The United States government and many institutions of higher education have a long history of institutional racism and overt policies of racial discrimination that have harmed people of color within our society.
Affirmative Action policies were established to help correct generations of racial discrimination, and to promote racial inclusion.
Higher learning institutions, including Harvard University, for generations promoted exclusionary admissions policies that prevented fair participation from African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and women. The reason there has been a change in the racial and gender composition in higher education institutions such as Harvard University is due to Affirmative Action.
This country still has a long way to go in addressing racial justice. There are still huge disparities in the K-12 public education system, where large numbers of racial minorities face substandard, underfunded schools, with alarmingly high drop-out rates. Standardized tests which are largely used by higher education institutions for admissions decisions have been also proven to have racially discriminatory impact.
Racial barriers still exist within communities of color, including African Americans, Latinos, and certain Asian and Pacific Islander groups. In the employment arena, Affirmative Action policies have opened up opportunities for Asian Pacific Americans in the work force, and have challenged unfair racially discriminatory practices that have harmed Asian Pacific Americans in hiring and promotion.
Anti-Affirmative Action advocates within the API community argue that African Americans and Latinos who enter higher education through Affirmative Action are taking positions that would otherwise go to Asian Americans. This is a fallacious and divisive position. Affirmative Action takes into account racial and economic barriers that have limited opportunities for students of color, and rejects the notion that test scores and grades should be the sole determinant of admissions. Affirmative Action allows for race and ethnicity to be considered in admissions decisions among fully qualified candidates. In fact, Harvard and other private universities still have “legacy” programs that provide special admissions privileges for sons and daughters of alumni, which also re-enforces racial disparity.
The Asian Pacific American community should not be used as a divisive force by conservative, anti-Affirmative Action forces who oppose racial justice and racial inclusion. Asian Pacific Americans should stand in solidarity with African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans in defending and expanding Affirmative Action.
Asian Pacific Americans will never obtain justice and equality until all communities of color obtain justice and equality. APALA supports Affirmative Action at Harvard University, in higher education, and in the work place.