Kenny Xu joins the podcast to talk about why a colorblind society is the society we should strive for. We examine the cons of affirmative action, the reasons for merit-based education, and why the attacks against Asian Americans must be confronted. Finally, we discuss his new book An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy.
Kenny Xu is the president of the nonprofit organization Color Us United; the lead insider on Ivy League discrimination cases; and a commentary writer for The Federalist, Washington Examiner, and other publications. Xu has spoken on the consequences of the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case and its identity politics ideology in front of groups as diverse as the nationally-renowned Pacific Legal Foundation to the Boston Rally for Education Rights to the all-Black Connecticut Parents Union. Xu is a second-generation Chinese-American and lives in Northern Virginia.
Welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think for yourself. I’m your host, Beverly Hallberg. And on today’s episode, Kenny Xu joins us to talk about why a colorblind society is what we should strive for.
We’ll examine the pros and cons of affirmative action, the reasons for merit-based education, and why the attacks against Asian Americans must be confronted.
Finally, we’ll discuss his new book An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and the Fight for Meritocracy.
Before we bring Kenny on, a little bit more about him. Kenny Xu is the president of a new nonprofit organization called Color Us United. He’s also the lead insider on Ivy League discrimination cases and a commentary writer for The Federalist, The Washington Examiner, among others.
Kenny has spoken on the consequences of The Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard case and its identity politics ideology in front of groups, as diverse as nationally-renowned Pacific Legal Foundation to the Boston Rally for Education Rights, to the all-black Connecticut Parents Union.
He is a second-generation Chinese American and lives in Northern Virginia. Kenny, a pleasure to have you on the program.
Thank you for having me, Beverly. Thank you.
And I would first like to just delve into your organization called Color Us United. This is an organization that was recently formed. Tell us what its mission is.
Well, our mission is to advocate for a race-blind society. So, a race-blind America. This is the ideal of what America should be. If you think about it, we had Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, our primary founding fathers who said slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, race, is contrary to the purpose of what America is about. And I believe that wholeheartedly.
And yet, now today, we have a movement to re-instantiate race into the minds of our children, into the minds of our corporations, into our employees. And it’s now used to subjugate people.
And now, race is being used to treat people in admissions and to prefer people in corporate hiring. Equity is being used and everything is being made about race. I think this comes against what the principle of America is all about.
The American dream is about, we don’t treat you based on where you come from. We treat you on based, what you can contribute. So, me being very passionate about saving this ideal, I stepped into this role after writing my book, An Inconvenient Minority. And Color Us United, we’re going to be taking on some of the biggest issues and institutions of the day.
What do you say to those who claim that focusing on somebody’s race is important because if we don’t focus on race, it actually allows people to ignore persistent discrimination against minorities. What do you say to that claim?
Well, I would ask somebody this question. “When you meet somebody, do you want somebody to make assumptions about you, based on what you look like?” Like, if I came up to you… Or if I came up to you and you asked me, because I’m Asian-American and you asked me, “Oh, you must feel so oppressed right now because you’re Asian or Asian American.” Or “I’m so sorry that our former President said about the Coronavirus because it must’ve affected you particularly deeply.” Would you feel good about that? I don’t think you would.
And by the way, most of the people who I talked to with every race, would not. They don’t want people to treat them on the basis of their race. They don’t want people to assume things on the basis of their race.
So, when you bring race into this situation, or anything, when you fixate on it, you’re basically assuming a stereotype about a person that does not represent who that person actually is.
So, I think that race is not an appropriate way to treat somebody. I think you should treat somebody as you should treat yourself or any other person that you know.
And what have you heard from minority groups about this push for critical race theory, especially in schools? Do you find that many minorities are speaking out against this type of curriculum as well?
Well, you can go to colorusunited.org to hear some of our best voices talk about this issue and we’re actually tackling some very important institutions right now.
We’re tackling the Salvation Army. Their leaders are now saying that you should repent for your racism, even if you’re not a racist.
I think one of the most terrible things that minorities experience is not that they’re being mistreated because of their race, but that they’re starting to be fed a narrative, where simple mistreatments that could be attributed to everyday personalities, are instead based on race.
And it actually causes a fixation among minorities where people will attribute simple incidents, like somebody glaring at them or somebody being unfriendly to them at the store and they would attribute it and they would give it a racial component, where it really was not about race at all.
Really, it was about the other person was probably just in a bad mood or didn’t like them, or had some other problems. And so, I think that that’s something that the racial discourse continues to inflame and it actually decreases trust between people of different races in this country.
Now, of course, those who claim that there is systemic racism in this country, they point to a lot of data points, one most notably is they talk about those who are incarcerated and the percentage of black Americans versus white Americans with a higher percentage of black Americans.
What do you say to those statistics? Is there more to explain it then? Are you saying that racism doesn’t exist? How do you explain all of that?
So, I think racism does exist, but racism exists between every race against every other race. Okay. We cannot just say that, “Oh, it’s just the white people who are being racist against black people.” Or. “It’s just the Asian people being racist against black people.”
There’s racism from black people against Asian people, as well. There’s racism from black people against white people, as well. There’s racism from Latino people against Asian people and vice versa. Every group, unfortunately, experiences racism against every other group.
And with regards to what you were talking about, with regards to the higher incarceration rates, yes, we have higher incarceration rates for black Americans in this country. But it’s more complex than just, we have a racist justice system.
Black Americans unfortunately, commit more violent crimes than the average American does in this country today. And so, even if we had an entirely non-racist justice system, black Americans would still be incarcerated at a higher rate than white Americans.
And then, there’s a lot of other factors that go in there as well, that I don’t need to get into right at this moment, but the issue is a lot more complex than we have a racist justice system.
I think your new book is very interesting. Again, it is called An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian American Excellence and The Fight for Meritocracy. Get into the background of this book a little bit more. You’re focusing a lot on affirmative action. You’re talking about merit-based education. How have Asian Americans been discriminated against when it comes to affirmative action?
Yeah. So, this is a case of actual racial discrimination that is happening in our Ivy Leagues today. I take accusations of racial discrimination very seriously. That’s why I’m not inclined to buy into the whole that everything is racist narrative.
Because by doing that, you actually water down the definition of racism, where racism does exist. And racism does exist in Ivy League Universities today. Harvard, in particular, is very guilty of this.
They rate Asians lowest on personalities out of all of the races. And they admit black Americans who are 440 points lower on the SAT at a higher rate than Asian Americans.
And they admit white Americans at a higher rate than Asian Americans, as well. And this is a persistent phenomenon. It’s confirmed by data. It’s confirmed by the 90,000 pages of admission.
And so, people are like, “Well, don’t Asians actually have lower personalities?” But the evidence from the alumni interviews and all of the objective evidence suggests, “No. The Asians do just as well as the whites in all of these kinds of things.”
So, this can only really be explained via an inherent disparate treatment of races in the Harvard University admissions process. And this is something that I set out to cover, because I am so passionate about this issue.
And I’m so grateful the book is coming out July 13th. And I think it’s going to make a lot of waves in this racial discourse.
I think so, and give us a little insight into it. What is Harvard claiming is their standing for handling admissions the way that they do? What is their counter to your claims against them?
Their counter is that they want to admit a more diverse student body, but they of course, only define diversity in a very narrow way. They use it to mean, “We want to admit people of different skin colors, so, we have a nice rainbow of people.”
Well, unfortunately, the rainbow of people that you get comes at the cost of one very important ideal. That ideal is meritocracy, which most Americans, by the way, believe in. They believe that you should get in somewhere based on your hard work and your merit, not based on your background or other things, like the color of your skin.
And Harvard is just disobeying that just flatly. They’re disobeying this fundamental American ideal because they want more people in their brochure, that they send out to donors, to look nice and multicolored.
And in one sense you kind of get that, because Harvard is a very self-serving institution. They care very much about their eliteness and their prestige, but on the other hand, it’s wrong.
I mean it’s flatly wrong to try to change stories of people and grade people higher or lower, just because of their skin color. I don’t think anybody would want their high school teacher to grade them higher or lower because of their race. And I think it’s the same thing for this admissions process.
Yeah. And within this, this also gets to just the question of affirmative action. We know a lot of universities have instituted affirmative action, over the years. How long has affirmative action been around? And what would you say has been the direct result of years of this practice?
This is something I cover in my book because the story is so interesting about how affirmative action came about. Affirmative action was created because people saw so few black Americans elevated, in the sense that they wanted to.
And so, they started to want to create a program to be able to uplift them. But that program that was originally created to uplift them… You think you want to create more opportunities. You want to create job training for African-Americans. You want to help them to learn life skills, help them integrate into society… That eventually morphed into “We just want to lower the bar, so that more African-Americans with lower skills can get into the same job that a white American would have otherwise gotten with higher skills.”
And that happened around the 1970s and then came about in this massive Supreme Court case called Regents of California versus Bakke. Is this massive Supreme Court case where somebody, a white student actually, got the gall to challenge the University of California on this.
And they said, “Well, that’s not fair. You shouldn’t use racial quotas because I had to work harder, much harder, and I had to be smarter and I just had to objectively be better. And I would still get rejected over a black student with lower credentials.”
But then that’s where they came up with this diversity rationale. They said, “Okay, well, a diverse student body is able to provide benefits to a school.” Now, that has never been proven. It actually has never been proven, particularly, it’s never been proven in the case of when you admit a more diverse applicant, but that applicant also has lower skills, so that actually helps the student body.
And so, the Supreme Court is basically now allowing for the use of race in admissions and other things, like hiring and those kinds of things, just because of this diversity rationale that actually has no proof in the real world.
And so, do you think that the term equity, which has replaced the term equality… We talked about equality for so long in this country… Now it’s about equity. Is that equity term, seeping into the way even the Supreme Court may rule on a case on affirmative action that there is this way of thinking about race, as far as making it equal for every person based on race. Are you concerned about that equity narrative?
Okay. So, equity is not about treating people the same, regardless of their race. Equity is actually about treating people differently with regards to their race, in order to get the races to be a certain proportion of the outcome.
So, think about equity like this. And I’ll give you an example that people would sympathize with. Say, you want 50% boys and 50% girls at a college. But as we know right now, girls actually academically do better than boys right now.
So, if you just admit based on merit, you would probably have a student body that’s closer to 60% girls and 40% boys, but then somebody’s like, “Well, we want gender equity. So, we need to actually preferentially admit boys so that they become 50% of the population.” You’re actually treating people differently so that you can get the intended result.
Now, people are using the same rationales for race. Now, people are saying, “Well, we want 13% Black Americans to be Fortune 500 CEOs.” Or “We want 13% Black Americans to be board members of these companies.”
And the problem is that you’re taking out some of the best-qualified people and replacing them with less qualified people, just because you want to increase skin color diversity at these institutions. And I think that that’s something that most Americans would be opposed to.
Now, the Supreme Court is going to look at what’s been taking place at Harvard. The case is called Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard. Tell us where this case is. When do we expect a decision? And do you have any thoughts on what you think the outcome could be?
So, can you predict for us how transformative a decision could be and what you think that decision is?
Well, this is a huge case. This is a case that has potential ramifications for the way we look at race in the country, which is huge because race is becoming such a hot topic now.
The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge from a group of Asian-American applicants called Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard. They’re suing Harvard. They’re saying, “Hey, why are you discriminating against us? I know you want to use the word diversity, but you shouldn’t allow diversity to be the rationale for why you discriminate.”
“In this country, you’re not allowed to discriminate against people for barely any reason. Why are you allowed to discriminate against them when you’re doing it against Asians?”
And the Supreme Court is taking up this challenge, potentially. And right now, it’s in the process where the Supreme Court is soliciting the Biden administration’s justice department to weigh in.
Now, this is interesting because the Trump administration did weigh in on this case. They weighed in favor of the Asian-American plaintiff, but the Biden administration, ironically, is most likely going to weigh in on behalf of Harvard University.
They’re actually going to favor the institution that is discriminating against Asians because they want to preserve this idea of race-based equity in admissions.
Talk to me about the legal ramifications of that. Some might say, “Well, Harvard is a private university. They can handle admissions the way they want.” But, what do you say, as far as our rights in this country and the discrimination laws that prevents Harvard from being able to make those decisions?
If Harvard was a truly private university, then they can do whatever they want. But the thing is, Harvard is not a truly private university. It takes a lot of government money a year. It takes over $500 million of government money a year. And its budget is in the low billions.
So, you’re talking about a significant portion of Harvard’s funding coming from the government. They should be held to the same laws that every other institution that takes money from the government should be held to.
Final question I have for you. I saw a lot of great statistics that you had on the website, the homepage for Color Us United, your nonprofit organization. I thought maybe you could just share some of those stats with us when it comes to how minorities view the issue of race and this idea of a colorblind society. Do you find that most minorities are in favor of being treated and seen not for their race, but who they are as a person?
I think that… I mean, this comes from the beginning of our conversation, Beverly, where we were talking about, if I approached you in a conversation, would you want me to assume things about you based on your race? The answer is no. And for minorities particularly, it’s no. Most of the minorities, I talk about understand this very deeply.
In fact, 71% of Americans right now, of parents, find a primary identity in being a spouse or a parent, and only about 29% of Americans actually find a significant portion of their identity in their race.
Most people don’t care about their race in this country and how it affects people. Most people want to treat people the same way. But now, you have these institutions coming over and they’re saying, “It doesn’t matter. You’re inherently racist.”
Take a look at our Salvation Army petition on colorusunited.org, where the Salvation Army is now saying, “You have to repent for your racism, even though you’re not a racist.” Whether you’re a racist or not, I guess it’s between you and God. But one thing is for sure, you should not let an institution tell you what you are, particularly when it comes to such a grievous sin as racism.
So, we have this dissonance, I think, between what our leaders are promoting in our society, based on race, and what true Americans actually believe about themselves. And we want to fight for true Americans.
And for those who are concerned about what our leaders are doing, they can join you at colorusunited.org to check out more information. And also, again, your book, it was just released earlier this week, An Inconvenient Minority: The Attack on Asian-American Excellence and The Fight for Meritocracy. People should check that out. But for now, Kenny Xu, thank you so much for joining us on She Thinks.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
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