Today’s Discrimination against Asian Americans, and Yesterday’s against American Jews

December 19, 2018 | Abe Greenwald
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Considering New York City’s new plan to increase the enrollment of black and Hispanic students at selective public schools, Abe Greenwald concludes that at its heart the plan is a product of prejudice against Asian Americans, who constitute a disproportionate presence at these elite schools. The same prejudice, writes Greenwald, can be found in Harvard University’s attempts to limit the numbers of Asian Americans in its student body—a policy on which the Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming year. And there is something familiar in the efforts of these educational institutions:

At Harvard in particular, the attack on Asian-American applicants is so clear, deliberate, and systematic as to be disturbingly similar to the most bigoted chapter in that institution’s history—its campaign to purge Jews from its student body throughout the early decades of the 20th century.

There are differences between the two episodes, to be sure. The limiting of Jews [in universities] was an overt part of a broad cultural wave of bigotry and anti-Semitism, while the campaign against Asian Americans is cloaked in the language and ideology of diversity. But in any event, academia—as represented in New York’s elite high schools and Harvard University—is once again singling out one group for exclusion and perpetrating a great sin against thousands of individuals who are poised to seize the American dream. . . .

Not all Asian Americans . . . are against changing the way things are done—[which is another way] American Jews and Asian Americans have much in common. Jews in large numbers continue to vote faithfully for a Democratic party that drifts ever further into anti-Israel activism and the functional anti-Semitism of intersectionality theory. And as the American Enterprise Institute’s John Yoo pointed out in the Los Angeles Times, 73 percent of Asian-American voters voted Democratic in 2012 and two-thirds voted Democratic in 2016. Yet it’s the progressive Democratic base that backs the discriminatory policies in New York and Cambridge. . . .

Liberal Jewish activists often wield the Torah’s command to “love the stranger” in defense of affirmative action. But it is also permitted to love those who are not so very strange to us. In their achievements against tough odds, their passion for learning, their stunning success in the United States, and the very obstacles they face, Asian Americans today are movingly like the American Jews of the past. Their cause is wrapped up in our own.

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