Hasan Minhaj Breaks Down Threat to Affirmative Action in 'Patriot Act' Premiere

"Now Asians — and I am lumping all of us together right now — I find it hilarious that this is the hill we're willing to die on," says the comedian of a lawsuit against Harvard over its admissions policy.
Courtesy of Netflix
'Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj'

Hasan Minhaj broke down the threat to affirmative action and questioned fellow Asian-Americans' part in suing Harvard University over its admissions policy in the debut of his topical new Netflix show, Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj, which focuses on culture, politics and the news.

In the premiere episode, which debuted Sunday, the comedian brought up a lawsuit by a group of Asian-Americans suing Harvard, accusing the university of unfairly giving preference to other minorities in their admissions process.

"Now Asians — and I am lumping all of us together right now — I find it hilarious that this is the hill we're willing to die on," says Minhaj, whose sparse set finds him standing in front of what he calls "iPads — it looks like Michael Bay directed a PowerPoint presentation," sans desk or guests.

Of the lawsuit, Minhaj says, "Our entire live we get shat on — oh, you guys have small dicks; you're bad drivers; you're the color of poop; you smell like curry and kimchi. Nothing. We say nothing. The moment we can't get into Harvard, we're like, 'I'll see you in court, motherfucker!'"

He goes on to note that Asians are 5.8 percent of the U.S. population but comprised 22.2 percent of Harvard's admitted class last year.

"We are straight dunking on every other minority group, but in classic Asian-parent fashion we're like, 'Twenty-two percent? Why not 100 percent?'" Minhaj quips.

The comic then takes the Asian American Coalition for Education and its president, Yukong Zhao, to task for their support of the lawsuit against Harvard, calling him a "hard-core tiger dad who has been priming his kids for academic greatness. He is basically Chinese Joe Jackson," citing his previous bragging about "how smart his kids are" in the bio for the 2013 book he wrote, The Chinese Secrets for Success: Five Inspiring Confucian Values.

"Because you know that old Confucian saying, 'Even when completely unrelated, show off child's GPA," Minhaj quipped, noting that Zhao's son was rejected from three Ivy League schools, after which the AACE sent a letter to the Department of Education suggesting all three schools retaliated because of Zhao's anti-affirmative action efforts.

Pointing out a reader's review of Zhao's book that simply read, "It's OK," Minhaj said, "This Chinese father wrote a book, and then got Chinese father'd."

He then went on to address Dr. Ajay Kothari, an Indian-American who serves as the president of a chapter of the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin, who in 2016 lamented Akeelah and the Bee, the movie starring African-American actress Keke Palmer as a spelling bee competitor. "National spelling bees do occur, and Asian-Americans have been, like, the top … but when media or Hollywood made a movie, about the spelling bee, called Akeelah the Bee, it was not about Asian-Americans," Kothari said in his speech at the National Press Club. "It was about somebody else. Why?"

Minhaj joked about Kothari's mistake in leaving the word "and" out of the film title, but went on to say: "Make no mistake. I am not ripping on an Indian uncle's accent. I am ripping on uncles in our own community who lack self-awareness and propagate anti-black and anti-brown rhetoric just so Asians can get ahead," Minhaj said.

Other targets included Students for Fair Admissions and its president, Edward Blum, and Harvard itself.

Noting that the Harvard lawsuit may likely make it to the Supreme Court, and with recent appointee Brett Kavanaugh giving conservatives a majority, "the chances of affirmative action getting struck down are very high. Ed Blum is within striking distance of his goal because we got played," said Minhaj.

He concluded the show by saying: "For those in the Asian community who keep insisting, 'We just want equality; we're American citizens; treat us like Americans,' fine. But if you are willing to act like racism isn't a thing, team up with lawyers and then take it to the courts when you don't get your way, you're right. You truly are an American. You just happen to be the worst kind."

Patriot Act finds Minhaj talking one topic each week. The show was given a 32-episode order, making Minhaj the first Indian-American host of a weekly comedy show. He also serves as an executive producer.

In the second episode, Minhaj takes on Saudi Arabia. Watch both episodes, below.