Affirmative action case reaffirms LTSC’s commitment to equity - Little Tokyo Service Center

Affirmative action case reaffirms LTSC’s commitment to equity

Affirmative action case reaffirms LTSC’s commitment to equity

06/29/2023

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS)’s decision to strike down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina is a disturbing step backwards. It turns a blind eye to the reality that racial discrimination remains alive and well in this country, erases vital progress and opportunities for minorities, and ensures systems that benefit the privileged remain intact.

Born from the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, affirmative action intended to remedy the racial inequalities in employment, housing and education, and remove boundaries to enable minorities to access fair opportunities. Today, the narrative around affirmative action has been twisted, pitting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community against other minorities and drumming up fear of scarcity–that somehow Black and Latinx student admissions deny Asian student admissions. This narrative also falsely promotes the idea that ‘unqualified’ applicants of certain racial groups will be admitted over ‘qualified’ applicants in other racial groups. But those myths are simply untrue. In practice, race-conscious admissions policies do not ‘override’ admissions standards, but instead consider race in context with other criteria (like socioeconomic status, geographic environment, letters of recommendation, essays, etc.) to holistically evaluate a candidate’s achievements and potential.

Earlier today, the New York Times referenced statistics from universities that previously banned race-conscious admissions, showing significant drops in Black student admissions. And earlier this year, NPR reported:

“The research is exceptionally clear,” University of Texas professor Stella Flores, whose specialty is higher education and public policy, told NPR in an interview last fall. “There’s no other alternative method that will racially diversify a student body, other than the use of race as one factor of consideration.”

Aside from creating more equitable admissions practices, affirmative action helped diversify college campuses, enhancing the educational and experiential value for the entire student body. We know that when everyone has access to higher education, we ALL benefit – including Asian Americans. For example, with affirmative action at Harvard, Asian American enrollment rose from 3% of the class of 1980 to 27.6% of the class of 2026. Further, AANHPI populations are not monolithic. Many groups within the AANHPI umbrella face a severe lack of access to educational opportunities–opportunities that affirmative action strove to create.

SCOTUS’ decision today is a blatant reminder of how deeply rooted racial inequity is in our society. It’s a reality check on the work that still needs to be done, and reaffirms why LTSC remains dedicated to advancing equity and justice in solidarity with other communities of color. And while this decision immediately impacts higher education, the long-term implications are vast and unknown. LTSC’s work reflects all too well the multifaceted and pervasive reach of social and racial inequities, ranging from housing to child development to social services.

As Justice Sotomayor stated in her dissent, “Entrenched racial inequality remains a reality today… Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgement of inequality.”

This decision is a step back, but our communities have proven our resilience time and time again. LTSC’s work continues with renewed vigor and a tightened grip on the values that have guided our organization through the past 43 years and will continue to guide us toward a more equitable future.

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