Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging the use of racial preferences in the university admissions process. The case has led supporters and opponents to engage in a heated national debate about the merits of affirmative action, but few have noticed that one of the best reminders of the policy’s absurdities actually comes from the territorial conflicts currently raging in Asia.
In the world of affirmative action, Asians-Americans, along with other races, are lumped together as a single group that receives, or are excluded from, employment, education, contracting, or other positions. In the real world, however, the people of Asia not only are not interchangeable tokens; they have numerous reasons not to like each other. Grouping Asians together for the purpose of fostering “diversity” in America is not only ignorant but also insulting.
In recent months, nasty territorial squabbles over islands in the South China Sea have sparked widespread and at times, violent protests featuring one Asian nationality against another. China stands at the center of Asia’s simmering tensions. Just last month, anti-Japanese protests broke out in over 100 Chinese cities. Protestors ransacked Japanese stores, disrupted work at factories, burned Japanese flags, threw bottles, eggs, and apples outside of the Japanese embassy in Beijing, and called for the annihilation of Japan. Numerous Japanese stores in China closed temporarily, and Japan’s top manufacturers—such as Panasonic, Canon, and Toyota—halted production. Since then, consumer boycotts against Japanese cars in China have led to plunging sales for Japanese automakers.
These protests raged over the Japanese government’s September 11 purchase from private ownership of various disputed islands claimed by China and administered by Japan. Tokyo had intended for the “nationalization” of the islands, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, to prevent further escalation of bilateral conflict, but it only reminded Chinese citizens of Japan’s naked land grab in China before and during World War II.
Unfortunately for Japan, the Chinese are not the only ones protesting against it. Citizens of Taiwan, a former colony of Japan that also claims the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, have staged what Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has called “patriotic” demonstrations against Japan. During the last week of September, a flotilla of nearly 80 Taiwanese fishing boats, escorted by coast guard ships, even traveled to the disputed area to assert their historic fishing rights and “protect” the islands.
Meanwhile, the South Koreans have chimed in as well. They, too, have an ongoing dispute with Japan over a small (though different) group of islands in the South China Sea. They, too, have staged protests and proclaimed that they have not forgiven Japan for its war-time sins, especially the transgression of forcing South Korean women to serve as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers.
If this is not enough conflict, Vietnam and the Philippines have each engaged in tense standoffs with China as well. They, too, have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea and have historically clashed with China over various disputed islands. And just this month, the South Korean coast guard fired a rubber bullet at a Chinese fisherman and raided his boat, which they claimed had illegally entered South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea. The fisherman subsequently died from his injuries.
These political, territorial, and ethnic quarrels dominate the headlines in Asia. Other ongoing conflicts—such as India and Pakistan’s deep-seated bilateral animosity, China’s refusal to renounce the use of force to reunify with Taiwan, or North Korea’s hostilities toward South Korea and Japan—similarly evoke raw emotions and offer no easy solutions. This does not mean that all Asians despise each other or that they will not be able to peacefully resolve their conflicts. But the complexities of Asia’s political landscape or cultural heritage simply do not matter to diversity czars in America, who count yellow people against black, white, and brown folks as mere statistics.
One statistic, 37.2%, reflects the freshmen Asian enrollment in 1995 at the University of California, Berkeley, an institution that aggressively practiced racial preferences before voters in California banned the practice in 1996. Another statistic, 46%, shows Asian freshmen enrollment at Berkeley in 2012, a level of participation that the university’s bean counters, when unencumbered by state law, considered to be too high.
In other words, modern racial divvying not only ignores the inherent political, cultural, and historical differences within different ethnic groups, it caps their success as a race as well. Ironically, old-fashioned racists usually discriminate this way as well—for instance, by referring to Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Japanese alike as “Chinamen.”
Today, diversity czars feel no shame when they lump ethnicities together and pit different races against each other. Whatever the Supreme Court decides in Fisher v. University of Texas, this country would do well to end the sordid business of racial classification and preferences sooner rather than later.