Washington Post Op-Ed on Affirmative Action

I have an op-ed in the Washington Post today, coauthored with Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean at UC Berkeley School of Law. An excerpt:

Given the many ways that affirmative action benefits Asian American students and their communities, we should see conservative solicitude for Asian Americans “harmed” by affirmative action as strategic rather than genuine. Conservative opponents of affirmative action have not, generally speaking, taken an interest in other issues that affect Asian American welfare in unique ways, ranging from employment discrimination to health care to immigration.

So why the conservative concern when it comes to affirmative action? The answer is that Asian Americans provide a convenient tool for opponents of affirmative action.  By framing opposition to affirmative action as concern for Asian Americans, opponents of affirmative action can protect the existing racial hierarchy — with white people at the top — while disguising their efforts as race-neutral rather than racially motivated.

We suspect that Asian Americans will see through this clumsy and cynical attempt to deploy them in service of dismantling affirmative action. And at least for the time being, the Supreme Court has been clear that affirmative action policies are constitutional. But if anything, anti-affirmative action efforts demonstrate the need for racial diversity. One way to improve upon the shallow racial understanding of affirmative action opponents is to ensure diverse educational environments that promote clear thinking and honest conversation about racial issues.