Affirmative action in the United States: An overview

Brief preface: Last spring, I made a decision to write an analysis about affirmative action, which never happened because of the sheer amount of work it takes to write even a summary of the policy’s history. In the spring of this year, however, I was assigned to write a long final paper for English class in which we were allowed to choose our own topic. I chose, unsurprisingly, this one. What follows is an essay that, despite its apparent length, only glosses upon the topic and offers some support of race-conscious college admissions.

Few institutions in the United States are held in higher regard than its higher education system, a network of thousands of schools, public and private, secular and religious, enrolling over 8 million students (NCES, 2013) and conferring hundreds of thousands of degrees per year. Postsecondary educational attainment is commonly regarded as the single most effective means of upward social mobility in America. Yet for a system that is held in such high esteem, there are definite inequalities in higher education, especially with regard to socioeconomic status (Davies & Guppy, 1997; Sewell & Shah, 1967; Karen, 1991) and race (Karen, 2002). Sociologists of education frequently debate between the two dueling theories of the role of education—as enforcers of privilege and inequality or vehicles of mobility.

While the focus of postsecondary education academics and researchers has traditionally been simply on access to higher education, these purely numerically-derived racial inequalities or “enrollment gaps,” have largely dissipated in the United States. Today, the problem has taken on a different form: underrepresented minorities (abbrev. URM) and immigrants are disproportionately represented (Eaton, 1988; Bailey & Weininger, 2002) in community colleges (also known as junior colleges or associates degree-conferring institutions) where the likelihood of ultimately transferring and attaining a bachelors degree is much lower than in four-year colleges and universities (Dougherty, 1992).

As mentioned in Ross (2014), East Los Angeles College is one of many examples of this somewhat troubling phenomenon, which to some, is one of the compelling reasons for the continuation of affirmative action and other higher educational outreach policies in America. This paper briefly explores the history and viability of—and arguments against—affirmative action policies in the United States as it pertains to higher education; it will also focus in particular on the position and role of Asians, as the fastest growing minority (Census, 2013) and a longtime majority demographic in higher education, in the affirmative action debate. The positions of various groups will be discussed and several conclusions will be drawn on the viability of affirmative action, as well as suggestions to the Asian American community on the issue.

Affirmative action: a brief history

The history of affirmative action is intimately related to the issue of race relations in the United States as a whole. As a result, it becomes important to understand the context and prior events that led up to the development, expansion, and eventual criticism of affirmative action policies in higher education.

Before affirmative action

The settlement, colonization, and domination of the eastern seaboard of North America by the group of white Christians who would eventually call themselves Americans founded colleges and universities in the wake of this colonization, often with religious intent. Like in Western Europe, the home region of these colonists, education in general was restricted to wealthy white males, and higher education often further restricted to the clergy. Women and people of color, especially African slaves, were regarded as subhuman or nonhuman, and were denied any education at all. For African Americans, especially, attaining literacy was seen as dangerous to whites, as education threatened the existing subjugation of the group as slaves (Mitchell, 2008).

Following the brutal conclusion of the American Civil War, the country began a long and arguably still-unfinished effort towards desegregation and equalization of opportunity for groups that were historically denied fundamental rights. Education and higher education in particular was and is a concern because of its ability to generate upward social mobility. Only in 1870, five years after the conflict, did the most prestigious university, Harvard, confer its first undergraduate degree on an African American—Richard T. Greener (Snibbe, 2011).

The creation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a part of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890[1] that greatly expanded public higher education in the United States, is a specific set of actions intended to rectify centuries of education denial enforced by chattel slavery and subsequent institutional discrimination. The positive effect of having HBCUs educate African Americans was rapidly made apparent. Among the first graduates from these schools were Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, two of the most well known black American intellectuals of the 20th century who both delivered thought-provoking commentary on the advancement of racial equality and the position of blacks in American society (CollegeView).

Perhaps the most well known decision that positively affected the education trajectories of minorities in America was the unanimous decision made in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a case argued by black lawyers who graduated from Howard University (an HBCU), which desegregated public education and overturned the “separate but equal” policies allowed by Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The decision set the stage for further educational equality policies, such as affirmative action, to be instated.

The Civil Rights Movement and the rise of affirmative action

“Affirmative action” itself has not always been a standalone term in the country, nor did it always originally relate to higher education, where it is most controversially debated today. Desegregation rulings in the Supreme Court of the United States (abbrev. SCOTUS) and the forming of HBCUs constituted a form of positive action towards encouraging minority enrollment, but the term itself only formally surfaced in light of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 (1961) calling upon government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed” to prevent discrimination.

President Lyndon B. Johnson iterated the statement when he signed Executive Order 11246 (1965) as a supplement to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (2012), which introduced the concept that public schools, like other public institutions and public-sector work, should have affirmative action policies in place to rectify historical racial inequalities in America. In short, affirmative action’s original intent was to create equality of opportunity in employment, especially in the public sector, because minorities have historically been underrepresented in these fields; with the same rationale, it was then expanded to include enrollment in public colleges and universities[2]. Executive Order 11246 remains law today; it requires that government contractors have programs or policies intended to assist minorities, the disabled, veterans, and other groups deemed to require affirmative action treatment (US Department of Labor). It is helpful to note that this form of affirmative action remains largely uncontroversial and is still federal law.

Legal challenges. With the blessings of the executive order, public colleges and universities began instating their own versions of affirmative action policies. Because this had never before been done in the country, a variety of methods were used to increase minority enrollment, and the use of such policies reached its height in the 1970s (Bollinger, 2014). Some of these policies were questionable—especially to white students, some of whom have consistently believed that affirmative action costs them spots in top colleges and professional schools—and this led to many legal challenges, some of which have reached the SCOTUS. It is interesting to note that throughout the decades, the number of legal challenges against affirmative action have increased; there is perhaps a growing sentiment that affirmative action has reached its proverbial ‘expiration date’ or that it is ‘overdue.’ (The specifics of this belief will be explained in detail later.)

The UC Regents case and quotas. The earliest major affirmative action lawsuit that pertained to higher education was University of California Regents v. Bakke(1978), where a UC Davis medical school applicant, Allan Bakke, successfully challenged the usage of quotas for minority students. The Supreme Court ruled that explicitly granting 16 out of 100 medical school spots to minority students violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s oft-cited (especially in affirmative action cases) Equal Protection Clause. To the relief of civil rights advocates, affirmative action itself remained unscathed. In hindsight, the discontinuation of blatant quota systems was a positive development for affirmative action as a whole, as it represented the most ham-handed method of increasing diversity and minority representation—crass and politically incorrect, as it gave critics the valid ability to say that affirmative action was, in actuality, “reverse discrimination.” However, the most-cited court opinion by moderate Justice Lewis Powell expressed a critical detail (Bollinger, 2014): affirmative action’s existence and usage would be to create and perpetuate diverse environments that reflect the modern world, rather than what the policy’s history and predecessors more strongly suggest—that it is about rectifying historical disadvantages and wrongdoings (and not ‘reverse discrimination’). In the decades to come, this distinction would seriously dilute the strength of affirmative action.

Grutter, Gratz, and other 21st century cases.Affirmative action was once again seriously challenged in the Supreme Court by a pair of 2003 cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, which pertained to the University of Michigan. In the former landmark case, the Court upheld the use of “race-conscious” policies in admission to University of Michigan Law School, clarifying the more murky conclusion reached in the UC Regents v. Bakke case, which resulted in six different opinions. The Gratz decision eliminated a points system that too closely resembled the quotas banned in 1978. Overall, the ‘U of Michigan cases’ were the first to formally keep affirmative action intact, although it further clarified the terms and means such policy could be effectively carried out. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in her court opinion, believed that “25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today” (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003). That interest is, of course, the ‘diversity argument’ originally put forth by Powell; O’Connor’s words effectively planted an expiration date on affirmative action, in part because the only legal interest that formally remained for its presence was “diversity” and little else.

Two more contemporary cases on affirmative action in public schools continued to uphold the policy, but in increasingly narrow terms. The Court sent Fisher v. University of Texas (2013) back to an appellate court, citing the lack of application of “strict scrutiny” on the system’s affirmative action policies (which were previously banned but reinstated in 2005). In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action(2014) the Court dealt a very slight blow to affirmative action advocates by ruling that banning affirmative action through state constitutional amendments was constitutional, formally allowing for more affirmative action bans via voter-approved referenda. Just as important as the ruling, however, was the Obama-appointed Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s blistering 58 page dissent, which her fellow female and Democrat Justice Ginsburg joined. Her message was by no means brief, but it was cogent and comprehensible to the layperson (Fontana, 2014) : “race matters” and to allow the majority (which is white) to drown out the minority through popular referenda rather than protesting the policies through other means, such as “public awareness campaigns” or “persuad[ing] existing board members,” is wrong and ignores the country’s history of racism (Schuette v. Coalition, 2014).


The first formal efforts to end affirmative action began in the 1990s. The inaugural ban of a policy which had previously enjoyed significant popularity for decades occurred in the relatively liberal state of California. State voters banned the practice in 1996 through the passage of Proposition 209. 1998 marked the first school year where race was no longer a factor for admission into California universities. Following that action, a litany of other bans swept the nation (Desilver, 2014): Washington in 1998; Florida in 1999; Michigan in 2006; Nebraska in 2008; and four other states, all in the last decade. Of the nine referenda proposed by voters to end affirmative action, only one—Colorado in 2008—was unsuccessful. Without a doubt, the narrowing of the interest in the policy from addressing historical wrongdoing to simply ‘diversity,’ along with the eagerness of Americans, liberal and conservative alike, to declare that ‘racism is over’ in this country[3] and that the time for such policies has outlived its peak effectiveness, corresponds with the Supreme Court’s incremental narrowing of the legally sanctioned purposes for affirmative action in the last four decades.

Chief Justice John Robert’s well-known opinion from a 2007 Court case on the Equal Protection Clause and race in high school summarizes the attitudes of some outspoken Americans today who find affirmative action paradoxical: “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” (Parents v. Seattle). The philosophical inspiration for his statement can be pinpointed on Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in the Plessycase that legalized ‘separate but equal,’ where he wrote that “our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens” (cited in Wu, 2002, p. 146).[4] Though this sentiment is certainly expressed by conservative pundits (Hanson, 2014) and support for race-conscious admissions is fading even among eager liberals, public polling suggests another picture. In the wake of theSchuette decision, the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of Americans believe “programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses” is a “good thing”[5] (Drake, 2014). Sotomayor’s direct rebuttal of Roberts’ faulty color-blindness also speaks volumes: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination” (Schuette v. Coalition, 2014). Attaining a true color-blind society is impossible because, in yet another paradox, “color blindness requires color-consciousness, or it becomes impossible to discern itself[6]” (Wu, p. 149); furthermore, people are socialized almost as soon as birth to interpret certain issues and people along color lines, and no amount of willful ignorance ex post facto can delete individual tendencies to observe skin color.


The effects of affirmative action bans are less clear-cut than one might expect, with results varying between each state that has instituted bans. Additional factors that confound any analysis are rapidly changing demographics and other admissions policy changes that influence enrollment (such as the University of California’s increased acceptance of international and out-of-state students). However, in California, the state with the world’s leading public higher education system according to the U.S. News and World Report and numerous other rankings (2014), the effect of Proposition 209 on minority enrollment has pointed to a clear and alarming decrease in such.

A New York Times (2014) analysis of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data found that “[minority enrollment] numbers [at UC] have not recovered, even as the state’s Hispanic population has grown,” citing the increasing gap between enrollment and population at UC Berkeley and UCLA. Hispanics and Blacks represent 49% and 9% of the state’s college-age residents, respectively, and yet are only 17% and 3% of UCLA’s 2011 freshman population; for UC Berkeley, they represent a mere 11% and 2%. Further worsening the low enrollment numbers of African Americans is the fact that most—65 percent, to be exact—of this extremely small percentage of students are student athletes that are recruited under different (usually less rigorous) admission requirements (Cadet, 2013), meaning that the number of black students admitted under ‘normal’ circumstances with the same methods of consideration as other students is really less than 1.5 percent.

All of this is particularly striking considering UC officials’ have openly lamented that the system’s efforts to increase diversity and URM enrollment outside of affirmative action “have had disappointing results” (quoted in Anderson, 2014), strongly suggesting that despite Justice Antonin Scalia’s suggestion that “race-neutral alternatives”[7] might help with minority enrollment (Schuette v. Coalition, 2014), they have been inadequate in increasing URM enrollment and creating diversity on college campuses, something that the Supreme Court ruled public colleges and universities have “a compelling interest” in maintaining (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003) and one of the few remaining legal justifications for affirmative action. That members of the UC administration support affirmative action is not an anomaly: following the distribution of extremely racist hate flyers towards Asian American organizations at UCLA and USC, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement: “Today it is clear that we have suffered for it” (2014). By ‘it’, he was referring to almost two decades without affirmative action.

Common arguments against affirmative action

The preceding content demonstrates how affirmative action remains one of the most controversial topics in race relations after half a century. Opponents of the policy commonly cite a few key arguments in their opposition, which will be summarily challenged in below.

Affirmative action is ‘reverse discrimination’ that violates the Equal Protection Clause

Asians and whites alike like to use this argument because it shifts the focus of victimization from underrepresented minorities to themselves. The charge of ‘reverse discrimination’ largely derails the argument that the intent of affirmative action is to address historical disadvantage at a very slight cost (because it would be unscrupulous to admit there is none) to relatively advantaged groups. Furthermore, the argument does a tremendous disservice to minorities which have faced much more serious hardships (such as not being considered human beings) in approaching parity in educational attainment. The Equal Protection Clause argument is a favorite among recent Chinese American opponents of affirmative action who believe that the policy violates the stipulation that “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” However, repeated SCOTUS rulings upholding affirmative action usually find that the consideration of race is not a primary, secondary, or even tertiary factor in admission, so the state is not effectively infringing on the rights of any individual simply by including consideration.

‘College admission should be meritocratic’

This argument is particularly popular with Asian opponents of affirmative action, who believe that college admission should more closely resemble rigorously meritocratic college entrance or civil service exams of modern and ancient East Asian countries. A notably lengthy essay by Ron Unz in The American Conservative(2012) decisively (though not with complete accuracy[8]) disproved any notion that American college admissions is close to being meritocratic. There is method to the apparent madness though; almost all public colleges and universities, including the University of California, incorporate ‘holistic’—or at the least, multi-faceted—reviews of student applications, considering factors such as immigrant status, extracurricular activities, personal hardships, and the educational attainment of parents, all of which are just as important as GPA and test scores. Reinstating affirmative action in a state where it has banned simply returns race to this large list of factors, so its effect on college admission demographics is not as severe as detractors might believe. The commonly discussed finding (Espenshade & Radford, 2009) that Asians face a penalty of 140 points on the SAT for the same chance of admission as a white applicant to top schools was made without consideration of non-quantifiable factors that, per ‘holistic review’ policies, play a rather large role in admission. A sociologist whose study was actually about inequality in education, not the affirmative action debate per se, Espenshade himself “does not think his data establish[es]” an anti-Asian bias (Jaschik, 2009), mostly because the survey only measures objective scores and cannot account for the entire, holistic, college admissions process.

‘Class-based affirmative action is better’

Americans who want to move beyond racial conversations on college admission often assert that race-based affirmative action is antiquated and that, because race is often a proxy for class, socioeconomic status can be substituted for race in college admission. Yet this would repudiate the contemporary rationale of race-conscious affirmative action—to create more dynamic and diverse college campuses. The increased productivity and broadened range of college experiences that being present in a diverse student body entails remains the last Supreme Court-tested-and-approved justification for affirmative action. In the University of California, where an impressive number of outreach programs and opportunities exist for low-income students and almost 40% of students receive Pell Grants—the most of any university or university system in the country— it can be said that the state is already carrying out a sort of class-based consideration (Hing, 2014). Yet for all the talk about how race and class conflate in America, blacks and Hispanics remain direly underrepresented in the system. Class-based affirmative action actually hurts admissions chances for minority students of low socioeconomic status and disproportionately benefits whites (Espenshade & Radford, 2009, p. 357), who have not been subject to the sort of longstanding difficulties that race-conscious affirmative action seeks to mitigate.

Contemporary perspectives: Asians and affirmative action

As the Asian American population in the United States rapidly grows along with their political representation, the case for studying Asian political behavior and voting patterns has never been more compelling. For Asian Americans, especially Chinese Americans, affirmative action is a lightning rod issue that has divided the group for several decades. While very recent polling suggests that an overwhelming majority—a full 75%—of Asian Americans support affirmative action (NAAS, 2013) and 60% of them voted against Proposition 209 in 1996 (Hsieh, 2014), a vocal minority has consistently been in staunch opposition, complicating the Asian American political landscape. The willingness of this minority to act in their own interest was felt in Sacramento this year, when southern California state senator Ed Hernandez was forced to shelf Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 until 2016 following vociferous protests, mostly from Chinese Americans (Huang, 2014). The amendment called for the overturning of Proposition 209 as applied to public colleges and universities—the University of California and California State University systems.

Per my observations and the extensive coverage on Chinese talk radio and newspapers, this group of Chinese Americans, many of them immigrants in Southern California, are extremely sensitive—but not well-informed—about affirmative action and are very concerned about the ramifications of the policy, especially if it is reinstated and Proposition 209 overturned. Some Chinese so staunchly oppose affirmative action that they are willing to vote for Republican candidates based on this single issue[9].

Contributing factors: Immigrant status and misinformation

The Asian American organizations that have come out quickest against affirmative action include the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, a nonprofit organization and (as suggested in its title) political action committee that has recently suggested its members to vote for Republican candidates solely based on their opposition to affirmative action. Its membership is mostly comprised of Chinese American immigrant parents unversed in the nuanced and admittedly daunting discussion of race relations in the United States. These parents enter the fray motivated by messages they received in Chinese-language talk radio or newspapers (all of which display partiality to anti-affirmative action), asking why their children cannot be judged by merit alone, or furious that such a form of “reverse discrimination” dares exist—all with little to no knowledge of the vast context of the policy, rooted in a thread of American history that few Chinese have ever studied.[10]

Another hub for Chinese affirmative action detractors is the Facebook page “Say No to SCA 5[11],” which is more likely to be frequented by high school or college students steeped in their parents’ firm, Confucian-rooted, beliefs in meritocracy.. Students themselves may or may not be acquainted with the history of affirmative action because it is seldom, if ever, taught in high school American history classes (and if it is, amounts to one paragraph in the textbook about UC Regents v.Bakke).

Chinese immigrants often come to the United States to secure a better future for their children, and the choice means of attaining financial stability is seen through admission in education in a top UC or Ivy League school (Zhou and Lee, 2014). Because of this great emphasis on postsecondary education, Chinese immigrants and their children feel under particular threat when affirmative action is presented to them as a policy that is ‘tit-for-tat’—that is, a hypothetical but untrue scenario that for every black or Hispanic student admitted, a white or Asian applicant is denied admission (cited in Wu, 2002; Wu, 1997)[12]. Any perceived threats to Asian admission are seen as near-existential ones because it puts their futures at stake.

As a racial minority but a collegiate demographic majority, Asians have a unique position in the affirmative action debate, which has traditionally been a discussion topic between blacks and whites in the United States. Concerned parents and recent immigrants are often too focused on self-interest and fail to recognize the greater importance of affirmative action. If more Asians, especially Chinese, are educated with a fuller context and a closer reading of history, then there is perhaps a greater possibility that attitudes will change.


       While affirmative action tentatively remains arguably the ‘best’ means of moving towards greater educational equality, Americans are always looking for better solutions to move on from a policy that appears to lack nuance. Are there viable alternatives to affirmative action, a policy that the Supreme Court is sympathizing less with, and more Americans than ever—45 percent—deem too controversial (Montanaro, 2013)? Comprehensive higher education research by Espenshade and Radford (2009), which also found that “Elite higher education … contributes to the problem of reproducing inequality” (p. 381), suggests that the most effective ideal solution would be to ensure that primary and secondary education is equally robust for students of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, something that would be nearly impossible considering the current political environment in the United States. The authors also call for a reduction in the financial burden of lower and middle class students, as it creates unreasonable strain in the post-college job search. These changes amount to a radical restructuring of the K-12 public school system that would likely require greatly increased funding and federal control over schools, and a revision of current methods of district funding based on property taxes that gives richer neighborhoods and communities a decisive edge over poorer ones in terms of educational quality.

Most importantly, the authors rigorously apply statistical models to assess the viability of alternatives to race-based affirmative action, including eliminating the policy, substituting race with class-based affirmative action, increasing weight for minorities and lower class students, and eliminating legacy weighting in admissions. Even after using seven different simulated models, race-conscious affirmative action remained the single most effective means of closing enrollment gaps of underrepresented minorities in higher education (p. 376). Affirmative action is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if achieving the other solutions remains too monumental a task in today’s America, it is here to stay. As Frank Wu writes in Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White (p. 133), Americans approaching the problem the wrong way. “The perennial question asked of affirmative action should be turned toward racial discrimination: ‘When will it end?’”

[1] The second of two bills; the first was passed in 1862 and was mostly applied to Union states

[2] Affirmative action critics who believe that the policy’s supporters are too fixated on historical grievances or conflate race-conscious admissions with financial reparations engage in dangerous fallacies of logic, and might be disappointed to learn that despite advances in civil rights, blacks and Hispanics continue to face significant socioeconomic and cultural capital setbacks that make going to college—and staying in one—more difficult.

[3] The Republican National Committee infamously did this last year in a Tweet about how Rosa Park’s act of civil disobedience played a “role in fighting to end racism” (Berman, 2013).

[4] Frank Wu notes that while Harlan’s dissent has become famous for seemingly decrying discrimination in a time period where a blatant racial hierarchy the zeitgeist, he only believed in equality in a “formal and technical sense—as laypeople sometimes contemptuously regard the law, as only a game of semantics” (Wu, 2002, p. 146). He was also unflinchingly racist towards Asians, believing that they should be “absolutely excluded from our country” (cited in Wu, 2002, p. 146).

[5] However, other polls, such as an NBC News/WSJ Poll conducted between May 30 and June 2, find that support for affirmative action is split evenly at 45%, for and against. The disparity between the NBC poll and the Pew poll may be a consequence of a time difference, though the most relevant factor is probably the wording. The NBC poll asks: “Is affirmative action still needed, or should it be ended?” which is less specific than the Pew poll. The question’s diction also brings to mind the ‘expiration date’ concept discussed in Grutter (2003).

[6] As an example, Wu talks about the impossibility of discerning whether or not a Chinese restaurant is “authentic” if willful colorblindness meant that one could not tell from the number of Asian diners (p. 149).

[7] One such “race-neutral alternative” to race conscious admissions were policies enacted by the University of California and University of Texas systems to guarantee admission to a certain top percentage (between 5 to 12 percent; the number has changed over time) of graduates in each high school.

[8] Unz’s article deserves a brief discussion. One of the 30,000 word essay’s assertions is that Jews are currently overrepresented at Ivy League schools (as part of a mostly valid assertion that Asians are, in turn, underrepresented), and that this has happened despite a precipitous fall in Jewish achievement. The flaw in his analysis primarily derives from using a “cursory surname analysis” to determine whether or not science and math competition winners (who often go on to attend Ivy League schools), which is thoroughly critiqued in “A Critique of Ron Unz’s Article ‘The Myth of American Meritocracy’” (Baytch, 2013) and Professor Janet Mertz’s “Janet Mertz on Ron Unz’s ‘Meritocracy’ Article” (2013). Unz then responded to these critiques, but his responses were in turn critiqued by statistician Andrew Gelman (2013) for being “politically motivated criticisms” that improperly discuss Unz’s own dubious application of statistics.

[9] During the midst of the SCA 5 discussion in the Chinese American community, Southern California Mandarin-language radio station AM 1300 invited a guest who openly called for Asians to vote for Republican State Assembly candidates in the Fall 2014 election.

[10] One might surmise that this lack of awareness derives from some tendency for Chinese to disregard history or to interpret current events without historical context, but this is an erroneous notion. One should consider that most Chinese are still gravely upset and offended by destruction of Beijing’s Old Summer Palace by western powers in 1860, the Qing Dynasty’s enormous military upset against the British during the Opium Wars, and that the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands belong to China because maps drawn 600 years ago have it written as Chinese territory.

[11] The discussion on the Say No to SCA 5 page deserves its own brief discussion. The page’s description conflates “race-based preferences” with outright “discrimination,” which is patently untrue. It also offers insight into Asian efforts to “become white,” or appropriate white privilege and cultural capital to their own ethnic group, lending credence to the criticism that the affirmative action issue is often exploited by American conservatives as a wedge between Asians and other American ethnic minorities to weaken efforts to organize in solidarity. This is best demonstrated by a collective and passive acceptance of the myth that Asians are a “model minority,” which is more deleterious to race relations than it is complimentary to a very socioeconomically diverse group. Comments on articles are often a mix of concerned parents and not-so-subtle racist whites attempting to co-opt a single-issue movement to a larger attack on ‘lazy’ black and brown people with the veneer of upholding constitutional rights and the Equal Protection Clause. Most startling is the fact that many of these immigrant Chinese agree with the white commenters.

[12] This demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the college admissions process for both private and public schools; with Ivy League schools, because there are no racial quotas, applicants are considered in a broader context of what admissions officers want the school to ‘look’ like, and race is far from the only factor in this consideration.



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Mitchell, A.B. (2008 July). Self-emancipation and slavery: An examination of the African American’s quest for literacy and freedom. Journal of Pan African Studies, 2 (5), 78-98.

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Ross, J. (2014, May 22). Why do most black and Latino students go to two-year colleges?. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from

Sewell, H. S., & Shah, V. P. (1967). Socioeconomic status, intelligence, and the attainment of higher education. Sociology of Education, 40, 1-23.

Snibbe, K. (2011, February 4). A window into African-American history. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from

The History of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. CollegeView. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from

Top Public Schools. (2014). U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from

Unz, R. (2012, November 28) “The myth of American meritocracy.” The American Conservative. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013).Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Chapter 3. Retrieved from

Where do Asian Americans stand on affirmative action?. (2013, June 24). National Asian American Survey. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from

Wu, F. H. & Souza, D.D. (1997, November 8.) Affirmative action debate. Providence, RI: Brown University. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from

Wu, F. H. (2002). Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white. New York: Basic Books.

Legislation, Executive Actions, and Supreme Court Cases

Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981–2000h (2012).

Exec. Order No. 10925, 26 C.F.R. 1977 (1961)

Exec. Order No. 11246, 30 C.F.R. 12319 (1965)

Fisher v. University of Texas, 570 U.S. (2013)

Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003)

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007)

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896)

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978)

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. (2014)


2 days ago


1 week ago

Because white women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, but no one calls that “special treatment”. #RaceMatters


Because white women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, but no one calls that “special treatment”. #RaceMatters

(via socio-logic)


1 week ago








Say those three words and I’m yours

I hate capitalism

Fuck the police

Abolish wage slavery

Smash the patriarchy

Communism will win

those three words

(via tinataru)


2 weeks ago

Anonymous said: man is a natural capitalist it's been in our blood since the dawn of mankind





3 weeks ago




Anybody else remember this episode? In it, a female villain called Femme Fatale is stealing millions of dollars in Susan B. Anthony coins. Naturally, the Powerpuff Girls go to stop her. She then convinces them that men are all horrible because female superheroes aren’t as well known as male superheroes, even asking Blossom to name some to where her only answer is Wonder Woman.

They start acting bitter, refusing to do chores when the Professor asks and even telling the Mayor to save the town himself. Ms. Bellum and Ms. Keane talk to the girls and basically explain that being mean to guys won’t do anything and that isn’t the kind of message feminists should put out.

They proceed to beat up Femme Fatale while giving her a history lesson about Susan B. Anthony, the story where she voted and was found guilty because women couldn’t vote back then, but when the judge wanted to let her off easily because she was a woman, she forced them to take her to jail. The girls handle her and the lesson is that misandry will not stop misogny and we all should just respect each other.

And it fell on Tumblr’s deaf ears.

To the point where many among the sort of person depicted in this episode point out that Lauren Faust later regretted writing the episode. What they conveniently leave out is the fact that it was because of all the death threats she received from that sort of person.

(via assassin--zero)


3 weeks ago


1 month ago


1 month ago

Anonymous said: Do you honestly expect me to believe that a bunch of JUNIOR college freshmen can transfer to a UC in a year? Really now?



Our job is not to make you believe in anything, but to expound on the possibility and feasibility of it being possible. We have contacted a current UC Berkeley student who transferred in one year—take that for what it’s worth.

It’s been 6 months; it’s been done. 


1 month ago

A much-needed FAQ for readers of this blog


is underway. We’ve noticed that many of the questions we receive revolve around a very small number of themes, and to increase the helpfulness of this blog while decreasing the amount of time we spend on answering all of these similar questions, we’re creating an FAQ. Expect it to be up before the end of the week on the right sidebar, along with all the other tabs.

If you have suggestions for the FAQ, email us or send a question to the blog.

(Source: oneyeartransfer)