November 14, 2006


A friend who does a lot of work with affirmative action said that he felt Jian Li's lawsuit was frivolous, and that because of his rejection from three Ivies, he probably didn't have much else going for him in the admissions process.

I actually agree with his assessment that Jian Li should not have been admitted if he were monodimensional. We also agree that race was not the only factor in his admission. BUT--and I think we all agree on this--race was a factor. The question is: should it be a factor? If he were a black guy or a Latino guy who sat in his room doing math problems all day, would it boost his chance of admission ? It probably would. Why should a rich black immigrant who happens to be a math geek get preference over a poor Chinese immigrant of the same profile?

The evidence for racism is mostly in that Wall Street Journal article where the author cites the almost universal law that Asian enrollment goes up when race preferences are abolished. There's a whole other list of evidence here. Note that they were not abolishing admissions based on other factors like student leadership; they're just eliminating race, and the Asian American percentage went up dramatically, which means that we can assume that many of the Asian Americans facing this racist rejection are in fact well rounded individuals who are more than just number crunchers. The author of the article, Daniel Golden, supports this in his book in which he says that Asians are the "new Jews" who face open discrimination.

There's good interview with Golden here, where he flat out accuses college admissions as racist against Asian Americans. He describes talking to an admission officer who stereotypes Jian Li as a "textureless math grind," and he says that her words came from stereotypes of Asian Americans.

Interviewer:"You're describing a rank form of racism."
Golden: "That's what I think it is."

Keep in mind that Golden isn't any old word hack--he's a Harvard-educated winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

My point is that it is clear that Asian Americans, including first generation immigrants and poor people, face the greatest obstacles when applying for college in a system which gives preferences to all other races. At the very least, it makes sense for us to examine the system and to see whether or not it is, as affirmative action supporters argue, not a perfect system but the best one in existence.

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