Despite the prevailing narrative that Asian Americans are overwhelmingly against affirmative action and SCA5, a bill that would if passed repeal elements of Proposition 209 for public education, this narrative is far from true. It turns out that there is a large, but underreported, population of AAPIs who stand in support of affirmative action and SCA5. In the National Asian American Survey (NAAS), 70% of Asian Americans and 65% of Pacific Islander Americans supportive affirmative action programs. So where are we in the mainstream coverage of SCA5? Are our voices being drowned out by the vehement, and occasionally misinformed, anti-SCA5 rhetoric?
This post is an ongoing list of Asian American/Pacific Islander groups that have issued statements in support of affirmative action and SCA5, as well as an ongoing list of blog posts and op-eds that support this measure. Since the pro-SCA5 efforts have just started mobilizing, this post will continue to be updated with more information.
If your group has come out in favour of affirmative action in general, and/or SCA5 in particular, please leave a comment or tweet me (@Reappropriate) to add your group to this list.
Non-Profit Organizations and Advocacy Groups
We at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus support the full repeal of Prop 209. Affirmative action, diversity and anti-discrimination programs in higher education and other sectors of public life have been critical to securing equal opportunities for racial minorities and women, and have been crucial to building a more just and equitable society. Prop 209’s ban on such constitutionally permissible programs has been a huge step backwards for all Californians.
Contrary to the harmful “model minority” myth, many AAPI ethnic groups face considerable educational disadvantages and have lower rates of college access. A substantial body of social science shows that AAPI students benefit from exposure to diversity in the classroom.
UC Asian American & Pacific Islander Policy Multicampus Research Program (AAPI Policy MRP)
National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE)
Equal and fair access to quality public higher education of Asian Americans has been a priority for CAA since its inception. In the 1970s, we fought for and won the rights of thousands of Chinese-speaking students in public schools in Lau v. Nichols in 1974. In the 1980s and as recent as 2008, CAA has fought against University of California (UC) policies that were and are discriminatory or biased against Asian Americans. CAA has also defeated efforts by California State University (CSU) to deny access to predominantly immigrant students who have needed English assistance. And we have prevailed over the special interests who sought to stop the Chinatown campus of City College of San Francisco that now serves 8,000 immigrant and working class students.
Without affirmative action, we could not have made these and other gains locally and across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court has been called upon to reaffirm the legitimacy of using race and gender among other criteria in education, employment, and contracting. We also need to remain vigilant in assessing how government institutions and private businesses implement affirmative action.
It is our strong opinion that affirmative action must remain a tool for advancing fairness and equality for Asian Americans and others in the foreseeable future, and ought to be embraced in solidarity with all communities that face systemic discrimination.
For the nearly 1 million Southeast Asian Americans living in California, Prop 209 has maintained or worsened access to higher education. In California, only 15.5% of Cambodians, 14.5% of Hmong, and 9.6% of Laotians have a college degree or higher, compared to 48% of Asian American communities in aggregate and 31.3% of White communities. SEARAC recognizes the importance of affirmative action, highlighting that it accounts not only for race, but for challenges that so many Southeast Asians face, such as poverty, being the first in the family to attend college, having immigrant parents, and attending low-performing schools that do not prepare students for standardized testing.
SCA 5 is a necessary and important step in recognizing California’s diversity. Its passage will help California’s world-renowned public universities attract and enroll a student body that meets high academic standards and reflects the cultural, racial, geographic, economic, and social diversity of California.
Filipino Advocates for Justice (Union City and Oakland) – as reported in The Nation
Organization of Chinese Americans-LA (OCA-LA) – statement quoted here
OCA-Greater Los Angeles has consistently supported affirmative action in education, a holistic approach in higher education admissions and strongly opposed caps and quotas. There was a time in our nation’s history when Asian Pacific Americans were denied citizenship, educational opportunities and other civil liberties, and it was affirmative action that largely opened the doors of opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans. We are supportive of expanding education opportunities for all Californians but feel that we must not lose sight on the considerable need to expand educational resources in the state, especially to the underserved population, including those among the ethnically diverse Asian Pacific American community such as the Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian and Pacific Islanders. We strongly encourage the Asian Pacific American community to take the time to learn more about this issue and to work with other communities of color to better understand the implications of SCA5.
It is imperative to continually clarify that Southeast Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders – whom all fit under Asian American racial categorization – are groups that experience some of the lowest college attendance rates. In a report compiled by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, 40.3% of Southeast Asian and 50.2% of Pacific Islander students between the ages of 25-34 have not attended college. Some of the misconceptions of affirmative action are maintained by this lack of disaggregated data, which consequently masks these disparities.
Furthermore, the low representation of African American and Latina/o students at our higher education institutions is especially disturbing. As concluded by a 2012 study made by the Higher Education Research Institution at UCLA, under-representation of any community creates a detrimental effect on campus climate, which has salience in daily activities. At UCLA, we have experienced the consequences from a lack of diversity through the continuance of racialized hate crimes on campus.
In promoting unity and cooperative interaction amongst different communities, we stress the importance for members of the API community to work in solidarity with other communities of color. While affirmative action has been framed centrally as an African American and Latina/o issue, APIs are stakeholders in this issue as well. Nonetheless, we must utilize our voices and act beyond self-interest – in which case, to understand the oppressive histories that others have experienced.
- Henry Der, former Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction and former Chair of the California Postsecondary Education Commission – reported here
- Judy Ki, Commissioner, California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs – reported here
Blog Posts & Op-Eds
- LA Times (Op-ed): Affirmative action at California colleges: a debate based on fear
[M]ost Asian American civil rights and community service organizations maintain that affirmative action is an important way to ensure equity and diversity in higher education, including among disadvantaged Pacific Islanders and Asian groups such as Cambodians and Laotians.
- Angry Asian Man: Hate, Fear and Lies: How Anti-Affirmative Action Haters are Shovelling Bullshit about SCA5
SCA 5 would make a small difference to highly represented student populations like Chinese Americans, but it would make a big difference to improve college access for other highly qualified but underrepresented students such as Hmong, Cambodians, Laotian, Samoans, African Americans, and Latinos among others. Not only would underrepresented Asian American and Pacific Islander students directly benefit from SCA 5, all Asian American students benefit from more diverse campus learning environments.
- RaceFiles | CHANGELAB: In defense of affirmative action
The benefit of broad public investment on communities of color will be magnified by affirmative action, and should therefore not be won at it’s expense.
- RaceFiles | CHANGELAB: California Affirmative Action: Fact and Fiction
SCA5 is an attempt to rectify the negative effect that prop 209 had on minority enrollment in California’s public colleges and universities by allowing race to be considered as one of many factors in admissions decisions. Such admissions policies are in place in many states across the country, and do not involve the imposition of quotas which were determined to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Regents of University of California v. Bakke decision of 1978.
- MandarinMama: The Myth of Meritocracy
[U]ntil I see Asians rallying with equal fervency against the unfairness of impoverished schools, the many Latino and black kids in underperforming school districts, living in areas of violence, drugs, broken families, and hardship, which, unsurprisingly, leads to it being much more difficult to do well in school (especially if you may be the first kid in your family to go to college), I am going to vote Yes on SCA5.
- Reappropriate: Top 5 Anti-Affirmative Action Myths about SCA5
- Reappropriate: Why I support affirmative action: An Open Letter to Chinese America
- Reappropriate: The effect of Prop 209 on UC admissions & campus diversity
- Daily Californian: Reverse California’s Ban on Affirmative Action
Affirmative action is more than desirable — it is essential to efforts to combat social inequality. It is a positive and proscriptive, if only partial, solution to toxic social inequalities that would otherwise continue to ossify. It’s time that California put itself back on a path toward social equity.
- Emil Amok (via AALDEF blog): In California, SCA5 may be DOA due to Asian Americans against affirmative action (please note that AALDEF, the organization, has not yet released a statement on SCA5)
Ironically, many of the Asian Americans against SCA 5 are in the scientific community, where they see discrimination based on race or accent every day at their labs. For them, the remedy has been simple. They have always relied on working hard, scoring the highest in exams, and displaying their credentials to prove their worth and become successful.
It’s what they know, and it can make sense in some contexts. In a true meritocracy, maybe it should.
But even they know, it doesn’t always work in fighting the racism that people of color still face in America.
For true equity and fairness, SCA 5 and the repeal of Prop. 209 makes sense for all.
The debate over affirmative action raises unique considerations for Asian Americans. While research has shown that a substantial majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action, some vocal opponents of SCA5 have claimed the bill would have dramatic negative consequences for Asian Americans applicants. These claims are unfounded. Speaking both as a law professor who has taught in the UC school system and as a proud Asian American, I believe that Asian Americans should support SCA5 in the California legislature and affirmative action in higher education nationwide. Here are ten reasons:
- HapaMama: Dear Asian American Parents
While I don’t agree with the protests against SCA 5, I do appreciate the fact that so many Asian parents are getting involved politically, signing petitions and voicing their opinions to their elected officials. Your pressure on Asian American State Senators caused them to withdraw their support of the bill, effectively preventing SCA 5 from going to the ballot this November. Perhaps your taste of participatory democracy will help you see that Asian America doesn’t just need engineers and doctors, but also elected leaders, journalists, and organizers. Take some time to learn about the history of Asian America and the leaders who have paved the way for us. Do your research, especially when it comes to matters of law and government. And most importantly, accept your children’s God-given talents and encourage them to flourish in their areas of interest.
- Jason Fong (14yo) guest-post at 18MillionRising: Why I support affirmative action: one Asian American perspective
While the student body need not be an exact mirror of the state’s population, as a state, we need to do a better job of educating students from underrepresented communities while ensuring that all communities feel heard and respected. Even within the Asian Pacific Islander American community, we need to be doing a better job of providing representation for Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians in higher education. At UC Berkeley, the rate of admission of Pacific Islanders is even lower than the rate for underrepresented ethnicities as a whole.7
…Some might say that I am arguing against my own self-interest. But I–an Asian American of Chinese and Korean descent and a son of the great state of California–am actually a beneficiary of the type of community that can be built by measures like SCA5. I am one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, thanks to the California assembly, students at our public universities can’t say the same.
- San Jose Mercury News (Op-ed): Opposition to affirmative action: California Asian Americans have forgotten civil rights history
But this “hardworking immigrants” narrative is only a small part of the story. The opportunities my parents and I had were only possible because of the long fight for civil rights and political recognition led by black Americans. The university doors that I so easily walked through in 1995 were opened by civil rights activists who demanded access for all Americans, not just their own group. Yet many of the anti-affirmative action activists in the Asian-American community seem to have forgotten this important history.
There is a more important reason that Asian-Americans should support affirmative action: basic justice. In surveys, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans report the same levels of expectation for graduating from college. Blacks and Latinos also invest as much in and value education at the same levels as Asian-Americans, once one controls for differential resources, such as income.
acial diversity is necessary in higher education to create a healthy educational environment for ALL students. Affirmative Action IS NOT a quota system, and it will NOT let in more “underqualified” students. That’s crap. No school will admit any student that is not qualified for that specific school.
Affirmative Action will bring opportunity to the many that are just as qualified to have a rightful place in the UC system. Under-representation is the cold truth of the UC system right now, for blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and yes, even for South Asians and Southeast Asians.
To all the AAPI against SCA5: The nature of the discourse is disappointing. SCA5 will NOT limit the success of Asian Americans in higher education, and it will NOT set a “quota” on AAPI admissions. Equal opportunity for all races in higher education is just and fair.
- Alton Wang: Divided We Fall
The white dominated reality of 21st century America requires people of color, including Asian Americans, to stand up for each other. I have been heartened by the many conversations and activists across the country that I’ve met over Twitter on these divisive issues, and the strength they show to stand in solidarity with one another.
Now, this solidarity needs to expand. Asian America can no longer afford to be quiet, and as recent developments have shown, we do have the force to invoke change when we stand up. We just need to stand up for the right reasons now to be on the right side of history.
Is this post missing anything? Please leave a comment with more links, and I will update this post!