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The New Jews

They're Asian Americans.

Jun 11, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 37 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
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Ironically enough, one of the most revealing studies of this phenomenon was conducted by one of Princeton’s own. In 2009, Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton professor of sociology, co-authored a report that revealed students of Asian descent did indeed face discrimination at colleges and universities beyond the Ivy League. According to Espenshade’s analysis, an Asian student needs to score 140 points higher than whites on the math and reading portions of the SAT, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than blacks to have the same chances of admission at the nation’s top schools. “[A]ll other things equal,” Espenshade told Inside Higher Ed, “Asian-American students are at a disadvantage relative to white students, and at an even bigger disadvantage relative to black and Latino students.”

To supporters of affirmative action, the practice has two major benefits—one positive and one punitive. For one, they say that it’s a necessary corrective to grave historical injustices. Two—and this they don’t often say out loud—affirmative action punishes those who are perceived to have benefited from (or even personally perpetrated) the politics of racial supremacy.

But in both cases—even if one accepts those justifications—discriminating against Asians is indefensible. Indeed, it can be reasonably argued that Asian Americans have endured more discrimination than American Hispanics, who benefit from affirmative action as it is currently executed. And Asian Americans can hardly be accused of oppressing other racial groups en masse. As S. B. Woo, former lieutenant governor of Delaware and current director of the Asian-American advocacy organization the 80-20 Initiative, says, “there is no historical rationale that justifies forcing Asian Americans to bear the burden of preference, more than other Americans.” Indeed, given the historical injustices suffered by Americans of Asian descent—Japanese internment, the Chinese Exclusion Act—in an honest affirmative action regime, they would stand to benefit.

The times may be a changin’, though. This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a case brought by a white student who says she was denied admission to the University of Texas on account of her Caucasian background. Consequently, racial preferences in college admissions could be banned altogether—a real possibility, given the Court’s relatively conservative bent.

But until then, Asian applicants may continue to have to leap a higher bar than others. Unsurprisingly, the Associated Press reported late last year that increasing numbers of Asian applicants are neglecting to identify themselves as such—students of mixed descent, for example, fail to mention their Asian heritage at all, checking the box for “Caucasian” and leaving “Asian” blank.

Maybe they should check “Native American” instead.


Ethan Epstein is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard

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