Written by CAPA-JRC reporters Doris Wang, Daniel Li, Emily Jia, Andrew Dai, and Alvin Tong
WASHINGTON - On October 30, reporters from the CAPA-JRC attended a rally hosted by AACE (Asian American Coalition for Education) and SFFA (Students for Fair Admissions) in front of the Supreme Court. The rally gathered in support of anti-affirmative action lawsuits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
Amidst a sea of posters and signs, leaders within the organizations present at the rally delivered speeches. Many important figures opposing affirmative action showed up to support the message and share their thoughts. One such figure was Vijay Jojo Chokal Ingam, the Indian American author of Almost Black: The True Story of How I Got Into Medical School By Pretending to Be Black. Ingam views himself as an example of the standards students of different races are held to. Ingam shaved his head and cut his eyelashes, then posed as a black American during the admissions process in an effort to show the varied treatment different races are given. He was accepted into medical school despite a subpar GPA. "It's very hypocritical that race affects education. I'm the living proof. I don't want the next generation to face the same racism that I did. That's why I came to this event," Ingam said in an interview with CAPA-JRC reporters.
Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the Harvard-UNC admissions case, laid out why he has opposed affirmative action for years: "[I] believe your race should not be a factor in your education,” Blum said. When interviewed by CAPA-JRC, he said: "I think that in college admissions, not only Asians are racially discriminated against, but white people are also being treated unfairly. I think everyone should receive a college education under fair circumstances.” Blum thus launched an organization called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), hoping to separate race from college admissions. The case of admissions in Harvard and the University of North Carolina that he introduced eight years ago has finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States.
Brian LiVecchi, Chief of Staff and General Counsel at the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, shared Blum’s opinion, adding that he believed affirmative action helped many in the past but is now hurting other races.
Similarly, Sam Hayes, General Counsel for North Carolina Speaker Tim Moore echoed beliefs that affirmative actions hurt those they were intended to help. Despite being a proud alumn of North Carolina University, Hayes states that “race-based admissions policies are misguided.” Hayes hopes that in the future, “a merit-based admissions policy will strengthen the student body at the University of North Carolina.”
President of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal in North Carolina and Alumna of UNC Chapel Hill Jenna Robinson explained the unexpected impacts of affirmative action further. Robinson stated that, “[with affirmative action] Asian Americans and White Americans are held to different standards than African Americans and Hispanic students.” Robinson claims such discrimination is inappropriate at high level education. She believes admissions should be based on merit. Robinson hopes to present evidence of affirmative action’s harm at flagship institutions across the country.
For the past 15 years, Robinson has been working at a higher education research non-profit that is dedicated to excellence in higher education. Through her research there, she has learned that “the disadvantages of using race in admissions, affects all of us. They affect Asian Americans who are discriminated against, but they also disadvantage the students who are supposedly benefitting.” According to Robinson, when students enter an environment where they don’t have the necessary credentials to compete, they won’t do as well. They will opt for less difficult majors, and they are less likely to proceed to medical school and law school. She states that racial preferences are hurting the very people they should be helping.
Participants of varied races and ages all attended the rally, and this statement reflects the views of an advocate within Free Black Thought, an organization with the mission to amplify vital black voices that are rarely heard. The advocate denounced affirmative action, claiming it hurts minorities like Black students as it holds them to a lower standard.
An Asian-American student at Poolesville High School who spoke at the rally hopes that in the future, he will have the same educational opportunities as everyone else. "I hope I can be treated fairly and admitted to Yale, my dream school," he said.
Zhao Yukong, the chairman of AACE who united 64 Asian-American organizations to file a lawsuit against Harvard University for discriminatory admissions practices against Asians in 2015, accepted our interview at the end of the event. He said, "Our appeal has been supported by many people. Admissions discrimination is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am very confident and optimistic about this trial. I think the judges will think carefully [and] use good judgment. [Remember what] Martin Luther King Jr said: 'I hope our children will not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin'." When asked how he felt about the event, he said: "I am very touched today and have received support from different communities and people. More and more Asians have united to fight for fair rights."
The rally ended with a group photo of speakers and attendees, followed by a march through DC.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 25 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.