Less than one week after an Asian American group (comprised of predominantly Chinese American organizations) announced that they had filed a complaint to the Department of Education against Yale University, Brown University and Dartmouth College alleging anti-Asian bias in the school’s admissions policies, the national AAPI civil rights community has responded with a clear message: these conservative Chinese American opponents of affirmative action do not speak for all us.
Today, over 150 of the nation’s AAPI civil rights organizations came together in an open letter of support for the continuation of race-conscious affirmative action. In recognition of the critical role that race-sensitive admissions has played — and continues to play — in creating access to higher education for underrepresented groups, our community’s civil rights institution has reaffirmed our unwavering defense for classroom diversity and education access for all.
The open letter’s signatories are a veritable who’s who of the AAPI civil rights community.
Signatories include some of the AAPI community’s oldest and most revered civil rights groups, including chapters of the Organization for Chinese Americans (OCA) and the Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL), both of which are among the earliest service organizations for our community. They are joined by several other large and well-known national organizations such as Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), CAAAV, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Southeast Asian American Resource Action Center (SEARAC), 18MR, and the National Council for Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).
Appropriately, a significant number of groups lending their name to the open letter are affiliated with our nation’s institutions of higher education. Several Asian American studies programs and Asian American student groups added their support to the open letter, including Cornell’s Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA), a group that I was affiliated with as an undergraduate. In addition, the letter’s signatories also include a significant number of groups representing Southeast Asian American or Pacific Islander communities — AAPI ethnic groups who remain vastly underrepresented on college campuses and who receive additional consideration under affirmative action, and yet whose voices have been largely drowned out in the debate over the continuation of race-conscious admissions.
All in all, over 150 AAPI organizations and hundreds of AAPI individuals have come together to remind the nation at-large that our ommunity supports campus diversity and race-conscious affirmative action. Most AAPIs believe in policies to improve access to jobs and education for underrepresented minorities because we recognize that these policies have helped many of us in the past, and these policies continue to help many of us and many other people of colour today. We cannot afford to allow a vocal subset of conservatives in our midst to rebuild the social, political and legal barriers that have denied so many people of colour access to higher education for far too long.
This latest show of support for affirmative action by the AAPI community comes just months after over 160 organizations joined an amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas II urging the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action policies. Today’s open letter also comes one year after over 135 AAPI organizations signed a similar open letter supporting affirmative action last year.
Sadly, like last year, this open letter is likely to receive far less mainstream media attention than its anti-affirmative action counterpart. As in 2015, mainstream media is quick to write about the work of Asian Americans who oppose affirmative action, but they are reluctant to write about the counter-narrative involving a larger coalition of bigger, older, and more ethnically diverse civil rights organizations presenting an opposing opinion to conservative interests. I can’t help but wonder why mainstream media is so biased in their coverage of our community? What is it about the narrative of Asian Americans who seek to disrupt — not uphold — White supremacy that mainstream media finds so challenging to write about?
I created the #IAmNotYourWedge hashtag to aggregate my writing on affirmative action because I refuse to play into the wedge politics that perpetuate this country’s institution of White supremacy. I refuse to allow myself as an Asian American to once again be held up as the “model minority”, against which all other minorities are labeled as wanting. I refuse to permit the stereotyping of my body, or to allow those stereotypes to reinforce the oppression of other people of colour.
I will not be complicit in reinforcing racism against myself, and I will not be complicit in reinforcing the racism endured by others.
Here is the full text of today’s open letter of support for affirmative action as signed by 150+ AAPI organizations and several hundred AAPI individuals. To add your name, or your organization’s name, to the list of signatories, follow this link.
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