Affirmative Action Controversy does not Yield Easy Answers

Mark Adomanis’s column “Affirmative Action Returns” (November 30) is both thoughtful and intelligent. As an immigrant, with Asian and Hispanic roots, I have often wondered who made the decision that Asians were over-represented and, as such, were not considered part of the minority pool in the college admissions process. I suspect that those in the positions of power, dare I say, the white power elite, probably made those decisions.

What is infuriating about this process is commentators’ tendency to generalize. First, there are many different subcultures that tend to be lumped under the Asian category. This tends to overlook the individual groups’ true progress in either education or the workplace. Second, idea of race, already a highly controversial issue, is further complicated by the acculturation and assimilation processes, not to mention the learning curve, experienced and endured by immigrant Asian groups. (However, this can be applied to immigrant groups in general). The, on average, more recent date of immigration undoubtedly impacts economic purchasing power. This factor tends to be overlooked when people assume that Asians are an over-represented group. Third, education happens to be valued in the “Asian” culture, which may account for the push towards educational achievement. Should Asians be penalized because of this value? By limiting their numbers in schools, educational administrators, in effect, are sending this signal.

In the end, bringing the issue of inequality to a successful conclusion via affirmative action is difficult. One can view affirmative action—a policy to help foster diversity and address previous inequality—as harmful depending on one’s perspective. On one hand, it can serve to divide those considered a “minority” to fight among themselves for limited resources or opportunities, thus preserving the power for those who have benefited in the past. On the other hand, today and in recent past, those who are privileged can oppose policies such as affirmative action in the name of reverse discrimination. So, ultimately, who wins?


Fairfield, CT

December 3, 2006

The writer is an adjunct professor at Fairfield and Quinnipiac Universities.