Pakistani-Americans’ Little but Divided Reaction to SCOTUS Affirmative Action Decision

By Jay Rover
Many Pakistani Americans believe the decision will impact the prospects of minority students receiving education in the country’s most sought-after educational institutions. (PakistanWeek photo)
The US Supreme Court’s landmark decision on affirmative action has been in the national headlines since June 29, the day the apex court struck down race-conscious admissions, ruling them unconstitutional. Unfortunately, not too much in the Pakistani American community and its media. Even the media that covers the community virtually blacked out the news that is considered one of the most consequential for the minorities and communities of color in the US.

However, a few Pakistani-American students ventured to support or oppose the SCOTUS decision. Responses have been diverse across various communities, including the Pakistani Americans, to the court decision. Civil rights leaders have fended off various challenges to dismantle the policy since 1978, when affirmative action in college admissions was first upheld by the US Supreme Court.

22 percent of graduate students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology self-identify as members of one or more US minority groups. (PakistanWeek photo)

It sparked a range of reactions among Pakistani Americans. As a community that largely values education and opportunities for upward mobility, many young Pakistani Americans have closely followed the debates surrounding affirmative action policies and their impact on college admissions.

A large number of minority students, including Pakistani Americans, have taken advantage of the affirmative action and reached the countries highest seats of learning.

“I think it bad because it will now be harder for minority students to go to the Ivy League schools which will offer the whites more opportunities than the minorities despite already being privileged,” said Laila Khan, an incoming sophomore in Queens.

However, Haris Khan, a student at a CUNY college, thinks that the Supreme Court decision is correct and “that’s why plurality of Americans support it”. “Now these civil rights groups are suing Harvard because alumnus and donors’ children have greater chance of getting into Harvard than a perfect hardworking student. “Legacy admission should be the next thing that should be removed as it gives those special students advantages over other students. Affirmative Action excluded Asians and Whites. It wasn’t based on merit,” he added.

According to MITFacts of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 2022–2023, MIT students came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and 135 foreign countries. “Women accounted for 48% of undergraduates (2,244) and 39% of graduate students (2,830). Fifty-seven percent of undergraduates (2,640) and 22% of graduate students (1,610) self-identified as members of one or more US minority groups”.

According to Stanford Medicine Ethnogeriatrics, Pakistani Americans are the eighth largest Asian American ethnic group after Chinese American, Filipino American, Asian Indian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans and Cambodian American communities. They are also the second largest South Asian American ethnic group, after Asian Indian Americans, and have one of the largest Muslim American ethnic groups in the United States, after the African American community.

Pakistan is ranked as the 12th highest source country for immigration into the United States. Compared to other heritage groups in the United States, Pakistani Americans are well educated with an estimated 60% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher professional degrees.

Opinions within the Pakistani American community are not monolithic, and perspectives can differ based on various factors such as individual experiences, political leanings, and personal beliefs. However, it is possible to identify some general themes and reactions that have emerged.

  1. Support for Merit-Based Selection: A significant portion of Pakistani Americans, like many other communities, advocate for merit-based selection processes that prioritize academic achievement and individual qualifications. They argue that such a system ensures fairness and rewards hard work, irrespective of race or ethnicity.
  2. Concerns over Reverse Discrimination: Some Pakistani Americans express concerns about the potential for reverse discrimination resulting from affirmative action policies. They argue that a focus on racial preferences might disadvantage qualified individuals from all backgrounds, including Pakistani Americans, who believe they may face reduced opportunities based on their ethnic background.
  3. Recognition of Systemic Inequality: While acknowledging the desire for a meritocratic system, another segment of the Pakistani American community acknowledges the existence of systemic inequalities. They believe that affirmative action is necessary to address historical disadvantages faced by marginalized groups and promote diversity in educational institutions. They argue that this helps create a more inclusive society and provides opportunities for those who have traditionally been underrepresented.
  4. Desire for Holistic Approaches: Some Pakistani Americans emphasize the importance of holistic approaches in college admissions, which take into account a broader range of factors beyond just test scores or grades. They argue that this approach can consider an individual’s unique experiences, socio-economic background, and personal achievements, allowing for a more comprehensive evaluation of an applicant’s potential.

It is important to note that these perspectives are not exhaustive, and individual opinions may vary widely within the Pakistani American community. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s ruling may be subject to interpretation and may have implications that extend beyond initial reactions.

 

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