NPR Interview with CAPA-HC President Jean Xu for Harvard Lawsuit

NPR记者就哈佛诉讼案联系了哈维华裔家长联合会(Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County)。CAPA-HC 主席徐菁女士于2018年10月19日接受了电话采访。问题是事先提供的,为此徐女士征询了CAPA-HC理事和会员的意见,综合之后写成了采访文稿。采访基本按事先提供的问题进行的。记者告知徐女士将就此案出一篇文章,采访人的发言将被引用。CAPA-HC理事会决定将采访文稿全文发布,便于大家得到完整信息。

Thank you for having me here. My name is Jean Xu. I'm the president of Chinese American Parent Association of Howard County, Maryland. We serve as a network for our parents, help them navigate the public school system. We also serve as a parent advocacy group, just like PTA. This organization was formed four years ago by a small group of parents in Howard County, Maryland. Now we have over 500 members in Howard County and branched out to 3 other counties. And I'm helping another county to form the 5th CAPA.  


Q1: Why does your organization oppose Harvard and its precedent of race-conscious admissions?


A: First of all, I would like to point out that there are two separate issues you are talking about here. One of them was to support the lawsuit against Harvard for its admission policies discriminating against Asian Americans. The other issue in your question was CAPA's position on race-conscious admissions.


So let me talk about the first one first. This case is about ending Harvard unlawful practice against Asian American applicants by its discriminatory admission policies. The anecdotal evidence and the data disclosed by Harvard and even the internal investigation conducted by Harvard itself in 2013 revealed that Asian American applicants are unfairly treated.


Asian-American applicants are significantly stronger than all other racial groups in academic performance. They also perform very well in non-academic categories such as extra-curriculum activities. 


Asian-American applicants receive high remarks from alumni interviewers. And they receive strong scores from recommendations by teachers and guidance counselors. The data shows those scores are nearly identical to white applicants.


But Harvard’s in-house admissions officials assign Asian-Americans the lowest score among any racial groups, in what is called the “personal rating.”


Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than whites, Hispanics and African Americans on traits like positive personality, likability, courage, kindness and being widely respected.


This is just plain wrong. If this is not racial stereotyping and discrimination, I don't know what is. The lawsuit is to end this unlawful practice and CAPA is in support of it.


As for the race-conscious admission, CAPA believes in promoting diversity in a lawful way which was clearly ruled by supreme court cases that race can be used as a factor only when race-neutral means cannot achieve the goal of diversity.


Q2: Was there a conversation between members before CAPA-HC signed the amicus brief?

A: Yes, absolutely. And the conversation on this topic continued and peaked in the past a few days.


Q2a. If yes, what did that conversation sound like?

A: Most of our ideas were exchanged over a social media platform called WeChat. Our members strongly support the decision to sign the amicus brief. We closely followed the case, exchanged information, educated ourselves and updated the news. I know some people may perceive that Asians are so passionate about this case because we eagerly want to increase the chance of our own kids getting into the ivy leagues. This perception is far from the truth. Asians are mobilized by the unsettling fact that as a minority group facing a long history of discrimination, we are so unfairly treated by Harvard. In the eyes of the admission officials, our kids have worse personal qualities than other racial groups including white kids. This is bias and prejudice towards Asian Americans and totally unacceptable.


Q2b. Was there a general consensus between members? Were there slight disagreements?


A: We certainly had passionate discussion on this issue, many analysis of this case from every possible perspective. In the end we reached the general consensus that each individual should be treated equally and fairly. Discrimination cannot be justified even under the name of diversity.


Our members do have different perspectives of this case. Some members are concerned that even we win the case, Harvard will find another way to get around, so why bother. But we reached general consensus that we have to speak up so people would be aware of the discrimination Asian Americans are facing. We want to deliver a strong message that we are not going to stay silent when we are stereotyped and treated unfairly. We have carried the name of model minority for so long. We have stayed quiet for so long on this issue. But not anymore. And this is the new battle hymn of tiger mothers and fathers.


Also some members pointed out that the preferential treatment that the legacy students received is an unfair practice, so we should fight against it at the same time. But we self-educated that although, in our opinion, it's not fair, it's a legal practice.


The positive side of this unfortunate situation is that this case has certainly energized the Asian community and I expect Asian Americans will be more engaged in politics and civil rights issues. This is our awakening moment.


Q3: Have you had any conversations with your children about the case? What do they think about?

A: Yes, we had a lot of discussion about this case and they read newspaper articles. They said Harvard's practice makes them feel discouraged. They feel they have to work much harder than their non-Asian friends and still wouldn't achieve as much. They are especially upset about the low personal ratings given by the Harvard admission officials. They think it is biased and unfair.


They plan to bring it up on the next Asian American club meeting in their school. And I would be very interested to learn what they have to say about this case.


Q4: Have you had any conversations with other Asian American (non-Chinese) parents about the case? What do they think about?

A: Yes, absolutely. I have had conversations with Korean Americans, Indian Americans, African Americans and European Americans. When I talked about this case, the first response from them was almost always something like this: Why Asian Americans have to score much higher in SAT comparing to the white applicants to get into top colleges? Asians are the ones who have been discriminated historically. Why is this group of people get penalized? It doesn't make any sense.


Q5: What experiences have shaped your opinions on affirmative action?


A: I would like to make a clarification that, to my understanding, this case is not about ending Affirmative Action. I know that Harvard wants to make people believe this is the attack on Affirmative Action because it helps them to win the case. But it's far from the truth. This case is all about ending the discriminatory policies that Harvard imposed on the Asian American applicants.


That being said, I believe Affirmative Action has positive contribution to our society to provide equal opportunities for disadvantaged racial groups. However, I believe it has to be implemented carefully, lawfully and fairly. It shouldn't be over-stretched and harm some groups that it intended to protect.


My opinion on Affirmative Action is shaped by my experience as a minority, an Asian-American and a first generation immigrant who have to fight against discrimination, bias and prejudice towards us, who have to overcome all different kinds of barriers to participate in civic engagement and to speak up on issues like this one.


And I would also like to say that I whole-heartedly believe in diversity. I am part of the diversity. It's the strength of our country. I wouldn't even become who I am without the diverse society this country is built upon. However, diversity needs to be achieved in a more effective and proper way. More importantly, it must be achieved in a lawful way and is not used as an excuse for discriminating some racial groups, such as Asian Americans.


Q6: AAPI Data published a report saying 41% of Chinese Americans oppose affirmative action and 73% of other asians support affirmative action, does this data surprise you, or does it seem accurate to you?


A: I am not able to assess the accuracy of this survey without looking into how the questions were asked and how the sample was taken. I know there are many surveys out there on this issue with different outcomes. I remember one of them concludes that over 70% of Americans do not believe that a student’s race should be a factor in the admissions process.


I used to work as a statistician. I know how the design of a survey can largely impact on the survey responses. So I'm not surprised but I cannot say it is accurate either without a thorough research on this survey.


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