Paul Lo, America’s First Hmong American Judge, Will Be Sworn In Friday

Paul Lo will be the nation's first Hmong American judge. (Photo credit: UCLA Daily Bruin)
Paul Lo will be the nation’s first Hmong American judge. (Photo credit: UCLA Daily Bruin)

Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown made history when he appointed UCLA Law alumnus Paul Lo to the Merced County Superior Court Bench. Lo, who will be sworn in this Friday, will be the nation’s first Hmong American judge.

Said Karin Wang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice back in Januaryto the UCLA Daily Bruin:

“It is both historic and inspirational to have the nation’s first Hmong American judge in California’s Central Valley, which is home to one of the nation’s largest Hmong populations,” Wang said.

Merced currently has the fifth highest Hmong American population in the United States, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

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Rep. Ted Lieu Loses Six Democratic Endorsements Over anti-Affirmative Action Stance | #SCA5

Representative Ted Lieu, who represents California's 28th Senate District. (Photo credit: Sacramento Bee.)
Representative Ted Lieu, who represents California’s 28th Senate District. (Photo credit: Sacramento Bee.)

Representative Ted Lieu may be rethinking his position on affirmative action today.

Lieu, a Democrat who has been representing the 28th Senate District in the California State Senate, famously voted in favour of SCA5 — a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have repealed Prop 209 for public education and restore affirmative action to the state —  in early January, only to later rescind his support for SCA5 in a joint letter signed by himself and two other Asian American politicians in the state (including disgraced representative and would-be gun runner Leland Yee). Lieu’s withdrawal of support for SCA5 came after his office was targeted by weeks of bitter objection from a subset of California Asian American voters, themselves misled by anti-affirmative action misinformation put forward by conservative PACs and ethnic media. Currently, Lieu is currently against 17 other candidates in a race for a Congressional seat vacated by retiring Congressman Henry Waxman, (D-Beverly Hills) and is considered one of the race’s front-runners.

In the joint letter withdrawing support for SCA5 issued in February, Lieu and his colleagues wrote:

As lifelong advocates for the Asian- American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children.

However, Proposition 209 has had a clear negative impact on California’s children: following passage of the law, admission rates for Black, Chicano and Native American applicants dropped precipitously with virtually no significant change in the overall rate of offers given to Asian American and White applicants.

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Affirmative Action: When class is not enough

Photo credit: LA Times
Photo credit: LA Times

Over the last two weeks, I’ve written a series of posts about affirmative action initiated by the fight over SCA5, a bill that would have amended the California constitution to repeal Prop 209 for public education and restore narrow considerations of race to the college admissions process as part of holistic review of qualified applicants. SCA5 was withdrawn after backlash from Asian American voters, but the fight over the morality of race-based affirmative action rages on — particularly in the comments section of my posts, where I’ve been privileged to host several forums to encourage further discussion on this subject.

One significant point of contention is the use of race vs. class in affirmative action. Whereas some SCA5 opponents have lobbed radically non-factual charges against race-based affirmative action, others are more moderate in their counter arguments; they assert that whereas use of race-based information is discriminatory, class-based affirmative action is a reasonable alternative.

And, indeed, the fight over race vs. class-based affirmative action has persisted in liberal circles for years; most recently, support of class-based affirmative action was cited as part of Tanner Colby’s diatribe against race-based affirmative action in Slate.

The focus on class-based affirmative action is appealing to some liberals precisely because it rejects the unseemly conversations of race that can force a conversation on White privilege. Instead, it blames minority underachievement on classism, not racism, and leaves liberals comfortably in support of increased state spending on social services. Tacitly, they argue, if poor minorities can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps after we address the impacts of their poverty, their failures must then be their fault. In short, arguments in support of class-based affirmative action is viewed as a panacea for social iniquity, with a concurrent, explicit denial of any further impact of institutional racism on underrepresented minority students.

Ironically, the UC system under Prop 209 provides the perfect counter-argument to these charges. California’s public education system, with its late-90’s rejection of race-based admissions, provide the ideal demonstration of the inadequacies of purportedly “colour-blind” admissions policies that engage in class-based affirmative action in the absence of racial consideration.

Or, as Scot Nakagawa points out, post-Prop 209 college admissions in the UC system demonstrate that “in a racially inequitable society, color blind solutions end up reflecting that inequitable context and often even contributes to its perpetuation.”

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Top 5 things #SCA5 are totally not like…

Anti-SCA5 protesters are adorbs.
Anti-SCA5 protesters are adorbs.

SCA5 — Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 that was recently tabled and then withdrawn in California — would’ve done one thing: repealed Prop 209 and restored the capacity for UC schools to employ race-based affirmative action among other considerations in making college admissions decisions.

Why is this necessary? Because since Prop 209 ended race-based affirmative action in California, admission rates for underrepresented minorities — Black, Chicano, Southeast Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American students — plummeted by as much as 10% across the entire UC system, with some campuses experiencing an immediate admissions rate drop by as much as 30%; by contrast, Prop 209 has had a minute impact on Asian American admission rates, increasing it by a mere 0.4% immediately upon its passage.

Yet, a vocal minority of Asian Americans — predominantly Chinese Americans situated in Southern California — managed to get SCA5 tabled through an online petition and thousands of phone calls placed to Asian American elected officials. And, while the political clout it takes to kill a bill and send California Dems scampering back to their war rooms is impressive, the anti-SCA5 rhetoric has been based on some pretty shocking untruths and misinformation, much of it originating out of conservative PACs and ethnic news.

The most misinformed, ahistorical, and flat-out bizarre rhetoric arrives in the form of anti-SCA5 opponents who in the last two weeks compared the bill to bunch of stuff SCA5 are not like. You think you are ready, but you have no idea.

After the jump, here are the top 5 things SCA5 are not like.

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SCA5 withdrawn, task force called for to address affirmative action | #edu4all

California State Senator, Leland Yee, who has now clarified his position in support of repealing Prop 209. (Photo credit: IB Times)
California State Senator, Leland Yee, who has now clarified his position in support of repealing Prop 209. (Photo credit: IB Times)

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.

Hernandez said he wants to get more positive information out to the public and to dispel what he calls misinformation about SCA 5. To do that, he said he will create a commission of elected officials; experts in constitutional law; community leaders from different ethnic groups; students; parents; and representatives from the UCs, CSUs and community colleges.

The point, he said, is to address concerns opponents have, which might mean amending or even rewriting the proposal.

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.

Continue reading “SCA5 withdrawn, task force called for to address affirmative action | #edu4all”