November 6, 2022
Affirmative Action is Racial Justice:
A Statement of Solidarity from Asian/Asian American Communities at the
University of Illinois Chicago
As faculty, staff, and students at the University of Illinois Chicago who are part of entities whose work advances social justice and equity for Asian/Asian American and minority communities, we affirm race-conscious college admissions. Located on one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, we are committed to providing access to higher education for all students, especially those who have historically been excluded.
As the US Supreme Court deliberates on the SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina cases, we affirm the importance and necessity of race-conscious admissions programs in addressing the historically unleveled field of opportunities that have led to disparities in educational access and outcomes. We denounce the ways in which Asian Americans are once again being used as a racial wedge for Edward Blum’s political agenda of dismantling affirmative action policies. The fact remains that over two-thirds of Asian Americans support affirmative action policies.
We stand firm on supporting race-conscious programs for the following reasons:
One, we recognize the existence of an unequal playing field buttressed by historic systematic agendas that have excluded Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities from education. These agendas not only ignore the role that selective immigration of Asian Americans has played in crafting the ostensible success of segments of this community, but they also advance stereotypes that reductively assume cultural values (such as a Confucian emphasis on education), and not structural forces, to account for Asian American educational and economic attainment. The same unlevel playing field is also guided by the “Asian American achievement paradox” that demonstrates how positive biases towards Asian students lead to stereotypes that impact their access to education or implicit bias of designating Asian students as already always “academically competent.”
Two, we also recognize that race-conscious admissions processes have increased Asian Americans’ access to higher education as have been detailed in recent amicus briefs such as the ones produced by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Asian American Legal Defense Fund. Thus, contrary to the arguments being made in the current SFFA cases in the Supreme Court, race-conscious admissions processes have helped Asian American educational access.
In addition, we recognize the long history of racism and xenophobia directed at Asian and Asian Americans that dates back more than a century. Asian Americans no doubt experience various forms of discrimination, but we also know that these are not the same as what Indigenous, Black, and Latinx communities have experienced. Not all forms of racism and exclusion are alike. However, we do underscore the fact that race is central to multiple forms of state and capital-sanctioned violence, stemming from ideals of white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and militarism, which shape the lived experiences of various marginalized and/or communities of color.
Three, we deplore the ways in which the SFFA has weaponized the Asian American community as a wedge to advance a white supremacist project orchestrated by Edward Blum, Abigail Fisher, and Richard Fisher - all of whom have worked diligently to dismantle race-conscious admission policies throughout the US. Much in the same way the model minority myth was not created to serve the interests of Asian Americans, the claim that Asian Americans have been penalized as a result of race-conscious admissions policies is not about marshaling justice or equity for Asian Americans. We recognize this tactic to be another propaganda move to shift the focus away from the real issue - which is the structural racism that disproportionately affects communities of color and shapes their access to education - something that race-conscious policies are attempting to redress.
In these fraught times, we remain committed to upholding the principle that affirmative action is racial justice. We remain committed to working actively to dismantle the model minority myth that has been used to pit Asian and Asian American communities against Indigenous, Black, and Latinx communities. We remain committed to working to end forms of structural racism that disproportionately affect marginalized communities and communities of color. We remain committed to recognizing that the affirmative action case that is being debated in the courts is not just a legal matter about adjudicating admissions in elite academic institutions; it is about overturning decades of precedent to foster a climate of divisive racial politics in the U.S in the courts and public commons that is inimical to racial justice, economic equity, and political and social goodwill.
Signed by the following entities at the University of Illinois Chicago:
Global Asian Studies (GLAS) Core and Affiliated Faculty
Global Asian Studies Student Advisory Board (GSAB)
Global Asian Studies Graduate Student Collective
Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC)
Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans (CCSAA)
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)
UIC AANAPISI Initiative