According to the New York Times, Susan Rice, director of President Joe Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, “is charged with ensuring that the new administration embeds issues of racial equity into everything it does.” Having “everything” as your remit makes for an unwieldy policy portfolio, particularly when the task at hand is to impose “equity” on the whole of American society. That would at least be a laudable goal if the White House’s true objective were the pursuit of righteousness and fairness. Sadly, it is not.
“Equity” is not “equality.” In its progressive interpretation, “equity” isn’t equal access to opportunity and protection before the law. “Equity” in practice becomes the redistribution of social and economic goods in accordance with subjective assessments of immutable privileges and disadvantages associated with whole demographics. The nascent Biden administration’s approach to Asian-American affairs illustrates the folly in this line of thinking.
Ahead of Biden’s address on equity on Tuesday, Rice outlined the administration’s goals, taking special care to highlight the plight of Asian Americans. Flanked by a graphic dedicating the Biden White House to “combat xenophobia against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Rice noted that the incidents of bigotry targeting this community is unacceptably high and growing. And the problem, in the view of the Biden administration, is attributable to Donald Trump.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that Biden will “take action” to “disavow” President Trump’s efforts to brand COVID-19 “the China virus.” One senior official said that phrase had contributed to a rise in hate crimes against Americans of Asian descent. That is bigotry, and it’s abhorrent. But it is prejudice on the individual level. It is not institutional racism of the sort that Joe Biden alleges is “systemic” in the United States. Biden’s elision is understandable. To be honest about the problem his White House is addressing would be to expose the hollowness of their commitment to racial rapprochement. After all, this administration’s allies have been practicing a genuinely systemic sort of discrimination for some time, and all in the name of “equity.”
As Abe Greenwald explored in detail, in liberal-led cities and institutions across the country, Asian Americans are being singled out for exclusion by progressive reformers because of their success.
In 2020, Californians were asked to repeal anti-discrimination language embedded in the state’s constitution. The objective was to replace that language with verbiage that would allow for discriminatory practices, such as providing public contracts to well-connected minority- or women-owned businesses regardless of their bids’ competitiveness or allowing for race-conscious admissions policies in state schools.
Opponents of the measure were likened to white supremacists even though much of the organizational muscle brought to bear against this proposition was Asian American. You see, the problem isn’t just that Hispanic and black students are underrepresented in these institutions. The issue is that Asian Americans are “significantly overrepresented” in California’s student body. As far as progressives could see, the only remedy for that kind of disparity is an enlightened form of discrimination.
Fortunately, California’s voters rejected that effort. But where voters don’t get a say, Asian Americans haven’t been so lucky.
To highlight educational disparities, a Washington State school district produced a chart last year that defined the “achievement gap” in education as a condition that benefits “white/Asian students” but not “students of color.” This is a revealing admission. If your worldview posits that success is available only to whites in America, anyone who makes something of him or herself must be white—or “white adjacent,” in the parlance of race obsessives.
In New York City, the specialized high-school system is under withering assault from progressive reformers because Asian Americans are similarly “overrepresented”—a function of this demographic’s consistent overperformance on standardized admissions tests. So, what has Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration sought to do? Eliminate the test. The intended consequences of this policy were not even thinly disguised. “Offers to Asian-American students would fall by about half, according to a recent report,” if the test was done away with, the New York Times reported.
Once again, opponents of this measure were accused of seeking to preserve class-based or racial privilege. But the most vocal opponents of this effort have been “Asian parents who support” a “merit-based system for high school admissions.” After all, as a demographic that is neither white nor wealthy (the mayor’s office’s own statistics demonstrate that New York City’s Asian-American population also struggles with the highest poverty rates), it’s not privilege they are losing but access to upward social mobility.
Harvard University, which has been embroiled in a legal fight against organizations that have alleged systemic discrimination against Asian-American applicants since 2014, has become the focus of the fight against this sort of sophisticated discrimination. The case against the school has been winding its way up through the courts, with the expectation that the Supreme Court would eventually take it up. In their effort to impose true “equity” on Harvard, these students had a powerful ally in the Trump White House.
In 2018, the Trump administration’s Justice Department filed a brief on behalf of the students suing the school, claiming that “Harvard has failed to carry its demanding burden to show that its use of race does not inflict unlawful racial discrimination on Asian Americans.” Trump’s DOJ reaffirmed its support for the suit against Harvard in 2020. “Unconstitutionally partitioning Americans into racial and ethnic blocs harms all involved by fostering stereotypes, bitterness, and division among the American people,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. Last year, the DOJ filed a suit against Yale University alleging similar “discrimination on the ground of race.” That’s likely over with now.
Both universities expect that their ideological allies in the Biden White House will not follow up on the Trump administration’s efforts. “If the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, I would expect the Biden administration to file an amicus brief in favor of Harvard—so complete switch in position,” University of New Mexico law professor Vinay Harpalani told the Harvard Crimson. “I expect Obama-era guidance on race-conscious admissions policies to be re-issued.” That guidance allowed universities to sacrifice “race-neutral approaches” if they became an obstacle to achieving “the diversity the institution seeks.” Critics of that mission statement alleged that the Obama administration provided cover to schools that wanted to “engage in racial and ethnic discrimination.” The Trump administration agreed with that proposition. The Biden administration, it would seem, does not.
This is not the kind of prejudice progressives recognize as such—a caricatured, mustache-twirling, troglodytic racism that makes no effort to disguise itself. But it is discrimination nonetheless. Advocates of this worldview would abandon fairness and impartiality—qualities that constitute the dictionary definition of “equity.” What Susan Rice and others really seek isn’t equitable access to social goods. They want to redistribute those goods. In practice, that looks less like “equity” and more like “retribution,” but calling this what it is probably wouldn’t poll very well.