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Race on Campus: Book Discussion Series

Library staff professional development book discussion

Race on Campus - Library Book Discussion Series, Fall 2019

ebunking Myths with Data


Discussion Questions

Chapter 4: Affirmative Action

Topic: Why Affirmative Action is Good for Asian Americans

Topic Leader: Susan Vega García

Meeting:  LMT 10.16 

Please read the following & be prepared to discuss at our meeting:

  • Chapter 4: Why Affirmative Action is Good for Asian Americans -- pages  71-98

You can always read more from the book at any time, but this is the Chapter we will focus on in our discussions for today.

Note: This chapter focuses on alleged discrimination against Asian American students in college admissions, particularly at elite institutions. The author, herself Korean American, analyzes the data, college admissions practices, and cultural expectations and reaches very different conclusions. While there's much here to discuss, our questions for this chapter will focus on overarching issues of social justice and cultural competence.

Discussion Questions

1.  Chapter 4 begins with the context of a 2017 plan to investigate whether white students were being discriminated against through college Affirmative Action policies (p71). 

  • Have you heard similar beliefs or discussions on campus or in the larger community?
  • In last year's reading of White Fragility, we encountered author Robin DiAngelo's charge that reverse discrimination does not exist. Let's revisit that critique of the concept of reverse discrimination. In what ways might that perspective apply in this case?

2. Park presents student enrollment data from several "highly regarded" universities, all of which show African American student enrollments are in the very low single digit percentages (pp 73-74).

  • Let's compare those numbers with enrollment data from the ISU Factbook. What are your reactions?
  • Park uses the terms "Facts or Fear-Mongering" in her title for this section of the chapter (p 73). Discuss how notions of privilege and entitlement (which we learned about in White Fragility) might connect to strategies of fear-mongering?
  • To whom are strategies of fear-mongering useful, and toward what end?

3. Asian Americans comprise a very diverse group. In what ways does Park avoid stereotyping Asian Americans in this chapter? What strategies does she employ? What can we learn from her example?

4. Chapter 4 illustrates a number of ways that anti-affirmative action arguments have pitted various communities of color against each other. For example, see p. 72 and the "Rejected by Harvard" poster alleging a rejected Asian American student was of the "wrong race" to be admitted, and p. 95 with the complaint against Harvard report and its comparisons of SAT score differentials among students of color but no inclusion of differentials with white students.

  • What impact do you imagine these strategies have on communities of color? 
  • What impact do you imagine these strategies have on white people?
  • What steps can we take going forward that counter these approaches?