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  • Writer's pictureDavid J Wudyka

It's Time To Protect Asian Americans

Updated: May 21, 2021

The recent up-tick in violence against Asian Americans deserves closer attention. In my recent blogs (“Why Harvard Has a Problem,” “Here We Go Again at Yale”; the core issue has been the same: discrimination against Asian Americans in the college admissions process.

Why is this significant? There are two reasons. The first is the aggressive nature of the complaints: somebody thinks that something must really be wrong. And the second reason is the lack of protection under U.S. anti-discrimination laws.

In the blogs I mentioned, one thing is apparent: proving discrimination today is difficult. In both of the cases I described, it appeared that neither Harvard nor Yale was guilty of blatant discrimination. The admissions numbers just didn’t’ support the accusations. Yet, in the Harvard case, the presiding judge urged Harvard to take a second look at its admissions practices.

But what about the lack of protection for Asian Americans?

“What do you mean, Dave? What about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?”

I was lying in wait for this one. Let’s pounce!

You see, a savvy reader of this Act would probably argue that it protects people from discrimination based upon their national origin. I get it. In a weak moment I might even agree that it should protect Asian Americans.

Here’s the difference….

It doesn’t specifically protect Asian Americans.


But it does protect specific groups of people from discrimination who were not originally covered in the language of the Act. Here is the original language, followed by a list of new protections:

It shall be unlawful for a labor organization:

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Please pardon the male pronouns. They were acceptable at the time. But our thinking has changed.

“It seems like something’s missing, Dave.” It sure does. Here’s what you are probably looking for:

  • Ethnicity

  • Sexual preference

  • Disability status

  • Vietnam War Veterans

  • L, G, B, T, and Q Community

  • Gender and Racial identification

  • Retaliation victims (41% of EEOC cases in 2013)

Then how did members of these groups become protected, if they are absent from the original language of the Act?

The answer is through the effects of case law decisions. They are added protections. That is why some people believe that Title VII could be the only anti-discrimination law that we need.

However, the protection afforded to Asian Americans is simply too subtle in this Act. Asian Americans need the protection provided to people who are being discriminated against based upon their ethnicity. When an Asian American lay on a sidewalk from an unprovoked attack, the attacker doesn’t inquire about the intended victim’s status as an Asian American citizen, as an Asian National or as an Asian immigrant living in the U.S. Physical characteristics identify them as a target. That’s the only trait that the attacker cares about.

Which is why we need stronger laws to protect Asian Americans. Their protection under Title VII is simply not specific enough.

1964 is a long time ago. Much has happened since then to afford protection to people who are not originally in protected classes under this Act. The time has come to change this for the clear and intended benefit of Asian Americans.

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