Everybody knows how President Donald Trump asked for a Muslim ban in his campaign and at least some of us know his travel ban was no such thing. This country did, however, once have a Chinese ban —— people didn’t want them around for mostly bigoted reasons. Thank heavens the population of Asian-Americans from some 20 countries is now booming despite some lingering inhospitality.
We have to watch the generalities —— Asian-Americans are a diverse group and what counts ultimately is individuals — but here is a gift that keeps on giving. As the Pew Research Center reports, no racial group in America can match them in income or education, and they embrace hard work, are big on marriage and family and really, really like it here.
Their overall median income is $73,000, something like $20,000 above the national median income although one Asian segment, Indians, makes that seem picayunish. Their median is $100,000. But why dwell on money?
One reason is that minority immigrants seldom have ease of passage, as is illustrated by the 19th century Chinese ban that lasted until the 1940s. The fastest growing racial group in America, now about 5.6 percent of the population, Asian-Americans are largely blessed with a culture and values helping to overcome difficulties, yanking the most out of tough circumstances. And besides income, consider how they also excel in school to the extent that half have college educations while less than a third of all Americans do.
At Harvard, widely considered the top of the top universities, Asian-Americans knock on the door with academic achievements higher than any other racial or ethnic competitors. Text scores? No. 1. High school grades? No. 1. Extracurricular activities? No. 1.
The New York Times, which tells us all of this, also tells us that if admissions were based on such matters alone, these exemplars of matters of the mind would constitute 43 percent of the student body. Instead, they are somewhere around 19 or 20 percent and have been for a long time.
How come? The answer is discrimination, Students for Fair Admissions says in a lawsuit that contends that the university balances out racial groups in prearranged percentages that negate actual qualifications. Stereotypes are at work here, much as in the quota system limiting the number of Jewish students in the 1930s, the plaintiff alleges. The Harvard position is that there are other criteria of character and the like and that the selection system is fair and commendable.
I would agree that it can be worthy to examine nonacademic aspects of who a student is, but then you have the interesting fact that the university itself once explored whether there was a bias toward Asian-Americans and concluded there was. That was about all we know —— no reforms or apologies emerged —— and meanwhile we are also aware the university is particularly tough on Asian-Americans in assessing what they are like personally.
Not so hot, would be one way of summing it up.
My limited contact with Asian-Americans has been with a few acute professionals and entrepreneurial souls who have started businesses and are conscientious and honest while doing a good job. Such anecdotal evidence, even with statistical backing, hardly frees any broad statement of annoying exceptions. But with no intended disparagement of any other of our amazing groups, I will nevertheless argue there is a reinvigorating quality about many Asian-Americans portending large benefits for our American future.
Of course there is this about some of our ideologically instructed academic and other leaders: They betray principles fallaciously supposing they thus serve a higher good. Are you aware that the Supreme Court, in affirming affirmative action, did so with reference to a law forbidding racial preferences? Someday, however, I am guessing there will be an Asian-American president of Harvard whose talent, grit and character carried the day.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.