Critical Race Theory Has No Idea What To Do With Asian Americans | Opinion

One of today's most vexing federal lawsuits is Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which has brought anti-Asian discrimination to the forefront of our discourse. Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) contends that Harvard's "race-conscious" admissions process violates the Constitution by disadvantaging Asian American applicants based solely upon their race, while Harvard argues that campus diversity goals justify its race-conscious process.

Much of the reasoning behind Harvard's admissions process comes from critical race theory (CRT), a theory of race that actually originated at Harvard University. CRT teaches that America is divided into privileged and oppressed racial groups. All negative aspects of modern society flow from that overly simplistic dichotomy.

Under the CRT framework, "white supremacy" covers many different phenomena. Everything from blatant discrimination to the existence of English grammar to choosing not to riot are sometimes included under the term. And in the words of "anti-racist" activist and author Ibram X. Kendi, "The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination." In order to combat white supremacy—however broadly defined—critical race theorists view "anti-racist" discrimination as the only legitimate response.

However, with the emergence of several racial groups that have come to be just as successful as whites, critical race theorists have come up with the term, "white adjacency." Robin DiAngelo, author of the now-infamous book White Fragility, defines it this way: "The closer you are to whiteness—the term often used is white-adjacent—you're still going to experience racism, but there are going to be some benefits due to your perceived proximity to whiteness. The further away you are, the more intense the oppression's going to be." According to CRT advocates, Asian Americans are the most "white-adjacent" minority.

What does this mean, in practice? In my new book, An Inconvenient Minority, I tell the story of the many Asian Americans who are harmed by an ideology that penalizes their success. Progressives, I argue, "call out Asians for either trying to be like white people or benefiting from systems that prop up white dominance." Under the logic of CRT, it also means Asians are complicit in upholding white supremacy. To be "white-adjacent" is to benefit from the systems of oppression upon which America was allegedly founded.

Applying the words of Kendi, then, means that Asians are a privileged group against whom discrimination is justified in order to make room for the "truly" oppressed.

But is the concept of "white adjacency" actually valid? In reality, "white adjacency" is simply a rhetorical tool to discriminate against Asian Americans. It is an implicitly racist concept itself.

People talk before the start of a
People talk before the start of a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

The idea of "white adjacency" hinges on the overwhelming success of Asian Americans in this country. It emerges from the fact that Asian Americans have the highest per-capita income, lowest per-capita crime rates and highest rates of college education. In fact, Asian Americans score better on average than whites on all of these metrics.

The problem is that CRT implicitly defines every good societal outcome as "white." Based on the data, this necessarily puts Asian Americans in a "white adjacent" box that completely ignores their unique cultures and historical struggles. Furthermore, if being rich and successful are necessarily "white" characteristics, the implication is that other races are not, or cannot be, successful, talented or educated. Despite pretending to care about diversity and inclusion, CRT is actually racist in the way it implicitly categorizes groups of people.

Asians are harmed in multiple ways by the "white adjacency" myth. Asian Americans have struggled in this country, as well—let us not forget the Chinese Exclusion Act or World War II-era Japanese internment. Yet, the concept is frequently used to silence Asian Americans when they attempt to explain their own struggles. It also gives universities such as Harvard the required justification to discriminate against Asian American applicants. Asians are an inconvenient minority because their idiosyncratic high performance is a threat to prevailing woke narratives about diversity and the myth of a largely-white hegemony in the Ivy League. As the coastal elite continues to double down on CRT, Asian Americans will continue to be a thorn in their side.

Asian Americans are not "white-adjacent." They are unique individuals from many distinct cultures. Their individual successes are theirs alone, and belittling those successes as "white-adjacent" is racist in myriad ways. It has to stop.

Kenny Xu is the author of An Inconvenient Minority, which exposes racial discrimination against Asian Americans at elite universities like Harvard and Yale. He is the president of Color Us United, which advocates for a race-blind America.

The view expressed in this article are the writer's own.