A Broader Inquiry into Affirmative Action
The June 11, 2008 Insider Higher Education reports
on how a single student's complaint about racial discrimination has morphed into a larger examination of policies at Princeton. Liberals should be rightly terrified, since racism is at the core of what calls itself liberalism today:
A complaint by an Asian American student that racial bias blocked his admission to Princeton University has been expanded by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights into a broader “compliance review” of the issues involved beyond his case.
The complaint, filed in 2006, has been viewed as significant by critics of affirmative action who argue — as does the rejected applicant — that highly competitive colleges’ commitment to diversity results in differential standards for members of different groups, with Asian American applicants held to tougher standards. Many college officials — most of whom strongly support affirmative action — have dismissed the applicant’s complaint as sour grapes, noting that Princeton each year rejects thousands of well qualified applicants of every racial and ethnic group.
The Education Department, responding to an inquiry, acknowledged the shift of the investigation from focusing on one complaint to Princeton’s entire admissions system and its treatment of Asian-American applicants. A department spokesman stressed that converting the investigation did not mean that officials had come to any conclusions about the original complaint. But at the very least, the shift suggests that the government does not view the complaint as frivolous. OCR regularly shuts down complaint investigations, concluding that no violation of the law took place, and the agency has limited resources for compliance reviews. Compliance reviews cover much more ground than any single complaint, tend to take place on issues that the department believes are important, and are sometimes used to nudge other colleges to change policies when they see how one college fared in a review.
The student who filed the original complaint against Princeton, Jian Li, arguably landed well after his rejection: He enrolled at Yale University. Li’s complaint stated that he received 800s on the mathematics, critical reading and writing parts of the SAT, that he graduated in the top 1 percent of his high school class, that he completed nine Advanced Placement classes by the time he finished high school, and that he had been active in extracurricular activities as well — serving as a delegate at Boys State, working in Costa Rica, etc. While Li left the ethnicity question blank on his application (as Princeton allows), he said that other questions that he was required to answer — his name, his mother’s and father’s names, his first language (Chinese), and the language spoken in his home (Chinese) — all made his ethnicity clear.
Li is pointing to research by two Princeton scholars, published in Social Science Quarterly, that looked at admissions decisions at elite colleges. The scholars found that without affirmative action, the acceptance rate for African American candidates would be likely to fall by nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants probably would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. While white admit rates would stay steady, Asian students would be big winners under such a system. Their admission rate in a race-neutral system would go to 23.4 percent, from 17.6 percent. And their share of a class of admitted students would rise to 31.5 percent, from 23.7 percent.
The complaint and the allegations of anti-Asian bias have been sensitive at Princeton and elsewhere. Princeton, like other elite colleges, changed admissions policies in the 1920s as the number of Jewish applicants appeared poised to rise, and adopted an emphasis on “character” that scholars say was used to minimize non-Protestant enrollments. While Princeton has long abandoned such policies, some Asian American students see similarities between the treatment of Jewish applicants then and Asian applicants today. Many guidance counselors at high schools with many top Asian American students report that their Asian American applicants appear to need significantly higher SAT scores or grades to win admission to highly competitive colleges than do members of other ethnic or racial groups.
Yup. You see, it is easier to accept blacks and Hispanics who are below standard into college--and then wait for them to drop out, because they haven't been adequately prepared for a school like Princeton--than to face that there is something terribly broken in black and Hispanic culture that causes so many to be unprepared. It isn't just bad schools; a lot of Asian-Americans are in lousy public schools, too. It isn't that American culture has a long racist past involving blacks, but not Asians. As one of the comments on that article points out:
If America is such a racist country that these sorts of race-based rules are necessary, then why are Asians actually harmed by affirmative action? Is it because racists actually “like” Asians and would otherwise try to preferentially admit them to college? When did that sea change occur? Or is it the racists who write the SAT’s have succeeded in culturally slanting the test to advantage Asians? Isn’t this the implication of Princeton’s policies? If affirmative action is meant to undo the pernicious effect of wide-spread racism, then Princeton’s policies suggest that Asians are the beneficiaries of racism, not the victims of it.
Didn’t we fight, not one, not two, but three near-genocidal wars against Asians in the last century (aka, WW2, Korea, Vietnam)? When was the last time we fought a war against a sub-Saharan African country? To suggest that there is little or no anti-Asian bias in our inherently racist America seems to me frightfully naive.
The fact is that liberals don't want to confront the reality that two subcultures that liberalism has devoted much of the last four decades to helping are in deep trouble with respect to education--while Asian-Americans, who have been largely ignored by liberalism, is doing just fine.
UPDATE: I received the following remarks from someone who works for the government in St. Paul, Minnesota:
Saint Paul, Minnesota, became home to a large Hmong community who escaped Southeast Asia after the Vietnam war. We also have a significant black population, although as a Northern state, we never had slavery or Jim Crow. Pretty much everybody else are white European Christians.
The Hmong population lives among the black population in Frogtown, the low-rent part of the city. Their kids go to St. Paul Central together. So who are the top students every year? Hmong girls, followed by Hmong boys, followed by everybody else. The black kids not only don't rank highly, they frequently fail to finish school at all.
It's not a difference in student-teacher ratios. It's not inner-city versus suburb. It's not vestiges of slavery or racism. These kids sit side by side in class and on the bus, it's the home life that's different.
The amazing cultural difference goes deeper than honor students. Second-generation Asian kids parents speak Hmong at home so the kids frequently are bi-lingual but have very little accent in English, having grown up here. Black kids grow up speaking English in Minnesota but with a thick Black accent that sounds as if they just fell off the turnip truck from Georgia. How is that possible? They sit next to each other in the same school, live in the same neighborhood, play on the same playgrounds, but the Asian kids speak like white kids and the black kids don't. It makes a world of difference when you're applying for a job in predominantly white society.
The difference also is reflected in employment. Asian girls (I suppose they're technically women by years of age but they all look like little girls to somebody as old as me) are bank tellers and check-out clerks everywhere . . . they're the next generation of managers-in-training, you can just tell by their attitude. Black employees are the next generation of fry cooks, which you also can tell by their attitude. When they're working. I have no data to prove it but strongly suspect the teenage pregnancy stats for black girls are far, far worse than for Asian girls.
There are virtually no black businesses along University Avenue in Frogtown (two BBQ joints is all I can think of). There must be five dozen Asian businesses in that same stretch - grocery stores, restaurants and tailors. And I know the Asian businesses are not legacy businesses handed down for generations, or built upon the success of their ancestors, because their ancestors came here after the Vietnam War ended. Their success wasn't built on the backs of slaves - the last slave to pass through Minnesota was Dred Scott himself and our setting him free touched off the Civil War. Asian immigrants arrived here with fewer worldly possessions than Georgia immigrants and without English, to boot, but look at them now.
The Asians here are entrepreneurs in the strictest sense of the word. It takes a special kind of person to step off a bus half way around the world from home, start a family and business, and make both thrive. Why is it common in the Asian community but not in the black community? I truly don't get it.
This is hardly the first person to notice that there is something terribly, terribly broken
going on in black ghetto culture that doesn't seem to hold back Asians who have, if anything, more going against them.