Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Asian Americans are often cited in the debate over affirmative action. Sometimes the differences of opinion are philosophical. Other times they focus on the diversity within a pan-ethnic category, created by the federal government, that occludes challenges faced by Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and other ethnic groups whose experiences and profiles differ from East Asians more prominently featured in these debates.
This NPR article profiles Southeast Asian scientists who have sought to enter STEM-related professions and find themselves excluded from programs designed for underrepresented groups, despite the scarcity of Southeast Asians and the barriers to breaking into an increasingly prestigious, highly-paid profession.
Among their contrasting examples:
- Hmong American ineligible for Howard Highes Medical School's Gilliam Fellowship, in party based on NIH standards that do not recognize Asians and white people as underrepresented
- Less than 10% of Vietnamese, Filipino, Hmong, and Cambodian Americans have graduate degrees (Pew analysis of census data)
Groups like AAPI Data seek to inject data into these debates -- such as the increase of Asian American support for affirmative action (70% in 2020)-- and advocate data disaggregation to permit more nuanced understandings of challenges faced by Asian Americans as a larger group and specific to ethnic subgroups. New York state legislators have introduced bills to support more data disaggregation as well.