Indian American youth react to Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators for and against the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down race-conscious student admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina confront each other, in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down race based affirmative action policies in college admissions June 29, 2023.  The historic 6-3 vote ruled that universities like Harvard and UNC considering race as a factor in admissions violates the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment.

Many Indian Americans have voiced their support for the SCOTUS’s decision. Many East and South Asian Americans have been at the forefront of activism against affirmative action because they see it as creating disadvantages for Asian American applicants.

“No matter the controversy that it’s causing, it’ll help many Indian Americans like myself,” says Diya Patel, a New York resident with dreams of attending University of North Carolina.  “I always felt like I had to work twice as hard as my peers to get the same results.  For years, I stressed about not being able to get into my dream school because of my heritage, which is a feeling no one should have.”

“I wish this had happened when I was applying,” says Zack Maini, who will attend Rutgers this fall. “When I was going through the process and would be considering a certain school, my grades would be good enough, my extracurriculars were good enough, but there was always this underlying thought that my race wasn’t good enough.  I went through my whole life as a person of color, experiencing racism and prejudice in a majority white town.  Going through all of that, then being considered ‘white’ when applying to college is, frankly, demeaning.  My entire experience was erased with a check on a box.”

However, disbanding affirmative action is not a decision that has garnered support from all Indian Americans.  A 2022 survey showed that 69% of Asian Americans voters support affirmative action, and, among them, 80% of Indian Americans endorse it.

Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted that the decision is “a denial of opportunity” and “a step backward for our nation.”

Radhika Kumar, a college counselor and Brown University graduate, pointed out some flaws of the repeal. She said, “The fact that they haven’t looked at or mentioned other forms of affirmative actions like legacy or college sports points that this is fundamentally unjust ruling. Having said that, I do hope that colleges will take this moment to do much more to reaffirm their commitment to creating truly diverse and representative spaces, instead of just paying lip service to diversity in ways that they have done in the past.”

“As an Indian American it should theoretically make it easier for me to get into college. I don’t completely know how to feel about it,” says successful student Tage Mehta, who will be a high school senior in the fall. “As much as merit should be rewarded, we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and it’s hard to reflect that all in test scores and grades.  Diversity on college campuses elevates everybody’s educational experience. The end of affirmative action will likely take away from the educational experience for everybody.”

Ankita Mallik, who will begin at Northeastern University in the fall, said, “Affirmative action’s impact goes beyond college admissions.  It’s about creating equality for Latino and African Americans and creating opportunities that may be inaccessible to them otherwise.  It’s time for Indians and Asians to take ownership of the role we’ve played in oppressing other BIPOC.”  Mallik pointed to how controversial policies such as striking down critical race theory in school spaces has contributed to the government’s growing ignorance of racism in America.

The repeal has evoked a wide range of opinions among Indian Americans, sparking conversations about affirmative action’s merit and integrity.  The diversity of views highlights that this issue is not black or white, and that the Supreme Court decision does not represent the view of all Indian Americans.

(Jaiden Patel is a senior at The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison, New Jersey)



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