With Monday’s news of two lawsuits filed by a conservative anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum hoping to challenge affirmative action policies by framing the debate around purported anti-Asian bias in selective universities’ admissions policies, the AAPI community has been once again thrust into the spotlight in the national affirmative action debate. Opponents of affirmative action suggest that these latest legal efforts are on behalf of the AAPI community. They suggest that most AAPIs are against race-conscious affirmative action, yet several studies reveal that more than 65% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders support affirmative action, both in professional and academic settings.
It’s important that we accurately represent the political opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by rendering our support for affirmative action visible.
Earlier this year, I aggregated a list of AAPI groups and writing in support of affirmative action in relation to the SCA5 debate in California. I have replicated and modified that list in this post, and will update it over the next several months with additional writing from around the internet.
Please feel free to link to this post as a resource regarding the attitudes of AAPI on affirmative action in the upcoming national debate on this issue. The abundance of this writing demonstrate clearly that while affirmative action is a polarizing topic within the AAPI community, there is strong and vocal support for race-conscious affirmative action in our community that deserves visibility.
Last updated: Jan 21, 2015
Non-Profit Organizations and Advocacy Groups
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ) & AAAJ-LA
- “Race Still Matters” press release
- 1-page summary of 4-page report (also available in Chinese and Korean)
- 1-page Fact-sheet (.pdf)
- 4-page full report (.pdf)
- More resources
- UC Asian American & Pacific Islander Policy Multicampus Research Program (AAPI Policy MRP)
- National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE)
- Chinese for Affirmative Action
- The Civil Rights Project (UCLA)
- Asian Pacific Americans for Higher Education (APAHE)
- Southeast Asia Resource Center (SEARAC)
- Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP)
- Filipino Advocates for Justice (Union City and Oakland) – as reported in The Nation
- Organization of Chinese Americans-LA (OCA-LA) – statement quoted here
- Asian Pacific Coalition of UCLA (@APCUCLA)
- University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Asian American Students Association
Blog Posts, Op-Eds & Other Writing
- 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
- Reappropriate: Asian Americans would not lose out under affirmative action
- 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
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.
[R]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.
- Frank Wu, law professor and dean of UC Hastings, College of Law: Neither Black Nor White: Asian Americans and Affirmative Action
This Article argues that although there are many real issues that result from the dramatically changing demographics of the country, the dilemma of Asian Americans and affirmative action should be understood as an issue which has been manufactured for political
- Leo Kim, staff columnist with the Yale Daily News: Not The Solution
If you couldn’t already tell from my last name, I’m Asian-American. During the admissions process, I didn’t exactly feel that my race helped me gain my acceptance letters. But do I think that abandoning affirmative action — that “forgetting” about race in the application process — is the route colleges ought to take? In short, no.
- Anisha Padma and Nikhil Umesh, columnists for The Daily Tar Heel: We are not your model minority
The model minority myth, perpetuated by this lawsuit, is among the latest weapons being deployed against Black and Latina/o students.
- Charleston CK Wang, attorney, commenting on AAA Fund and in the thread of this post
So how to address the problem – certainly not by throwing rocks at each other, perhaps in frustration over the misdirection of Fisher, but by coming together to discuss the issues, mediate our differences, and go forward on a critical issue for aspiring Asian American and indeed all students in the nation.
- Jeff Yang for CNN: Harvard lawsuit is not what it seems
What [Edward Blum’s] lawsuit is really is just the latest attempt to derail an apparatus that has given hundreds of thousands of blacks, Hispanics and, yes, Asians a means to climb out of circumstances defined by our society’s historical racism.
- Dinesh McCoy and Debanjali Kundu, students at UNC in letter submitted to The Daily Tar Heel: Lawsuit’s premise was shortsighted
As Asian-identified students attending UNC, we believe this lawsuit is misguided and ignores the importance of addressing racial inequalities and histories of discrimination in the United States, especially in the South. Although the current system isn’t perfect, education cannot remain a tool to continue elite and privileged white domination.
As a public institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a duty to reflect education toward state demographics — especially within a campus where Asian-Americans are over-represented at 15 percent of the class of 2018. We cannot ignore almost one-third of the state’s population who identifies as African-American or Latina/o.
- Ziyi Ma, Staff Columnist for Technician Online: Let colleges stick with their own admissions standards
Though the lawsuit seems to fight affirmative action, it entirely lacks reasoning in the first place. Harvard University is a private educational institute that does not take public money as major funding source. Getting into Harvard requires applicants to meet some commonly agreed upon criteria, but they should realize that meeting those criteria, such as test scores and perfect GPAs, does not guarantee admission. Many colleges specify a variety of admission requirements but none of them openly says applicants will be admitted if they meet some or all of the requirements. The right of admission should be entirely reserved to colleges themselves, especially private colleges.
…I do not intend to take any stand on affirmative action, nor do I lecture colleges to conduct some specific admission requirements. I defend the rights reserved to colleges in terms of determining their own admission criteria and preferences.
- Tim Mak for The Daily Beast: Why Harvard’s Asians are Invisible
[I]t’s far from clear whether the success of [Edward Blum’s] lawsuit would benefit Asian Americans. We have always been typecast as interchangeable, blank-faced robots, a stereotype that in my view will only get worse if we don’t strive to compete on the “holistic” scale. What is clear is that the legal challenge doesn’t reflect the wishes of the Asian American community.
A sizable number of Asian Americans feel that affirmative action, in college admissions or elsewhere, has hurt them personally. Still, as Asian American columnist and Harvard alum Jeff Yang points out in a recent column, a supermajority of Asian Americans, 69 percent, support affirmative action. So on whose behalf is the lawsuit being filed? Not the vast proportion of Asian Americans.
- Julie J. Park for the Washington Post: The misleading lawsuit accusing Harvard of bias against Asian Americans
Despite the stories of disgruntled Asian Americans documented in the Harvard lawsuit, polling dataindicate that the majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action. Numerous studies also document that Asian American college students benefit from engaging with racial diversity during the college years, which prepares Asian American — and all — college students to compete in a global economy. These stories are heard less in the affirmative action battle, but they are no less important.
- Mitchell Chang for Huffington Post: Is Harvard worth all the fuss?
[T]he public has a very narrow view of what counts as an “excellent” college, often dictated by various national rankings, which artificially inflates the reputation of and rejection rates for a small set of institutions. By being among the most enthusiastic contributors to such market driven demands, as Asian Americans are already overrepresented at elite institutions, we help sustain an educational industry that thrives on exclusion.
- Mitchell Chang for Hyphen Magazine: Busting the Myth: Are Asian Americans Really Up For It?
After all, approximately 1,800 Asian Americans are enrolled in undergraduate studies at Harvard whereas over 200,000 Asian Americans are enrolled in community colleges in California alone. Even if we doubled the enrollment of Asian Americans on each of the eight Ivy League campuses, they would still only serve a small fraction of Asian American students compared to community colleges that serve approximately 40 percent of all Asian American undergraduates enrolled in US higher education. In the long run, addressing issues such as high school drop-out, access to financial aid, community college transfer, or remedial education — which directly affect a greater number of Asian American families — will have a more positive and lasting societal impact.
- Prof. David Shih: Six Myths about Affirmative Action
I wouldn’t be an English professor today were it not for affirmative action… Far from being racist, the rationale for affirmative action is, in fact, antiracist. According to law professor Cheryl Harris, affirmative action has been the only institutional intervention against the entitlements historically derived from white identity.
- 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
Is this post missing anything? Please leave a comment with more links, and I will update this post!
Act Now: Please sign 18MillionRising’s petition here: Edward Blum, We Won’t Be Used For Your Racist Agenda!