I’m an Asian American mom. While the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision seems to benefit my 10th grader, it’s devastating for her future classrooms and workplaces
I am Asian American. I’m the mom of a rising 10th grader who is anxious about her college prospects and taking summer geometry to get a leg up on her classes next year. The Supreme Court’s racist ruling on affirmative action will directly benefit my family by increasing spots for white and Asian kids to attend colleges at the expense of black and brown kids. This is not leveling the playing field. It’s reducing the diversity of future classrooms and workplaces. It’s not worth the cost.
Last week’s ruling places us in an unrealistic world where we pretend that systemic racism doesn’t exist. Six members of the Supreme Court have said “We don’t see color” and that #AllLivesMatter equally. They are willfully claiming that the college admissions process — and the world around us — is color-blind. They believe an applicant’s race could be a part of their personal history, but that our country’s history of racism is no longer something that important American institutions will address. Even at their age, my daughters know that this point of view is false and disregards the communal history and individual lived experiences of people of color. Both my 10th grader and her 7th grade sister see the hypocrisy of striking down affirmative action practices at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina while providing an exemption for military academies. How is it okay to have more Black and brown people fighting wars for us but not earning their place in the elite workforce?
As an older generation, many of us weren’t raised to openly talk about racism. I was brought up by a Thai-Chinese “tiger mom” who pushed me to achieve at all costs. This single-minded ambition led me to be high school Valedictorian, move halfway around the world at sixteen to attend Stanford University, and climb the career ladder in Silicon Valley. I aspired to be like my peers around me. In youthful hubris, I believed that I achieved success through my own merit, perseverance, and hustle. For most of my career, I ignored the racism and sexism that I experienced. I now know that we can’t ignore it and pretend to be color-blind because that’s not the reality of the world we live in.
In the tech industry as in higher education, Asians are part of the majority and I benefited from this inclusion. Only later in life did I realize how my race and the positive “model minority” associations of being Asian (hard-working, agreeable, with great technical skills at math) had afforded me privilege and benefits not shown to my other colleagues of color. Yet we are still “others.” Like most Asians, I’ve experienced casual racism on the streets with an uptick in incidents after the start of the pandemic, and I continue to hope that my continual vigilance will prevent more serious violence. Like all women working in technology, I’ve experienced sexism throughout the two decades of my career. From my first-hand experience running large teams at Meta and serving as an executive coach to startup founders and tech leaders, almost every single woman or person of color has experienced unconscious bias and systemic racism. Many shrug it off in an attempt to fit in and achieve workplace success. Not acknowledging our diversity of thought, based on our diversity of lived experiences, kills psychological safety and true innovation at work. The six members of the Supreme Court have reinforced this collective delusion that we don’t see color.
I fiercely love my daughters. As a mom, I want them to succeed in life. But never on the backs of others. Of course I want my 10th grader to get into a “good school.” It’ll benefit her to have the educational pedigree and build her network of peers that will help her succeed in life. But that desire must be balanced against what’s right for the greater good of all kids.
This next generation is wiser. Both my girls are educated within the San Francisco public school system. I’m proud that our teens have a clear understanding of racism and the vocabulary to talk about it. My daughters can see the differences in the (higher) expectations their teachers have for them versus what’s expected of their black and brown friends. My daughters are already privileged with the social-economic benefits of educated, professional parents and the racial benefits of being half-white and half-Asian.
What’s different from when I was my daughters’ age is that we have more language and the willingness to have the conversation. They see adult leaders such as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stand up for the rights of minorities and fight systemic racism. They can see the inequity of a ruling which personally benefits them but hurts the entire system. They can see that we are all part of America, with all its complex racial history, and can play our parts in making it better. That gives me hope for our future.
Hello! I’m your host, Tutti Taygerly. I’ve spent 20+ years in product design & technology, leading teams at startups, design agencies, and large tech companies. I left Facebook in the summer of 2019 to focus on executive coaching full-time. I write weekly about topics related to leadership, diversity, & coaching which you can follow. Feeling overwhelmed by busyness? Check out my book Make Space to Lead.