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Indian Americans Stand Divided on Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision Striking Down Affirmative Action

Indian Americans Stand Divided on Supreme Court’s Landmark Decision Striking Down Affirmative Action

  • Republican presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley called it a step-in the right direction, while progressives and Democrats condemned the 6-3 verdict.

The Supreme Court today ruled that Harvard and the University of North Carolina cannot explicitly consider applicants’ race in admissions. The “landmark” 6-3 ruling by the conservative-majority Supreme Court “will radically transform how colleges are able to attract a diverse student body,” as noted by The New York Times. The court’s majority opinion said that the schools’ affirmative action programs “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.”

The cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College — were filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), described by Newsweek as “a conservative group that wants schools nationwide to immediately stop using race or ethnicity to boost higher education applications.”

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in the case. He was joined by the five other conservative justices. The three liberals dissented. Axios says the ruling, “the second in about a year to upend decades of precedence will force colleges to reimagine long-standing hallmarks of the admissions process and likely jeopardize the representation of Black and Latino students on campuses nationwide. CNBC called the ruling “a massive blow to decades-old efforts to boost enrollment of racial minorities at American universities.”  

According to The New York Times, “the court has historically backed affirmative action programs at colleges, including most recently in 2016, when the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas-Austin.”

Twitter erupted almost immediately after the ruling. The decision sparked an instant backlash from Democrats and cheers from Republicans. Those who support affirmative action see it as supporting racial justice, while those who opposing the policy see it as an obstruction to developing a color-blind society in which success is not predicted by race.

A study released by the Pew Research Center earlier this month revealed that Asian Americans have mixed views of affirmative action and related issues. “About half of Asian adults who have heard of affirmative action (53%) say it is a good thing, while 19% say it is a bad thing, and 27% say they don’t know whether affirmative action is good or bad,” the study found out, noting that Indian adults (60%) are more likely than Korean (50%), Vietnamese (48%) and Chinese (45%) adults to say affirmative action is a good thing. “On the other hand, about three-quarters of all Asian adults (76%) say race or ethnicity should not factor into college admissions decisions.”

Victory For Fairness

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who has promised that one of his first acts as president would be to end affirmative action by executive order, celebrated the ruling as a victory for fairness. The multimillionaire entrepreneur who graduated from Harvard College called the Supreme Court’s ruling “a step in the right direction” which will “spawn the beginning of a new era of ‘shadow’ racial balancing, where universities & companies play complex games that deprioritize  numerical academic metrics to still achieve the same goals.”

In another tweet he wrote: “Picking winners & losers based on the color of someone’s skin isn’t just racist, it’s psychological slavery,” he tweeted.

He called affirmative action “a badly failed experiment: time to put a nail in the coffin & restore colorblind meritocracy.”

Joining him was Nikki Haley who swiftly praised the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard. “Picking winners and losers based on race is fundamentally wrong. This decision will help every student—no matter their background—have a better opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

COHANA, the Coalition of Hindus of North America, also hailed the decision.  “Today the Supreme Court validated our argument against SB403 and the Seattle ordinance — targeting South Asians based on an arbitrary and vague term “caste” is a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In a major victory for Asian Americans (including South Asians), the Supreme Court re-asserted our constitutional commitment and paid homage to MLK: “people should be valued as individuals and not based on some shared and arbitrary external characteristic.”

Others who hailed the decision include author and former Georgetown University professor, who called it “a victory for America,” as well as right-wing political commentator, author, filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

Some used the decision to point fingers at Vice President Kamala Harris. “In light of the historic SCOTUS decision today, America’s most blatant Affirmative Action hire needs to resign:  Kamala Harris, chosen to be a heartbeat away from the presidency due to the color of her skin, not her ability do the job,” a user tweeted. 

Huge Step Backward

Democrats on the other hand slammed the decision. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the first and only Indian American woman in the U.S. Congress and chair of the Progressive Caucus called the decision “terrible and a huge step backward.” Noting that “diversity is our strength,” she noted that our institutions should reflect the diversity of our nation.

Her colleague, Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.) also weighed in on the decision. He is the first non-Black representative in over 70 years from the newly redrawn 13th District of the state which is now 45 percent Black. It covers most of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and the Downriver communities. He occupies the seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, the state’s sole African American in Congress, who is retiring at the end of her term. “oday, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action, placing a roadblock on creating equal playing fields for all,” he wrote in a series of tweets. Let’s not let the fight stop here. As a nation, we must come together to ensure that fairness, justice, and equal access remain at the forefront of our policies.”

Several other Indian Americans opined on the decision. Racial Justice Activist Deepa Iyer, former executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), tweeted a paragraph of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, which she said “says it all.” — “Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal.”

Neal Katyal, former U.S. Acting Solicitor General went into the technicalities of the the Supreme Court’s ruling. “Odd way for the affirmative action opinion today to begin, since Harvard as a private institution can’t violate the Equal Protection Clause,” he tweeted. “Only state actors can violate the Constitution. It’s true that private institutions that take federal funds are bound by Title VI, but that isn’t a “equal protection clause”{ violation.

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla tweeted as well. “A bunch of conservative bribed off stooges on the Supreme court destroying the fabric of what is essential for a harmonious society,” he wrote.

Sankaran Krishna, Professor of Political Science at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In a scathing response to American Kahani, Sankaran Krishna, Professor of Political Science at University of Hawaii at Manoa, said the Supreme Court’s decision was “deplorable.” He was particularly appalled by Indian American supporters of the court’s decision saying, “to be colorblind (or class-blind or gender-blind or caste-blind) in a highly inegalitarian society is not a virtue but its opposite. It is the perpetuation of inherited and structural inequalities on the basis of a thin and ahistorical definition of merit. Indian Americans who support the SC’s ruling should be required to attend a few courses on the evolution of the U.S. and its racial history. They may then understand that it was the civil rights movements that enabled them (and their parents and grandparents) to come to the US in the aftermath of the 1965 legislation which permitted non-whites to come to the US for education and/or jobs and then use that as a basis to emigrate to the US. Were it not for blacks and their struggles, hardly any desis would even be here.”

In a statement AAPI Victory Alliance Executive Director Varun Nikore reminded that “this is only a ruling on admissions procedures. Education institutions can still provide targeted programming to support students who might need extra resources to apply and graduate from higher education institutions.” He continued: “As we move forward, folks should keep in mind that there was no individual Asian American plaintiff who came forward because they were personally discriminated against in the Harvard admissions process.” 

Human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid said  “SCOTUS ruling to end Affirmative Action is driven by anti-Black racism. And the bizarre irony is that white women have benefitted more from affirmative action than every other racial demographic—Combined.” 

Meanwhile comedian Zarna Gard had a questions nagging many desis: “With affirmative action shot down, now what excuse are you going to use when your kid doesn’t get in?

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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