ZHAO: Fix K-12 Education And Stop Scapegoating Asian Americans!

Reuters/Bryan Snyder

YuKong Zhao President, Asian American Coalition for Education
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On October 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the landmark cases regarding anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC). As an Asian American community leader fighting for equal education rights, I received many challenging questions from liberal-minded journalists recently. One of them was: Do you support diversity in college campuses? 

My first answer was this: American colleges should value diversity of ideas over all else. Are colleges supposed to be the sacred rostrum teaching students knowledge and independent thinking? Without diverse ideas, how could students broaden their knowledge and develop critical thinking skills? It is truly hypocritical for the radical left to limit the diversity of ideas, shutting down any conservative ideas on American campuses, while crying foul over opposition to racial diversity based on skin color. 

After that, I added my second response: we strongly oppose racial equity (a government-driven social engineering attempt to make the racial composition of our colleges reflect the general population). But Asian Americans do support the enhancement of racial diversity in college campuses through the right approach – by improving K-12 education in black and Hispanic communities — over race-based affirmative action limiting Asian and white American college enrollment.  

It is a widely agreeable consensus to enhance the racial diversity of American colleges. However, liberal politicians and media wrongfully defined it as a college admissions issue. Meritocracy and color-blind college admissions did not cause black and Hispanic “underrepresentation in America’s elite colleges. The failing K-12 education in too many black and Hispanic communities did.  

According to College Board’s SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report 2022, African American students scored an average of 474 in English, with 44% meeting college-ready benchmarks, and an average of 452 in Math, with only 21% meeting the college-ready benchmarks. Hispanic American students scored an average of 491 in English, with 52% meeting college-ready benchmarks, and an average of 473 in Math, with only 28% meeting the college-ready benchmarks. 

In contrast, white American students scored an average of 556 in English, with 77% meeting college-ready benchmarks, and an average of 543 in Math, with 55% meeting the college-ready benchmarks. Asian American students scored an average of 596 in English, with 84% meeting college-ready benchmarks, and an average of 633 in Math, with 80% meeting the college-ready benchmarks.  

Clearly, affirmative action has failed to improve education in black and Hispanic communities. If there are not enough qualified African-American and Hispanic students ready for college, how can our colleges achieve racial diversity? New York Times reported in 2017, “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago.” 

The crux of affirmative action is that politicians use Asian Americans as scapegoats to cover up their failure to provide quality K-12 education to black and Hispanic children, the real root cause behind a lack of racial diversity in higher education. The Democratic Party explicitly supports affirmative action because the majority of large cities with failing K-12 schools in black and Hispanic communities are managed by Democrats.

The race-based affirmative action causes tremendous harm to Asian American communities and American society in general by: 

  1. Imposing de facto racial quotas and extremely high admission standards for Asian Americans. This unjustly creates unbearable study loads and stress for Asian American students, possibly a major cause of depression, anxiety, and other psychological sufferings among too many Asian American youths. 
  2. Discriminating against Asian Americans. This undermines trust in American institutions and attacks Asian American identities. Too many Asian American applicants must hide their racial identity to get admitted by America’s elite schools, and they are treated as second-class citizens.
  3. Treating Americans differently. This creates racial barriers between Asian Americans and other racial groups.
  4. Selecting students by racial identity. This undermines the American Dream and American meritocracy, exacerbates America’s STEM talent shortage, and jeopardizes economic prosperity. 

More importantly, affirmative action is both unconstitutional and illegal. Using race in college admissions violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which ban racial discrimination in any institution receiving federal funding.

Six decades after its inception, affirmative action has proven a failure, wrongly focusing on race to socially engineer college admissions. The right focus is this: fix K-12 education in black and Hispanic communities! It’s time to build the color-blind society that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned and uplift those in need, regardless of race or ethnicity! 


Yukong Mike Zhao is the president of Asian American Coalition for Education. In his new book, Critical Race Theory and Woke Culture: America’s Dangerous Repeat of China’s Cultural Revolution, he warned of the dire consequences of mandating racial equity in America.) 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller