Your previous story on affirmative action has captured the attention of many Lexingtonians. Is the Supreme Court decision on the Harvard case a verdict against affirmative action? 

To me, this verdict is a much-needed acknowledgement of the discrimination against Asian Americans. This “Asian tax” has been very real and severe. It is important that people recognize it.

But what about racial diversity, and helping people in need?

To help lower-income families, it makes much better sense to use social-economic factors, because overcoming difficulty is a merit, and achieving the same under adverse circumstances demonstrates greater talent and hard work. But using race as a proxy heavily favors high-income African American and Latino families. 

However, Harvard didn’t want to do it the right way, because it would impact student quality. Harvard also said that getting rid of legacy would impact donations. I heard both with my own ears during the 2018 trial in Boston.

Ed Blum, founder and President of the Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA), has repeatedly called for eliminating preferences for legacy and donors as race-neutral alternatives to diversity. I’d add fixing K-12 education.

Race-based policies are inherently problematic. When Justice Sandra O’Connor upheld race-based affirmative action in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, she wrote that the Court “would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary…”.

Her logic was impeccable. If it works, it won’t be necessary after 25 years. If it doesn’t work, shouldn’t we try something else?

When the term “affirmative action” was first used in 1961, it meant that everyone should be treated fairly, “without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin,” the same vision as Dr. King. A 2023 Pew Research study shows that more Americans disapprove than approve of colleges considering race or ethnicity in admissions.

The Supreme Court decision has triggered a domino effect. Within a week, Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a federal complaint against Harvard on behalf of Black and Latino groups, alleging that its preferences for legacy and donors “systematically disadvantage students of color, including Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans,” citing heavily the facts and opinions from the SFFA and the Supreme Court ruling. In fact, such preferences disadvantage students of all races who have no access to the backdoor.

The Harvard case surfaced many ugly facts. The Supreme Court ruling not only reaffirms the equal rights of Asian Americans, but also paves the way for a fair system for all. It is time.