By Max Eden* – Newsweek
Last week, the Senate voted 94-1 in favor of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, intended to address anti-Asian racism. Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) lone “no” vote was covered by CNN, The Hill, HuffPost, Slate, the New York Post, Politico, Vox and Axios. Yet none of those outlets reported the fact that, on the same day, 49 Democratic senators voted against an amendment to protect Asian-Americans from institutional racism in higher education.
The amendment, introduced by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Kennedy (R-LA), would have prohibited institutions of higher education from receiving federal funding if they have explicit policies or established practices discriminating against Asian-American students in admissions. Cruz explained that his amendment targeted “the ongoing discrimination that is being directed against Asian-Americans by colleges and universities across the country, including preeminent institutions such as Yale and Harvard.”
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) dismissed the amendment as redundant, given that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act already outlaws racial discrimination. But in dropping a case against Yale University alleging anti-Asian discrimination in admissions, the Biden Department of Justice has signaled it will not enforce the laws currently on the books to defend Asian-Americans in higher education.
By voting no on this amendment, Senate Democrats effectively voted in favor of Asian-American students remaining fair game for institutional racism. Why do these Democrats apparently believe that Asian-Americans do not deserve equal protection under the 14th Amendment?
There are two key reasons.
The first is simple political self-interest. The Democratic Party is largely an alliance of highly educated, affluent whites and disadvantaged “BIPOC” (black, indigenous and people of color) individuals. A rising Asian-American middle class threatens the college admissions prospects of both groups. As Aaron Sibarium has calculated, if Yale used exclusively meritocratic criteria, Asian students would outnumber whites by about 2:1 and blacks by about 30:1.
And those aren’t the only two significant Democratic constituencies that benefit from institutional racism against Asian-Americans. If colleges were not allowed to racially discriminate against Asian-Americans (or to find pretextual grounds for discrimination, such as Harvard’s implicit contention that Asian-American kids have systemically worse personalities), they would be harder pressed to benefit from technically legal variants of Operation Varsity Blues. After all, if colleges used purely meritocratic admission practices, they would be less able to benefit financially from admitting intellectually inferior children who sometimes hail from America’s moneyed elite.
But there is a second, deeper reason beyond servicing their key constituencies. Much of the Democratic Party is currently enthralled by the ideology of critical race theory, which contends that all racial disparities are the product of racism and/or “white supremacism.” The success of Asian-Americans is utterly fatal to this facile worldview.
Conservatives attribute the success of many Asian-Americans to their strong family culture, their hard work, their respect for academic excellence and their discipline. Critical race theorists don’t exactly deny these factors. Rather, they re-label them derogatorily as “whiteness” and accuse Asian-Americans of buying into what they call “white supremacy culture.”
For example, when Asian-American parents objected to the destruction of admissions standards at Virginia’s elite Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni accused them of using “white supremacist” rhetoric. Alison Collins, former vice president of the San Diego School Board, which recently voted to dismantle admissions standards at its elite Lowell High School, once expressed her frustration with the insufficient wokeness of Asian-Americans by saying “being a house n****r is still being a n****r.”
Such epithets are all but inevitable under the applied ideology of critical race theory, which the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York recently condemned as a “hateful, divisive, manipulative fraud,” and the “real hate crime against Asians.”
But while calling Asian-American parents “white supremacists” and “n****rs” at the same time might not appear to be a savvy long-term political move, it’s quite possible that Democratic Party strategists have calculated that they can cater to their key constituencies without alienating the group they are harming and deriding.
In an excellent City Journal feature describing the Asian-American political awakening and backlash against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to lower admissions at selective public schools, Rong Xiaoqing notes that New York City politicians regarded the Asian-American immigrant community as largely silent—and for good reason: Many Asian-American immigrants prefer to keep their heads down in politics and focus on helping their children succeed in school. “Without much understanding of American racial politics,” Xiaoqing writes, “new Asian immigrants defending merit-based admissions can find themselves vulnerable.”
It’s clear from Xiaoqing’s case study that Asian-Americans can become a powerful political force when provoked directly at the local level. It’s far less clear, however, whether federally approved anti-Asian racial discrimination and the broader predations of applied critical race theory will engender a large-scale political response.
After all, many Asian-Americans tuning into the news last week learned of Hawley’s sole “no” vote. Only Fox News, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and Twitter carried news regarding the Democrats’ party-line vote to maintain anti-Asian institutional racism in higher education.
Asian-Americans might not yet realize that, by and large, one political party has a structural interest and ideological compulsion to racially discriminate against them. But social media can, and will, carry episodes like this beyond the gatekeepers of mainstream media. There is no more powerful human force than the impulse to protect one’s children. If, and when, Asian-Americans become “woke” to the true structural racism they’re facing from the Left, things could get quite interesting. 4/28/21
*Max Eden is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.