Following Speaker Perez’s halting of SCA5 — a bill that would repeal Prop 209 for institutions of public education in California — from advancement yesterday, SCA5 author State Senator Ed Hernandez has withdrawn the bill, saying that he will examine possible amendments.
Although considering SCA5 did nothing but strike two words — “public education” — from the state constitution, I’m not entirely sure what those amendments might be.
More substantively, Hernandez has vowed to start a state-wide task force to address the issue of affirmative action in higher education, and to combat the profound untruths and misinformation that has characterized the debate over SCA5 in the last few weeks.
This turn of events is a positive one, and should provide California voters the tools they need to have the complex, nuanced, and fact-based conversation that the issue of affirmative action deserves. Further, it will permit a conversation that reflects all positions on the topic — particularly, the diverse positions that can be found even within the Asian American community alone.
As many Asian Americans have already asserted, affirmative action in higher education is beneficial to all students including Asian Americans, and Prop 209 has had a profoundly negative effect on underrepresented minorities with virtually no consequent benefit to Asian American admission rates; yet, these facts have been largely unaddressed within the Asian American electorate.
Even Senator Leland Yee (D), one of the three Asian American state senators to first vote for SCA5 and then sign an open letter withdrawing his support, has acknowledged the need to inform the Asian American voter on the damaging effects of Prop 209. As reported in the Pasadena Star News (emphasis mine):
In the end, I am heartened by the call for more education for California voters on this topic. I was drawn into this issue not only because I have been a vocal defender of affirmative action in higher education as it has been threatened in several states, but because as a life-long advocate for Asian Americans who has spent the last decade on this blog encouraging greater political participation, I think it is our responsibility as Asian Americans to engage politics in an informed manner, which means challenging untruths when we see it, and holding our political advocacy groups and news media outlets to unbiased reporting on political topics.
I’m hopeful that this task force idea will be the first step in helping to elevate the debate over affirmative action in California, and look forward to the months ahead when Asian American advocates in favour of campus diversity in higher education can help to further educate on the benefits of affirmative action to the Asian American electorate.
Update: Also, here’s a great article from Julianne Hing over at Colorlines.
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