Indian-Americans Help Make a Case Against Affirmative Action

(Photo via News India Times)

Three Indian-American umbrella organizations have joined the campaign against race-conscious admissions to colleges and universities, reports Ela Dutt of News India Times.  The groups joined a Jewish organization and an Asian-American group in filing an amicus brief last month in support of a suit going before the Supreme Court that could decide the constitutionality of programs in which colleges consider the race or ethnicity of applicants.

The groups — including the ­ Indian American Forum for Political Education, the National Federation of Indian Associations and the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin — argue that the race-conscious admissions policies at many colleges and universities across that nation effectively subject Asian-American students to higher screening standards than whites or blacks.

“We want an informed, nondiscriminatory policy for every student irrespective of race, color or origin. One law for all,” Sampat Shivangi, president of the IAFPE, told News India Times.

“This race-based admission policy is really unfair to our children in a country where there is supposed to be justice and equal treatment of all,” added Lal Motwani, president of the NFIA.

“If there is any group that is underperforming, it should be brought up through various other means. Why punish those who perform well?”

The Indian-American groups joined the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., and the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation based in Newark, Dela., in submitting the amicus brief in the Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas case.

Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, and she argues that the university disregarded the state policy to give automatic admission to the top 10 percent of graduating high school students. The University has defended its right to consider other measures in student admission, a position that two lower courts have backed.

(Photo via News India Times)

Fisher’s attorney Bert Rein noted that this is the first time that Indian-Americans have entered the fray since the case began.

“This is the first time they have come in and distinctly identified themselves and not be lumped with Asian-American category,” he told News India Times in an interview. “One supposes that they have looked at the way colleges are using affirmative action policies and decided it is not right and affects the future of their children.”

Indian-Americans have argued for decades that their children are held to a higher standard than others. As far back as 1997, Princeton University sociology Professor Thomas J. Espanshade co-authored a study, “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life,” that found Asians had to score 140 points more than whites in standardized tests to get admitted to the same institution.

In the second part of the News India Times article, a representative for one of the groups behind the amicus brief defended the Asian groups’ anti-affirmative action position. Some other Asian-American groups have spoken out in favor of affirmative action.

Ved Chaudhary, coordinator for collective leadership with the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, said it is not opportunistic on the part of Indian-Americans to be on what may seem like the “other side” of affirmative action debate. “No Indian organization or parent wants an advantage or favor. For us affirmative action is equality of opportunity,” he told News India Times. “You have to let go the fear that one group will dominate.”

He also criticized clubbing “Asian-Americans” under one umbrella or an arbitrary geographic classification. “It defeats the reality of their differences. How similar is a Sikh to a Chinese person, for instance?” he questioned. “It will be beneficial for America to differentiate such varied cultures rather than saying, `Oh my gosh ­ there are too many of them (applying to this or that university).'”


  1. Christopher Rodriguez says:

    My argument in this particular case is that Indian Americans do not have “a dog in this fight.” The intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to address remedies in a limited fashion for groups who suffered historic discrimination in all U.S. institutions including state, municipal, county governments, educational institutions and government contractors. Indian Americans can submit amicus briefs on behalf of these white right wing groups but their claim that they are suffering a form of discrimination because persons who have suffered “historic discrimination” i.e. African Americans, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are somehow receiving preferential treatment in university admissions over Indian Americans as a class cannot be substantiated statistically or legally. They are taking the same position Jewish groups like B’nai Brith took positions against affirmative action in higher education because of the underlying fear institutions like Harvard University would impose an artificial ceiling on the number of Jews that would be admitted. The history of Indians in other nations when confronted with the politics of white supremacy i.e. South Africa, Caribbean nations like Trinidad have always been self serving and anti-Black–with the exception of Ghandi of course. The distinction between Asian groups should be made clearly because Hawaiians who suffered historic discrimination should not be in the same protected class as an Indian American who received preferential immigration status into the U.S. to fill current labor shortages in engineering and the sciences.

    • But you just proved nothing in that rant.

      It is unfair for Indian Americans to be held to a FAR higher standard than other cultures simply because like Jews, they seem to be able to score well above the mean and standard.

      How can affirmative action be legitimate, when Indians who have gone through great racism in Uganda, Britain, India, Fiji and South Africa be doing so well compared to Hispanics and Blacks in America ?

      Affirmative action is just an excuse for people with lesser talents to use against society. It is patronizing and harmful to those groups who do well despite the problems their community faces.

      We should celebrate Indian Americans – they have excelled despite all the travesties they have faced and never once played the victim card that some other races have.

  2. Christopher Rodriguez says:

    It is easier to attack the poor and the weak than confront the real source of their problems. How come these Indian groups don’t take a position against legacy admissions at universities where the children of rich alumni are given preferential treatment. God forbid if an economically disadvantaged Native American at a reservation who is a good student gets a break. Wow!

    • First off, very few people argue against something that benefits them in politics. It’s not very fun, not very idealistic but that’s just the way it is. Indians don’t argue against legacy admissions because, after decades of stellar academic success, we have legacy.

      Second, an academic culture exists. The myth of the Asian “tiger mom” or the “asian nerd” carry significant weight.

      And by the way, there is still discrimination against Asians. With the exception of martial arts or slumdog millionaire, there’s no “cool” Asian stereotype anymore. Plus Asians still make something like 8 – 12% less for the same work a white person does. Which is interesting considering the average Asian and average Indian families have an average income that vastly outstrips that of the average white family.

      That is how hard we work.

      We didn’t come here in chains, granted but we still work unbelievably hard against the grain to succeed and we do.

      And then we have to do even better because a college decides, “well there aren’t enough people who look like [black or hispanic kid]” and let him in over you.

      You really think we’d let that fly?

  3. Christopher, you argument doesn’t make any sense. Do you see how unfair race based affirmative action is to minority groups that actually succeed? For the Asian Americans groups that do well and b/c of discriminatory practices supported by the way affirmtive action is applied today, have to do better than whites and much, much better than “underrepresented minorities”, it is so unfair. We are a minority, many of come from working class families, we do not have white privilege but research has shown that in elite programs like medicine or phds in the sciences or top universities we have to perform better than whites. Why can’t Asian Americans b/c of their skill and hard work, a minority group who deals with prejudice just like other minority groups, be punished b/c they strive for excellence and achieve it.

    Affirmative action should be based on income, not race. It’s sad when hearing the black daughter of a dr state the low mcat score she needed to get into med school, compared to the reality that an indian-american, who comes from a high income or low income family, has to get.

    Race is a category that should be scrutinized closely, not whether someone has legacy/financial pluses…that’s what civil rights laws are all about. What Asian Americans overwhelming success in education shows is that minority status in this country does not have to limit their achievement. I’m generally a liberal in many things, but i’m afraid many knee-jerk liberals like you do not accept the fact, that maybe some minority groups are culturally focused on studies in their culture. Well that is their cultural choice, and govt should step away from punishing other minorities who’s cultural values stress education, from being held to a higher and strict standard.

    Most asians I know when we see a black or latino american in med school or an elite program we assume they got much lower grades to get in b/c this is shown by statistics. check out the average SAT, MCAT, LSAT scores by race. for asians, despite being a minority they are on the top. So let me tell you that creates fissures. There is a real cultural difference between children who have to make As in AP courses, do extracur. activities galore and make SAT scores in the 95th percentile, than the culture, that affirmative action supports for black and latino minorities – a culture that says : you can get into an ivy league school wth Bs or worse, and average SAT scores. In the end Affirmative action based on race hurts blacks and latinos the most, b/c it holds them to a low standard and stereotypes them all, whether they come from wealthy privileged backgrounds or come from a family where studying was put first, as incapable.

  4. Christopher Rodriguez says:

    I would not expect those Indian Americans who hail from a society where institutional discrimination is a way of life, who would empathize with historical legacy of African Americans and or Latino and Native Americans. India, where the mistreatment and discrimination against the “untouchables” is a way of life. I am sure that they are made to compete with the children of the Brahmins in an equal fashion except they are denied the opportunities to enter the universities because they would not be qualified. Of course, the “untouchable” would not get the perfect SAT or MCAT score because they were not privileged enough to be in the Brahmin; therefore it is too bad and the “untouchables” just have to work twice as hard as the Brahmin to achieve any “success.” Moreover, that is their place in life, that is their destiny to remain as the doormats of Indian civilization. I understand that the thought of Affirmative Action for the untouchables would be incomprehensible in your world view. Your “white supremacist” views would of course have you think that all Blacks and Latinos in these schools are unqualified because as the U.S. Untouchables we could not possibly succeed without the assistance of white civilization. You emulate your white masters and then become angry at the U.S. untouchables when your master places unreasonable standards on you. It is inherent in your thinking that only the children of the privileged are capable of attending these schools. I understand your consternation but you still don’t address those whites who enter upper tier schools through legacy admissions and possess mediocre grades and SAT scores. It appears that whites who enter under legacy admissions are not objects of attack or law suits because they are privileged. The fissures that would occur under Affirmative Action policy is only reflective of the greater society at large. The racial divisions in this country was created by whites and for the benefits of whites. Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in this country whites received preferential treatment based on race for 400 years in all areas of society including education. Indian Americans should be thanking Blacks and Latinos for creating the initial steps of achieving equal opportunity in this country for all people and giving you the privilege of applying to these schools through hard work. Although imperfect, the Government is trying rectify past injustices by using Affirmative Action as a form of reparations without having to give person of color compensation for past injustices—it is much cheaper. What would happen if all of a sudden Blacks wanted compensation on the promises of 40 acres and mule in the 19th century and all of the broken treaties with Native Americans? You need to look at the big picture and look beyond your own selfish interest. So what, if you could only could get into your second choice for medical schools, please convince me how this would be so disastrous. Give me a break!!!

    • Your rant proves how racist and ANTI-Indian you are !

      You are hating a group who have succeeded DESPITE their circumstances. You would probably prefer Indians and other Asians to be useless losers like blacks and hispanics are.

      That is pretty sad.

  5. A nation that aspires to achieve racial equality cannot and should not support institutionalized racist policy. We can only end racial discrimination by ending racial discrimination, not by starting a new kind of racial discrimination, such as the racial preference policy in college admissions which is still widely practiced by many higher institutions.

    The racial preference affirmative action in college and university admissions has its unintended consequences which the proponents of affirmative action conveniently and continuously ignore. Self-righteous social engineering policy, which might even benefit one or few individuals, such as Justice Sotomayor, always fails on a grand scale. And once again, it was so eloquently argued by Law Professor Gail Heriot in her recent essay, “The Sad Irony of Affirmative Action”.

    Asian Americans Against Affirmative Action

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *