You Didn’t Get Rejected Because You’re Asian


A. Guo

Asian Americans have been used as pawns in the cynical attack against affirmative action.

I remember applying for a leadership position alongside a white male friend. When the results came out that I was chosen and he was not, there was no congratulations. Instead, he told me, a Chinese American woman, “They probably didn’t choose me because I’m a white male and they’re looking for more diverse applicants.” 

As rejections begin and continue to roll out in college admissions, that same sentiment continues to be repeated within my circles. Not only from white bodies, but many Asian and Asian Americans as well. Among family and friends, the insinuation that Black and Latino people have stolen their spots in admissions remains consistent and confident. 

In these incidents, the blame is placed against a procedure called affirmative action. Affirmative action is used in educational and workplace institutions in order to remedy previous experiences of discrimination most commonly in regards to gender, race and disability. It attempts to give marginalized communities equal opportunities in the form of actions such as training programs or outreach efforts.

In recent years, there has been a growing effort to revoke this procedure, specifically concerning race and ethnicity-consciousness. Just a few months ago, there was a supreme court case against UNC Chapel Hill headed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) arguing to end race as a factor within admissions. SFFA is a membership group of around 20,000 members with the belief that race-conscious admissions is unconstitutional and violates the 14th amendment. Specifically, they claim that race based affirmative action discriminates against Asian Americans. They lost the lawsuit against UNC, but are still continuing in their mission of ending race-conscious admissions with their founder and leader Edward Blum. 

Blum is white and has been behind upholding racist systems of oppression whether that be discriminating against African-American and Latinx voters or ridding voting rights of many voters of color in cases like Shelby v. Holder. In fact, SFFA is not Blum’s first attempt at abolishing race in affirmative action. Previously, Blum has failed arguing that this policy discriminates against white people, so is now using “needed Asian plaintiffs” to forward his agenda.

This strategy of using Asian Americans as a wedge against other marginalized communities within the United States is not anything new. Through the model minority myth, white supremacy is able to maintain its feast on power as people of color fight over the leftover crumbs. Furthermore, the community’s own struggles are overlooked and downplayed.

Even with affirmative action, it is white supremacy that will win if race-conscious admissions ends. Contrary to claims, Asian and Asian American populations within schools like UNC Chapel Hill and Harvard have been increasing with competition within the past years. And if SFFA and Blum get what they want, it is white applicants who will benefit the most.

So before you say you got rejected because you are Asian or claim people have an easier way to get in because they are minorities, it may be a good idea to take a pause. Those statements only reinforce the system of white supremacy and ignore the structural inequities of race within this country.