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.
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 SCA5 was withdrawn after backlash from Asian American voters, but the fight over the morality of race-based affirmative action rages on — particularly in the comments section of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.
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.”
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.
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.