the valedictorian candidates, and they both applied to Stanford University. One of them, Maggie, Chinese American, had taken more AP classes, scored higher on the SAT, done many internships related to STEM, participated in volleyball team for all four years. The other student, Vanessa, Mexican American, had the same GPA as Maggie, interned at a local hospital, was once the concertmaster of the school orchestra. Though they both had outstanding achievements, only Vanessa was admitted to Stanford. In contrast, UC Berkeley offered Maggie a full tuition scholarship. Again, California’s affirmative action ban is only effective for public school. Maybe there were other variables, but I suspected that Maggie’s admission might have been affected by her race.

Although affirmative action seems to hurt Asian Americans, on December 13, 2016, two Asian American students petitioned to join Harvard lawsuit to defend affirmative action. The lawsuit against Harvard University was filed in 2014 by Edward Blum, the president of Students For Fair Admissions, Inc., which accused Harvard for engaging in discrimination against Asian Americans using racial classification on admission. One of the two Asian American petitioners, Jason Fong actually supports affirmative action. The news reports, “Fong said he experienced bullying and social exclusion in private elementary and middle school, which had few students of color … he finds his public high school to be more inclusive and a safer place to share his own ideas.” (Fuchs) Affirmative action can undoubtedly bring diversity and different cultures to college campus. I agree with Fong’s statement that a more diverse school makes him feel safe. When I first visited Cal Poly, I was not comfortable with the environment. After staying in San Francisco for years, especially my high school had about eighty percent Asian students, I did not feel welcomed to the campus with mainly White American students. Diversity in college could impact students positively on racial tolerance and self-esteem, which can be fulfilled with race-conscious college admissions.

Affirmative action on college admission could be two sided, beneficial and harmful, to everyone. Due to Asian American’s hardworking nature, they are being seen as “model minority”. This stereotype does not serve as bonus point on their college applications, rather a hurdle that prevents them from receiving higher education. If affirmative action only supports specific minority groups, then this policy should not be adopted and used against other minority groups. Or else it would just be another type of discrimination; ironically, the policy was created to stop it. All minority groups should be treated fairly and equally.


Work Cited

Shengdun, Hua. “Asians Urge College Admission Equality.” China Daily, US ed. ed.: 2. Dec 10 2015. ProQuest. Web. 9 Mar. 2017 .

Shyong, Frank. “For Asian Americans, a Changing Landscape on College Admissions.” Los Angeles Times, 21 Feb. 2015. Web. 8 Mar. 2017.

Chan, Louis. “Asian American Files Discrimination Complaint against Ivy League Schools.” AsAmNews. 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Mar. 2017.

Zimmerman, Jonathan. “Asian-Americans, the New Jews on Campus.” Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 58, no. 35, 04 May 2012, p. A26. EBSCOhost,

Fuchs, Chris. “Students File to Join Harvard Lawsuit to Defend Race-Conscious Admissions.” NBC News. 15 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 Mar. 2017.




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