Race Issues: Proposed Amendment to Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Bill Undermines the Purpose of Affirmative Action

The recent surge in hate crimes against Asian-Americans is the latest dark shadow cast onto a country already shaken by a public health crisis and deeply-rooted divide in politics, racial justice and class inequality. Despite all of this, one twinkle of hope appeared last Thursday, April 22, when the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act introduced to increase protection for the Asian-American community was passed 94-1 in the Senate. There is something that took place before that, however, that is simply too audacious to ignore. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Kennedy (R-LA) proposed a bill amendment to remove federal funding from institutions of higher education that “discriminate” against Asian-Americans in their admissions processes.

In Cruz’s reasoning for why this should be attached to the bill, he cites the now-dropped lawsuit against Yale University brought on by the Department of Justice during the Trump administration in October 2020, which alleges that the school is essentially using racial quotas when admitting applicants, a practice that is “discriminating” against prospective white and Asian students. Thankfully, the amendment did not pass, but only by a small margin split almost evenly between parties. Yet, the audacity of Cruz and his Senate GOP colleagues to attempt to sneak their own faulty agenda into this bill must be addressed.

I believe that many people, including fellow members of the Asian community, maintain this belief that they are being discriminated against in elite college admissions because they are under the misguided impression that this process was a meritocracy to begin with. If you think the country’s top colleges admit students as a reward for their “hard work,” reflected in excellent grades, test scores and achievements, you need to wake up. The reality is that each institution operates like an exclusive nightclub, undoing the velvet rope only for those they believe can further their own interests and the preferences for who they wish to see walk through is split among multiple factors transcending race. This often includes athletics, relation to school officials or major donors, or even if you can foot the $80,000-a-year bill that comes with attending a “top” private institution. Even Colgate University, which claims to be “highly-selective,” makes it clear that they consider whether or not you can pay their full cost of attendance when making admissions decisions.

In its release regarding the Yale lawsuit, the DoJ claims that a white or Asian student has only a fraction of the chance that an underrepresented minority student of a similar level of academic achievement does to be admitted. What many on the side of Cruz want to see is admissions based solely on their idea of merit, one that often includes purely the highest grades and scores, a scenario where whites and Asians would come out dramatically on top. What I suggest to white people who think underrepresented minorities with lower scores and GPAs are “stealing” their acceptances is to take a look at other members of their own race. A probe into admissions at Harvard University revealed that a jaw-dropping 43% of white admits had a special factor working majorly in favor of their admission, among which are legacy status, athletic recruitment and relation to staff or donors. Are we also willing to consider those as “stolen” spots?

Beyond a false belief that institutions actually prioritize rewarding “hard work,” there are also people who need to do away with their sense of entitlement to study at a prestigious college. If you are a talented and hard-working young student, especially one born into financial security, you don’t need an acceptance letter to confirm that you will have a great career and find success in life. For the many underrepresented minorities who’ve put forward strong applications despite a number of social and financial barriers, the chance to receive a prestigious college degree could improve their lives dramatically.


Like many of my peers at Colgate, there was a time where I was also gunning for admission to a select group of the country’s finest, most highly-ranked universities. Being denied from my top choice hurt, but not nearly as much as seeing people who look like me and my family be killed, assaulted or harassed in public spaces. It is absurd that the Senate GOP would try to take advantage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to continue pushing this misleading narrative about higher education that unnecessarily pits minority groups against each other. The fight towards racial equality is still underway, and I can promise you that it has little to do with who is or isn’t getting into Yale.