Racism in Higher Education: Colleges resist Asian Americans’ success

Colleges resist Asian Americans’ success

By Jonathan Zimmerman


In 1966, the American Jewish Committee reported that less than 1 percent of American college and university presidents were Jewish. Since the end of World War II, about 1,000 presidencies had been filled, and only one – that’s right, one – went to a Jew.

It wasn’t for want of good candidates. Most institutions had removed long-standing quotas on Jews, who made up 10 to 12 percent of American college students and faculty. But when it came to choosing leaders, the committee concluded, “bias is at work.”

It still is. Today, however, it has a different target: Asian Americans. Like Jews in the 1960s, they hold just 1 percent of higher-education presidencies. Dartmouth’s Jim Yong Kim is the only Asian American who has ever led an Ivy League institution. And President Obama recently nominated him to head the World Bank.

But Asian Americans also continue to face a form of discrimination in university admissions. And until we change that, we probably won’t get more Asian American college leaders, either.

According to Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade, Asian Americans have to score about 140 points higher than whites on the SAT, all other things being equal, to get into elite colleges. Everyone knows that blacks and Hispanics get a leg up in the admissions sweepstakes. But how many realize that whites enjoy affirmative action when they go head-to-head with Asians?

That just doesn’t make any sense. African Americans and Hispanics have suffered discrimination across our history; whites haven’t. But if we make whites compete on a level playing field with Asians, some argue, our colleges and universities will become, well, too Asian.

That’s exactly what American university leaders said about Jews in the early 20th century, when elite institutions decided to limit Jewish admissions. But first they had to figure out who was Jewish. So Harvard asked applicants to provide their mother’s maiden names. It even inquired, “What change, if any, has been made since birth in your own name or that of your father?” And most colleges started to require the submission of photographs, which would allegedly reveal what a Dartmouth official called “Hebrew physiognomy.”

The student quotas started to be lifted in the late 1950s and early ’60s, as did similar limits on Jewish faculty. Restrictions against Jewish college presidents lasted a little longer, as the 1966 report confirmed. But the following year, the University of Chicago appointed Edward H. Levi, the son of a rabbi, as its president. By 1971, Penn and Dartmouth both had Jewish presidents. Today, all but one of the eight Ivy League schools has been led by a Jew.

Meanwhile, other underrepresented groups have also gained entry into the halls of university power. By 2009, 5.9 percent of university presidents were African American and 4.6 percent were Hispanic. But you can still count the number of Asian American presidents of four-year colleges on two hands. Here in the Delaware Valley, Ursinus’ Bobby Fong is the only one.

You can’t explain that without thinking about admissions. Almost every elite institution is trying to recruit more blacks and Hispanics, so hiring a president from one of those groups makes sense. But an Asian American president might stamp the institution as “too” Asian, which is what universities are trying to avoid.

We need to ask why. After California forbade state universities from considering race in admissions, the Asian American share of the student body at the University of California, Berkeley, jumped from 20 percent to 40 percent. At the California Institute of Technology, which doesn’t consider race either, about a third of the students are now Asian.

Both institutions have benefited from an infusion of talented students, many of whom would not get into other elite universities simply because of their race. The people who lose out are less-qualified whites, who would fare better in a system that limits Asian admissions.

And maybe that’s the real story here: Beneath all the rhetoric, we’re simply afraid of a minority that has done too well. That’s why Jews were so threatening for so many years, and why Asians are now. Shame on us for making the same mistake twice.

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory” (Yale University Press).

Brandon Johnson shot an injured by Police when he was taking a nap

another day another case of police acting on racist stereotypes  shooting an unarmed black man.




Pompano man says he was shot without cause by sheriff’s deputies

April 02, 2012|By Linda Trischitta, Sun Sentinel

POMPANO BEACH — Brandon Johnson says he was napping in a car when Broward sheriff’s deputies shot him multiple times on March 8. The deputies say they feared for their lives because Johnson drove his borrowed Toyota Echo at them.

“The truth of the matter is, they were trying to kill him,” said Willie Green, 60, who with his wife, Rosetta, are aunt and uncle to Johnson, 21, and became his legal guardians when he was a child. The Pompano Beach family says it wants accountability from the agency.

BSO says it cannot comment on the incident while an internal affairs investigation proceeds.

A complaint affidavit says Detective Ron Miller and Detective Andrea Penoyer Tianga, a “Police Women of Broward County” reality TV show star, were patrolling Pompano Beach in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe when they observed a “suspicious vehicle” backed into a parking space on Northeast 29th Street.

They observed “a black male in the driver’s seat,” “attempting to duck down in an effort not to be seen,” the report states. Miller pulled the SUV in front of Johnson’s car “to initiate a stop” and turned on police lights. The detectives, in tactical gear as part of a Metro Broward Drug Task Force sweep, approached from the driver’s side of Johnson’s car, the report states.

The deputies said they fired after the vehicle accelerated in an aggressive manner toward them.

Penoyer Tianga was struck in the leg by the Toyota and was knocked into a parked vehicle but did not sustain serious injuries, agency spokeswoman Dani Moschella said.

Johnson said the bullets started flying before he fled.

“They didn’t order me out of the car,” Johnson said. “As soon as she shot through the windshield and popped me in my mouth, I figured I didn’t have to stay there no more anyways. I put the thing in reverse and went over the speed bump and then I drove off with my head down. That’s when the glass started popping everywhere.”

Johnson has a record that includes three convictions for cocaine possession, twice with intent to sell or distribute. As a juvenile, he resisted arrest with violence. He served about 18 months in jail, Assistant Public Defender Joanna Nagy said, and on March 24, he was charged by BSO with cocaine possession. Johnson was released on bond and said the drugs belonged to a friend.

Regardless of his past, Johnson and his parents say, he does not carry weapons and the circumstances surrounding his shooting did not warrant such firepower.

“We’re not trying to justify anything,” Rosetta Green said. “When Brandon is wrong, Brandon is wrong. We know Brandon wouldn’t attack the police. He was trying to get out of the line of fire.”

Johnson, who is unemployed, said he was out the night of March 7 and, because of conflict with a housemate, he slept in the car with windows up and air conditioning on.

Johnson lost three teeth when a deputy’s bullet entered his mouth and exited through the bottom of his chin. Chest wounds encircle his heart, an embedded bullet distorts the skin over his right shoulder blade and two weeks later, Johnson said, he was still coughing up blood.

Nagy said, “Police are saying the vehicle Brandon was in was suspicious. And what is suspicious about a black male sitting in a vehicle? He was shot repeatedly by police. It appears if you’re a young black male, a different standard applies.”

Johnson is the second person in five months fired at by a star of “Police Women of Broward County.” The other case, also in Pompano Beach, is still open and happened Sept. 28, 2011 when Deputy Erika Huerta fired at but missed an apparently unarmed felon who ran after she had pulled him over for a traffic stop. Reality show TV cameras were not filming during either incident, BSO says.

BSO prohibits deputies from firing warning shots or intentionally placing themselves in the path of an oncoming vehicle. Deputies must make every attempt to move from a vehicle’s path, rather than discharge a firearm at it and also cannot fire at a moving vehicle, unless the occupant is using deadly force, or shooting is needed to prevent death or serious bodily harm to a deputy or another person.

Johnson will be arraigned April 17 for the March 8 incident. If convicted, he could face 35 years in prison.


sun sentinel article