On Tuesday, October 1, a ruling was finally released in the Harvard University affirmative action lawsuit. Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled against the plaintiff, Students For Fair Admissions, in favor of preserving affirmative action in the admissions process. At the forefront of the case was the charge of discrimination against Asian American applicants, who Students For Fair Admissions claimed were negatively impacted by affirmative action. The decision has received a divided reaction, particularly among the Asian American community.
The ruling may seem to be a loss for Asian Americans at first: the alleged discrimination against Asian Americans was at the center of Student For Fair Admissions's lawsuit, not to mention many headlines covering the case state that the Burroughs ruled that Harvard does not discriminate against Asian Americans. Of course, only seeing this level of coverage may lead people to come to the conclusion that this case is a loss for Asian Americans. The ruling has even been viewed as racist by some.
However, it's important to acknowledge that the true goal of the lawsuit was not to fight for equality for Asian American applicants. Students For Fair Admissions specifically targeted affirmative action.
Had SFFA won, this case would have set a precedent that could have led to the elimination of affirmative action in college admissions.
As an Asian American college student myself, I think other Asian Americans need to look into the true nature of this case and the goals of Students For Fair Admissions. We have to really pay attention to whether or not the organization really wants to fight for equal rights for Asian Americans, or whether Asian Americans are simply being used as a token minority in an attempt to eliminate affirmative action.
After looking into the lawsuit myself, I find myself leaning towards the latter.
If Students For Fair Admissions supports equality, particularly for a racial minority like Asian Americans, then why target affirmative action specifically? Why not target other admissions practices like legacy admissions, which are known to be made up almost entirely of applicants in positions of privilege? Students For Fair Admissions and its founder, Edward Blum, are focused purely on getting rid of affirmative action. I find it hard to believe that Blum or Students For Fair Admissions really cares about Asian American rights or any issues of diversity or racial equality: if they did, I'm not sure they would be so adamant about opposing affirmative action. Some of their arguments against affirmative action have even bordered on being anti-black, and they certainly don't shy away from pitting minorities against each other.
If there is discrimination against Asian American applicants in Harvard admissions, SFFA v. Harvard is not the case to solve that problem.
Students For Fair Admissions has only used Asian Americans against other minorities. This is very similar to the usage of the model minority stereotype, which so many Asian Americans have fought against. After taking a closer look at what the real intent of this lawsuit is, I'm not convinced that a win for SFFA would have benefited the Asian-American community, and it, in part, digs up a painful history of both the model minority stereotype and the use of a "token Asian." While I appreciate seeing Asian Americans gaining attention for fighting racial inequality, I can't support this particular lawsuit.
This case was certainly a loss for Students For Fair Admissions, but I don't see this as a loss for Asian Americans. The Harvard lawsuit was never any sort of groundbreaking case to help end discrimination against Asian Americans. At its core, this lawsuit was both divisive and, ultimately, anti-minority.