How Asian Americans Are Fighting Discrimination in Academia

Drowning woman

“I saw people less qualified than me get better offers,” says Mr Wang. “At first I was just angry. Then I decided to turn that anger to productive use.” He wrote to the universities concerned. “I asked: what more could I have done to get into your college? Was it based on race, or what was it based on?” He got vague responses—or none. So he complained to the Department of Education. Nothing came of it. “The department said they needed a smoking gun.”

This was what Michael Wang — a star student who sang at President Obama’s inauguration and who placed in the top 150 of all US students in math — discovered after receiving rejections from six of the seven Ivy League colleges he applied to. As The Economist reports, it’s a shocking and increasingly American story of how hard work and good intentions are not enough for so many of those seeking what was once known as “The American Dream.” Many in the Asian-American community are starting to detect the familiar patterns of discrimination in college admissions. That’s the root of a joint complaint backed by 64 Asian-American organizations (including Mr. Wang, himself) to the Department of Education against Harvard University, alleging racial discrimination in their admissions process.

In addition to petitions and lawsuits, the national community has set their goals even higher: political office. There’s no Asian-American governors in the mainland US and many are looking to change that.

Perceptions that Asian-Americans are being treated unfairly, especially in the workplace, may push more of them into politics. Andrew Hahn, a Korean-American partner in Duane Morris, a law firm, says, “I used to be a Twinkie, or maybe a banana—yellow outside, white inside—but once I hit the legal profession, I became a radical.”

Read the rest of the report here.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to the Score for more crucial advice and tips for international students.