Spurred by a complaint lodged by conservative anti-affirmative action Asian American groups, the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Harvard’s admissions practices earlier this year and is now threatening to sue the university if they do not turn over admissions records containing the potentially sensitive private information of students and applicants by December 1st.
Earlier today, Asian American scholars and activists organized a Twitter townhall to discuss affirmative action on the hashtag #NotYourWedge. The six panelists for the event were (including myself):
- Jenn Fang, Founder/Editor of Reappropriate (@reappropriate)
- Jason Fong, Former Intervener in SFFA v. Harvard (@jasonfongwrites)
- Nancy Leong, Law Professor at the University of Denver (@nancyleong)
- OiYan Poon, Professor of Higher Education at Colorado State University (@spamfriedrice)
- Anurima Bhargava, Former Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice (@anurima)
- Janelle Wong, Political Science & Asian American Studies Professor at the University of Maryland (@ProfJanelleWong)
The townhall was co-hosted by:
- Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (@AAAJ_LA)
- Vanessa Teck, Doctoral Student (@VanessaTeck)
- Amanda Assalone, co-Chair of the Asian Pacific American Network (@assalone1)
- Rachel Luna, Higher Education Doctoral Student (@RachelHLuna)
After the jump, you can read the archive of today’s townhall!
This post was first published in November 2014. However, with resurgent interest in affirmative action and the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I have republished this post updated for 2017.
In 2014, two lawsuits were filed by 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. In 2017, a memo leaked by the Department of Justice suggests that a major priority of the Trump administration will be to target colleges who use race-conscious affirmative action in their admissions policies, with conservative supporters specifically citing affirmative action’s allegedly negative effects on Asian American applicants.
Thus, the AAPI community finds ourselves 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 on this issue. Specifically, we must render our community’s support for affirmative action visible.
In 2014, I aggregated a list of AAPI groups and writing in support of affirmative action. 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.
Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) held a press conference moments ago to announce that lawyers with the group will represent two Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) high school students who wish to present their support of race-conscious affirmative action admission before the Supreme Court if and when the justices hear arguments next year about an anti-affirmative action lawsuit filed against the school by Edward Blum, the architect behind Abigail Fisher’s earlier failed attempts to dismantle affirmative action before the Court.
The two AAPI high school students represented by AAAJ-LA are current applicants to Harvard University, and both believe that race-conscious affirmative action is beneficial; AAAJ-LA filed paperwork yesterday to help the students join an existing group of diverse students who will have “amicus plus” status to present their support for affirmative action in a pending anti-affirmative action case, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc v. President and Fellows of Harvard College.
In the Students for Fair Admissions case, lobbyist Edward Blum specifically recruited disgruntled Asian American students to serve as the next Abigail Fisher, in hopes of weaponizing a stereotyped, Model Minority Myth narrative of Asian Americans against other students of colour. Blum’s lawsuit alleging bias at Harvard was ultimately consolidated around the case of a still-unnamed Chinese American woman.
Editor’s Note: This post is an English-language translation of a Chinese-language essay that was widely circulated through predominantly Chinese-language social media outlets such as WeChat earlier this month. I had a chance to meet Steven at the inaugural U-C-A convention last week to discuss ways in which discourse may be improved across the political and generational divide within the Chinese American community. This essay reflects Steven’s thoughts on how Chinese Americans might shape our political future in America.
By Guest Contributor: Steven Chen
This article is dedicated to the first United Chinese Americans convention which was held at Washington, D.C. on September 8th, 2016. During the convention, Chinese Americans from all over the country gathered to lay out a road map for the future success of Chinese Americans. I wish for the success of the convention.
More than a hundred years ago, people from China came across the Pacific Ocean to America to escape from wars, famine, and poverty. For a very long time, Chinese Americans were discriminated against and treated unfairly. Yet, through the unremitting efforts of many generations, we have achieved remarkable success here in America.
We were hard laborers working in abandoned gold mines, now we are entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley;
We were coolies building the Transcontinental Railroad, now we are the engineers building information highways;
We were illiterates, now we are university professors and Nobel laureates;
We didn’t have the right to testify in courts, now we are lawyers and judges;
We didn’t have the right to vote; now we are Congress members, Presidential Cabinet members, and Governors;
We were stereotyped as degraded, exotic, dangerous, and perpetual foreigners; now we are highly educated, high-income model citizens.
The successes we have achieved today were due to the progress of American society and, more importantly, the hard work of all Chinese Americans in building up a good Chinese brand over the years.