Why Conservatives are Dividing Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics… Again

The Department of Justice is conducting an investigation into Harvard College’s admissions process to determine if the school discriminates against Asian American applicants.

This investigation stems from a 2015 federal discrimination complaint filed by a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups. Among other issues, the complaint says that Asian American applicants are held to higher academic standards compared to other racial groups in the admissions process for Harvard College.

On August 2nd, The New York Times capitalized on the now revitalized topic by asking Asian Americans to share their stories on affirmative action as it pertains to Harvard University. However, they framed the question in an interesting way:

The post, which has since been removed, begs an interesting question. If both Asian Americans and Whites are hurt by affirmative action, why didn’t The New York Times ask both Whites and Asian Americans to share their stories? Why did they only ask Asian Americans?

The post is a clear attempt by The New York Times to divide Asian Americans against other minority groups in the country.

This isn’t the first time that The New York Times has tried to pit Asian Americans against other minority groups. In 1966, a story in The New York Times titled, “Success Story, Japanese-American Style” used Japanese American success as a means to question the struggles of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

As for affirmative action itself, a study conducted in 2006 showed that White applicants are the ones that are taking away spots from more qualified Asian American candidates. The study concluded that it is not affirmative action that hurts Asian Americans in the college admissions process, but rather it is negative action.

Of course, the conservative Trump administration doesn’t really care if affirmative action hurts Asian Americans. Given that the investigation is being conducted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently been on the wrong side of civil rights issues, it’s clear that the Trump administration is using the concerns of Asian Americans as a tool to push their own agenda of keeping elite schools mostly White.

White conservatives believe that they can pit Asian Americans against other minorities because  they see the tension between Asian Americans and other people of color, most notably Blacks.

In Asia, there have been multiple instances of racism against Blacks throughout the years, from shrinking the photos of black actors in movie posters to airing commercials that demonize black skin. There has recently been backlash against Africans living in the Guangdong Province of China.

In America, Asians have strong ties to White people. A recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that the Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese Americans were all more likely to say that they got along with Whites and Asians compared to Blacks and Hispanics.

Studies have also shown that Asians tend to find Whites and Asians more attractive than Blacks and Hispanics under most circumstances, and Asians married Whites more than any other non-Asian racial group.

Anti-blackness, along with friendly relationships with Whites may not seem connected to the issue of affirmative action, but it’s safe to say that the White conservatives in Washington see this as an opportunity to use Blacks and Hispanics as a scapegoat to shift the dialogue and concern away from privileged Whites taking spots at prestigious universities.

After all, if Asians don’t get along with Blacks and Hispanics, why wouldn’t White conservatives use that tension to their advantage? It’s a sly political move that gets into the mind of an Asian American who, due to systemic racism, may not see a Black or Hispanic person as their equal.

From the perspective of an Asian American, if they work hard and get into a good high school, chances are that they will go to a high school that is mostly comprised of an Asian and White student body. That is certainly true for Stuyvesant High School, one of the most elite public schools in New York City. In 2016, Stuyvesant only admitted nine Black and 14 Hispanic students in 2016 compared to 178 White students and 682 Asian students that were admitted.

If Asian Americans are going to schools that mostly consist of Whites and Asians, and their social circles only comprise of those groups, that means they’re not interacting with the Blacks and Hispanics. If that’s the case, they are most likely to only see them in the media, where they are portrayed negatively in the news or in television shows.

Constant negative portrayals in the media combined with a lack of personal interactions with blacks and Hispanics will almost certainly cause Asian Americans to view those racial groups in a negative light. It will make them wonder about the few Black and Hispanics who attend their schools.

Did they get in through their own intelligence, or did they need affirmative action to help them?

Getting into the mind of the hard working Asian American is crucial for White conservatives to successfully end affirmative action. They are banking on Asian Americans to question black and Hispanic intelligence and dodge the reality that there are still White students getting into prestigious universities thanks to their White Anglo-Saxon Protestant bloodlines.

For White conservatives, to end affirmative action, they must dog whistle to Asian Americans who believe that Blacks and Hispanics just can’t make the cut.

When you remove that dog whistle you hear the message of the White conservatives loud and clear.

Sure, unqualified White students take your spots Harvard all the time, but isn’t that better than having a Black or Hispanic student take that same spot away from you?

About the Author: Rafael Santiago is a graduate journalism student at Harvard University who has an affinity for Asian culture. However, his interest in Asian culture does not stop him from tackling sensitive subjects such as Asian racism on YouTube and Facebook.


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