Anti-Interracial Marriage Judge Resigns

Hey, remember that justice of the peace who refused to preside over the civil union of an interracial couple who wanted to get married?

He resigned. Which, I think, means he got fired.

Good riddance.

The Growing Asian American Vote


The LA Times has a story out today on a report released by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center detailing the Asian American vote in the 2008 presidential election. Gratifyingly, the report notes that the Asian American voter turnout in Los Angeles County has grown by an astounding 39% in California since 2000, showing the growing importance of the Asian American vote in the state.

For the countless organizations that are involved in improving voter turnout for APIAs, this is great news —  a validation of the countless hours spent canvassing and phonebanking Asian American voters to increase voter turnout. But it also underscores to me the importance of GOTV efforts — even with the massive increase in APIA voter turnout in L.A. County, the national voter turnout for APIAs remains 7% lower than the national average.

The 2008 election was also an energizing election; GOTV efforts must also focus now on ensuring that Asian American voters continue to vote — not just in national elections, but in local elections for propositions, city council, and state government.

The report has some interesting findings on top of its “take-home message” that APIA voter turnout has increased in L.A. county. Check out this graph showing voter trends within the APIA community and compared to all registered voters in the region. Unlike the voting population at-large, Asian American voters are predominantly foreign-born and skew older, suggesting that language, immigration, and other concerns that appeal to immigrant voters will have greater impact on our community. Indeed, APALC reports that over 90% of Asian American voters, regardless of country of origin, support improving English language training for immigrants.


Yet, that foreign-born older voters favoured McCain over Obama — despite McCain’s chronic flip-flopping on immigration that would tend discourage immigrant interests. Could this be a manifestation of the poor outreach the Democratic Party has towards Asian immigrant voters?


The report also has some interesting data regarding issues that the APIA community voted on. An astounding 90% of APIAs in L.A. county support universal healthcare. Yet, despite data indicating that most APIAs in L.A. county are Democrats, a majority also supported Prop 8 banning same-sex marriage.


This support seemed to differ based on voter ethnicity and voter age. Not surprisingly, older voters (who tend to be more conservative) supported Prop 8. Yet, the ethnic data is more interesting: while Chinese Americans opposed Prop 8, Filipino and Korean Americans voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning same-sex marriage — perhaps this has to do with the strong Catholic faith in these ethnicities communities?

We must focus our energy on maintaining the increased voter activity amongst APIA voters: 2008 cannot be a flash-in-the-pan. Rather, APIA voters must continue to stay involved in local elections, deciding propositions, city council, school board and state government representatives. This means that GOTV campaigns are still critical for maintaining and increasing our voter turnout. More than ever, we need to ensure APIA voters get out to the polls by increasing voter education, helping them get to the polls, and ensuring that they have adequate language access to voting material. (Incidentally, APALC also reports that roughly 1/3 of Asian American voters experience limited English proficiency, and they also released a report showing that bilingual phone calls and mailers are highly effective in increasing APIA voter turnout.)

And why do we need to vote? Asian Americans have, too often, been discounted during campaign season because we are perceived as being too small a community to effect election outcomes. Yet, in L.A. County last year, a whopping 63% of Asian Americans voted for President Obama (although, to be fair, that number mirrors the county-wide support Obama won in the 2008 general). While Obama won L.A. County handily in the 2008 presidential election, if all 2932,000 Asian Americans who had voted for Obama voted for McCain in that election, Obama’s margin of victory over McCain would have shrunken. And certainly, had Obama carried enough Asian American votes in L.A. County in the Democratic primary, he might have won the region instead of Clinton.

With recognition that Asian Americans wield voting power comes national attention — and more importantly — campaign promises. Recognizing the importance of the APIA demographic, Obama made several campaign promises during his presidential campaign that have since paid off  for APIAs — he has appointed a surprising number of Asian Americans to his administration, and earlier this month he signed an executive order increasing federal resources addressing disparities within the Asian American community.

Long story short — in this pluralistic society, voter apathy is tempting. But, our community can’t afford to fall by the way-side. The Asian American community deserves political attention, and we can only get that by participating in the political process.

Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

I missed blogging about this last week when the news first broke, but don’t get it twisted: this story pisses me off.

It seems that there’s a justice of the peace, Judge Keith Bardwell, has a moral opposition to interracial couples.

“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell told the [Hammond Daily Star]. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”

When confronted with Terence McKay (who is Black) and Beth Humphrey (who is White) who wanted to be married earlier this year, Bardwell recused himself from conducting the ceremony. His reasoning? He said:

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

“I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.

First of all, the “what about the children” argument is the same kind of crap that countless racists use to discriminate against interracial couples. Do multi-racial children sometimes have problems being accepted by the culture of one or both of their parents? Sure, they do.

But, so, too, do children of a single race. So, too, do children who dress differently, speak differently, have faith differently, or have different ambitions than their peers, regardless of race or class. All children (and even adults) struggle with “fitting in”.

In fact, it is the people who failed to fit in who have changed our country for the better. Susan B. Anthony failed to fit in. Martin Luther King, Jr. failed to fit in. Harvey Milk failed to fit in. Patsy Minkh failed to fit in. Barack Obama failed to fit in.

“Multi-racial children might not fit in” is no rationale for preventing a couple from getting married.

I am in an interracial relationship: I am Asian American, while my partner of more than ten years, is African American. For the entire time that we have been together, we have faced intolerance and racism, and yes, it has been difficult getting others to accept the two of us sharing our lives together. But, that doesn’t diminish the fact that we want to spend our lives together; yet, a story like this argues that, in the face of the challenges we have (and will continue to) confront, we can’t or shouldn’t choose to be together. 

Yet, in a nation built upon personal freedoms, what could be a more quintessential example of one’s basic human rights than the right to choose our mate, regardless of race, class or creed? 

Bardwell’s refusal to marry McKay and Humphrey is a condemnation that affects all interracial couples, and hearkens back to a time when miscegenation was grounds for lynching.

As far as Bardwell’s argument that he never prevented McKay and Humphrey (or the three other interracial couples he has refused to marry over the last several years) from getting married, his argument is identical to pharmacists who want to be able to refuse to fill out prescriptions for drugs they have moral oppositions to. Pro-life pharmacists have lobbied, for years, for the “right” to “recuse” themselves from filling out prescriptions for Plan B, with the argument that another pharmacist would be available to fill out the prescription.

But, I’m sorry — it is a pharmacists’s job to fill out prescriptions, regardless of their own judgements of another person’s life. Should pharmacists be allowed to deny filling out prescriptions to obese patients because they won’t go on a diet? Or be allowed to recuse themselves from filling out prescriptions for druggies who won’t go into rehab? What do we do if the delay to deny a person’s prescription causes illness or death? These kinds of exceptions introduce inequality into a system that should is about ensuring equality for all.

By the same argument, a justice of the peace should not be allowed to deny a couple their right to marry based on any of their own personal beliefs. Gay couples, straight couples, interracial couples, intraracial couples — all have the right to marry one another based on one’s personal right to choose one’s life partner.

In the end, Bardwell claims he is not racist, yet he refuses to marry an interracial couple because he feels the racism their (as-yet-unborn) multi-racial children will face are immutable, unchangeable, and constant. Marriage should be an expression of love and optimism for the future, not mired in backwards, anachronistic intolerance and bigotry.

Over the weekend, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal joined the call for Bardwell to be dismissed from his position as justice of the peace. And Bobby Jindal is no braintrust; if he’s calling you a moron, you’ve gotta be the lowest of the low.

President Obama Signs E.O. on AAPIs

Yesterday was a very big day for America’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In conjunction with a Diwali celebration, President Obama signed an executive order that reestablished an advisory committee and a White House iniative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The advisory committee was first established by President Clinton ten years ago, but was eliminated by President Bush in favour of a committee housed under the Department of Commerce that focused primarily on economic issues within the APIA community, ignoring other issues like healthcare, language and education.

Here is video of President Obama’s speech and the signing of the Executive Order:

What I really loved about the speech that President Obama gave was that it discussed the issues facing the Asian American community in language that really suggested familiarity with ongoing concerns. President Obama referenced the “model minority myth” and talked about high prevalence of specific diseases. These are problems that the APIA community has been dealing with for years, and I feel as if for the first time in a long time, they are finally receiving the national attention that our people merit.

Our AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, but they embody a rich diversity, and a story of striving and success that are uniquely American.

But focusing on all of these achievements doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s part of why we’re here. It’s tempting, given the strengths of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, for us to buy into the myth of the “model minority,” and to overlook the very real challenges that certain Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are facing: from health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and Hepatitis B; to educational disparities that still exist in some communities — high dropout rates, low college enrollment rates; to economic disparities — higher rates of poverty in some communities, and barriers to employment and workplace advancement in others.

Some Asian American and Pacific Islanders, particularly new Americans and refugees, still face language barriers. Others have been victims of unthinkable hate crimes, particularly in the months after September 11th — crimes driven by ignorance and prejudice that are an affront to everything that this nation stands for.

And then there are the disparities that we don’t even know about because our data collection methods still aren’t up to par. Too often, Asian American and Pacific Islanders are all lumped into one category, so we don’t have accurate numbers reflecting the challenges of each individual community. Smaller communities in particular can get lost, their needs and concerns buried in a spreadsheet.

In particular, I was delighted to hear President Obama talk about the lack of adequate studies that specifically delve into the problems of the APIA community. Above all issues, I think our community suffers from a general lack of good, high-quality data; we simply don’t know the scope and the depth of the problems we face as a racial/ethnic population. Too often, we still rely on anecdotes and stories; it’s hard to lobby for change when we can’t adequately convince others that there is a problem with concrete facts, figures and numbers.

The missions of the new advisory committee and White House initiative are outlined in the text of the Executive Order President Obama signed yesterday. Listed here are the goals of the White House Initiative:

  1. identify Federal programs in which AAPIs may be underserved and improve the quality of life for AAPIs through increased participation in these programs;
  2. identify ways to foster the recruitment, career development, and advancement of AAPIs in the Federal Government; 
  3. identify high-priority action items for which measurable progress may be achieved within 2 years to improve the health, environment, opportunity, and well-being of AAPIs, and implement those action items;
  4. increase public-sector, private-sector, and community involvement in improving the health, environment, opportunity, and well-being of AAPIs;
  5. foster evidence-based research, data-collection, and analysis on AAPI populations and subpopulations, including research and data on public health, environment, education, housing, employment, and other economic indicators of AAPI community well-being; and
  6. solicit public input from AAPI communities on ways to increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Federal programs considering a number of factors, including language barriers.

If even just some of these goals are met by the time the effects of this Executive Order expire, two years from now, than our community will be incredibly well-served. I look forward to seeing what comes from the events set in motion by yesterday. Hopefully by this time next year, we might even have a federally-funded study looking at specific disparities faced by members of the Asian American community!

I applaud President Obama’s intiative in helping the APIA community. As he promised on the campaign trail, as president Barack Obama would return attention to the nation’s must under-served, and most-deserving, people. As Barack Obama said in his speech yesterday, no community should be invisible to their government; yesterday, the president took steps to bring the issues of our community out of the shadows.


APIAVote distributed the following press release regarding yesterday’s signing of the Executive Order on Asian American Pacific Islanders:

APIAVote Lauds the Reestablishment of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

WASHINGTON– Today, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order reestablishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, an executive order established a decade ago by President Bill Clinton to improve the quality of life in underserved AAPI communities through increased participation in federal programs.

“We are heartened by President Obama’s signing of the executive order for the White House Initiative on AAPIs, which shows tremendous commitment to addressing the needs of the AAPI community, including better data collection and disaggregation, as well as increased and substantive access to federal agencies and programs,” said APIAVote Deputy Director, Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, who was present for the signing along with APIAVote Chair and co-founder Daphne Kwok. “We specifically hope to improve working relationships with federal agencies like the Department of Justice and the Election Assistance Commission as well as other federal agencies to improve access to the voting booth for AAPIs.”

As the Executive Order states, the Initiative “will work to improve the quality of life and opportunities for AAPIs through increased access to, and participation in, Federal programs in which they may be underserved. In addition, each will work to advance relevant evidence-based research, data collection, and analysis for AAPI populations and subpopulations.”

The White House Initiative will be housed under the Department of Education to be co-chaired by Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and by a yet-to-be-named Executive Director. The Initiative will consist of a federal inter-agency working group comprised of staff from various agencies, which will be overseen by a Commission comprised of AAPI leaders and experts in various sectors. The Commission’s role is to advise the President, through the Secretaries of Education and Commerce, on executive branch efforts to improve the quality of life of AAPIs through the compilation of research and data related to AAPI populations and sub-populations; development, monitoring, and coordination of Federal efforts to improve the economic and community development of AAPI businesses; implement strategies to increase public and private-sector collaboration; and foster community involvement in improving the health, education, environment, and well-being of AAPIs.

Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 1 – An improper comparison



This post is broken into two parts for the sake of length:

Since the implementation of affirmative action in the college admissions process, opponents of the policy have alleged anti-White and anti-Asian bias that reduces the chances of White and Asian high school students applying to elite colleges. Recently, a study conducted by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade (published in the book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life) presented data that appear to support this notion.

First of all, I should point out that the primary data Espenshade analyzed were collected in 1997. But, it’s likely that the trends that Espenshade report remain in effect, since there have been no major changes to the college admissions process nationwide since then, nor have we seen significant changes in student demographics.

The “Scary Graph”: what does it mean?

Espenshade shows that middle class Asian students have a reduced probability of being accepted into private universities compared to students of other races (I re-created the graph below from page 7 of this presentation of Espenshade’s data, eliminating upper- and lower- class students, but the trends are roughly the same).


This graph looks pretty alarming until you consider the following applicant demographics, compared to national demographic information:


What this graph is showing you is that while Asian Americans are roughly 4% of the U.S. population, we represent nearly a quarter of all applicants to the institutions studied by Espenshade. For some universities, this can reach as high as 1/3 — and many of these applicants boast high SAT scores and high school GPAs. Many of these students also come from higher-income families compared to Black and Latino applicants, and therefore have access to better educational opportunities to help improve their scores. In addition, Espenshade’s data show that, compared to other races, Asian American applicants appear to preferentially apply to private institutions, which causes an even more dramatic increase in our applicant number.

Basically, the admissions percentage is low for Asians is at least in part because so many college applicants are Asian/Asian American. You can think of it this way: if 50 White students, 25 Asian students and 5 Black students are accepted to a college, but there are 100 White applicants, 75 Asian applicants and 10 Black applicants, your probability of being accepted based on race is as follows: 50% for Whites and Blacks, and only 33% for Asians — even if the absolute number of acceptances are still higher.

And certainly, we must remember that Espenshade’s study does not consider non-numerical aspects of applicant portfolios; admissions boards often favour applicants who have acceptable scores but who have also demonstrated a diversity of talents or interests, including music, athleticism, or art.

But what can’t be denied from Espenshade’s data is this: if you’re an Asian American high school student, you are competing against a lot of other, highly-talented White, Black and Asian American applicants and you have a lower probability of being accepted based on race compared to applicants of other races.

But does this mean there’s “anti-Asian bias”?

Searching for “anti-Asian bias”: an improper comparison

I caution against coming to the conclusion that Asian Americans are patently discriminated against in the college admissions process. Instead, I think what we’re seeing is the flip side of affirmative action: affirmative action argues that, all other factors being equal, an applicant who is a member of an underrepresented minority (whether race-based or class-based) will be preferred over a similar candidate who is not of an underrepresented minority.

And Asian Americans are anything but underrepresented in higher education. This columnist pulled racial demographics at Ivy League institutions from and found that at all of these colleges, which practice affirmative action in their admissions processes, Asian/Asian Americans are over-represented compared to our national demographics:


Clearly, college admissions board aren’t outright refusing Asian American applicants based solely on race. In fact, even with affirmative action in place, Asian Americans are four times better represented at elite universities compared to our national population.

What this also means, however, is that because Asian Americans are so well represented in higher education, there is no racial “preference” for Asian/Asian American applicants based solely on race (Espenshade’s data shows high probability of acceptance for lower-class Asian Americans, which hints that less well-represented Asian ethnicities who also tend to come from lower-income families are still beneficiaries of affirmative action). Thus, we cannot compare the probability of acceptance rates for Asian Americans against those of underrepresented minorities; with affirmative action in place, those probabilities will — by definition –be higher for Black, Latino and Native American applicants. It’s not that we’re being biased against in affirmative action practices, it’s simply that we’re not benefiting from affirmative action — nor should well-represented Asian ethnicities be beneficiaries of affirmative action.

Nonetheless, this kind of comparison is tempting, because it is fueled by the entitlement complex that those who are not underrepresented minorities tend to feel. An Asian American applicant, who scores highly on his or her SAT test expects to be accepted, but, when they do not get in compared to a Black or Hispanic Non-White applicant who does, they feel as if life’s unfair. How often have applicants to college (or law school, or medical school) complained that “less qualified” minorities are skating through the admissions process on the back of affirmative action policies?

The bottom line is that underrepresented minorities are not skating through the admissions process. Universities will only accept applicants that meet a certain minimum standard for GPA and SAT — so no student, be they Black, White or Asian, accepted into college is actually unqualified. Moreover, the characterization of lower-scoring applicants who are accepted into college based, in part, on affirmative action relies on the assumption that SAT scores directly correlate with success in college life: yet, studies on the effectiveness by which SAT scores predict college success remain conflicted on whether the SATs are truly a good indicator that an applicant is “qualified” for college life. In addition, critics of the standardized tests argue that the SAT and other tests are culturally biased, and that higher-class applicants fare better in part because they can pay for test-taking prep classes that help them achieve a higher score. In other words, someone who scores a perfect score on the SATs may not actually be “better qualified” than another applicant who scores lower. Moreover, scoring highly on the SATs does not guarantee acceptance into top schools; schools nowadays emphasize breadth as well as depth, and seek out applicants who do well academically while pursuing diverse, non-academic interests.

Because of unequal opportunities that unfairly disadvantage Black and Non-White Hispanic students in college admissions, affirmative action seeks to improve representation of these minorities in each incoming student body, by preferentially choosing the underrepresented minority student when compared to a student of similar standing who is not underrepresented. As far as I can tell, this is one of the few ways affirmative action is put into practice, based on the ruling by the Supreme Court  that found explicit racial quotas unconstitutional.

Thus, because neither Whites nor Asians are underrepresented on the campuses of elite universities (and thus don’t benefit from affirmative action), comparing acceptance rates for Asians against beneficiaries of affirmative action is an erroneous comparison specifically designed to whip up anti-affirmative action sentiment. It ignores the fact that Asian Americans remain, even with affirmative action, well-represented on college campuses. It uses “Scary Graphs” (like the first one in this post) to raise hysteria and resentment between Asian/Asian Americans and other racial minorities, ignoring the fact that with affirmative action in place, we know those acceptance rates will not be the same.

Instead, to determine if there is any “anti-Asian bias” in the admissions process, we should really be comparing the acceptance rates of Asian/Asian Americans against the other “non-beneficiary” group: Whites.

Continue to Part 2: In support of affirmative action