Media Miss the Mark on Southeast Asian American Students and Impact of Affirmative Action

Washington, D.C.-SEARAC is disappointed at the misleading coverage from leading news outlets on a recent lawsuit that was filed against Harvard University by a small group of Asian American students. The students argue they were denied admission to the school due to their race.

Rather than reporting on the various perspectives of the case, these articles focus on the plaintiffs’ accusations and fail to make known that Asian Americans by and large are in favor of race-conscious college admissions policies.

Looking past the problematic news reporting, SEARAC is particularly concerned about the arguments made by the plaintiffs, who allege that Asian Americans are hurt by affirmative action. Contrary to their claims, we know these race-conscious policies help our communities.

Southeast Asian Americans today continue to face extreme challenges to attaining a college education. The 2010 U.S. Census showed that more than 60% of Cambodian, Lao, and Hmong Americans lack a bachelor’s degree, as do more than 50% of Vietnamese Americans.

Our SEAA youth encounter tremendous educational barriers that are systemic: we grow up in low-income neighborhoods and attend low-resourced schools that prevent students from being prepared for college.

Therefore, Southeast Asian Americans and students of color benefit from affirmative action policies that look beyond test scores and that consider multiple factors when determining their potential. One such quality is resilience in overcoming racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic obstacles. Our SEAA youth’s resilience contributes to their ability to succeed in higher education, and to enrich the learning experience of all students.

“We will not allow our community’s voices to be silenced or manipulated, ” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). “Equitable education solutions like affirmative action enable racial and social justice for all. SEARAC will monitor this case and stand united with the vast majority of our community members and other communities of color.”