Tag Archives: NAAS

In Search of Political Power: Captured Minorities and the AAPI Electorate

November 7, 2016
(Photo Credit: KEIA.org)
(Photo Credit: KEIA.org)

On Tuesday, America will mark yet another Election Day. For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), this coming election seems particularly relevant.

The AAPI electorate is among the fastest growing voter population in the country. In the last two presidential general elections, AAPI voters voted overwhelmingly in favour of Barack Obama. In several states during the 2012 election, AAPI voters voted for the incumbent president in large enough numbers to have likely swung their states into his column. With Election Day fast approaching, many of us have been reminded of the power of our vote. We have been the target of exhortations to turn out to the ballot box on November 8th. It has been widely speculated that AAPI voters and other voters of colour – who collectively support Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by three-to-one margins – are likely to win the first female president of the United States her place in the Oval Office.

It seems obvious that greater electoral numbers for AAPIs should yield concomitant greater political power for our community. America is a representative democracy, wherein constituents are promised a seat at the table by a simple sociopolitical contract: our votes are offered to politicians as a quid pro quo promise of beneficial policy changes. More votes might therefore be assumed to invite better policies. Indeed, some AAPI groups – most notably 80-20 — deploy such thinking as rationale for their mission to create a national AAPI voting bloc comprising 80% or more of all voting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; the group’s leaders seek to leverage that bloc for or against specific candidates.

But what if this thinking is flawed; or, at least, incomplete? What if sheer voting numbers do not alone guarantee greater political power for voters on the fringes of American politics? How do AAPI voters, and other voters of colour, build political power when we must cast our votes in a system structurally resistant to prioritizing issues of race and racism?

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Asian Americans would not lose out under affirmative action

October 6, 2014

defend-affirmative-action-signs

Last week, I reported about an updated survey jointly conducted by the National Asian American Survey (NAAS) and the Field Research Corporation that examined California voters’ attitudes towards affirmative action. That 2014 survey, led by Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan, revealed that AAPI support for affirmative action policies have not shifted since 2012 (or the mid-nineties, under the auspices of a state referendum on affirmative action): 70% of our community’s registered voters still support affirmative action. These data corroborate similar findings from a 2001 survey conducted by a different group.

I wrote in my article that the findings of this latest 2014 study are likely to distress opponents of affirmative action. No surprise therefore that an op-ed appeared in the LA Times last week titled “Asian Americans would lose out under affirmative action“. The column is written by Yunlei Yang of the Silicon Valley Chinese Association and it is strongly critical of the 2014 NAAS survey results.

Yet, Yang’s column is also seriously flawed.

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Majority of AAPI voters in CA support affirmative action — so, who are the ones that don’t?

September 27, 2014
Asian American supporters of affirmative action at a  recent rally. (Photo credit: OCA)
Asian American supporters of affirmative action at a recent rally. (Photo credit: OCA)

I was having dinner earlier this week with a member of my extended family when the topic of race-conscious affirmative action and SCA-5 came up. My family member (who is not Asian American) was surprised to learn that I support affirmative action; he was under the impression that all Asian Americans were monolithically opposed to race-conscious admissions considerations. “What?” he asked, somewhat teasingly, “don’t you want Asians to be able to get into college?”

I have written extensively about how affirmative action doesn’t prevent Asian Americans from accessing college:  1) affirmative action does not permit race to be used as a determinative factor in admissions decisions so any use of affirmative action to deny Asian American access to college based on race alone is unconstitutional, 2) there are several ethnic groups within the AAPI diaspora, including Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who are contemporary active beneficiaries of race-conscious affirmative action, 3) East Asian Americans (e.g. Chinese Americans) who have been present in America longer than other AAPIs have traditionally been active beneficiaries of race-conscious affirmative action particularly in the mid-twentieth century when Chinese and Chinese American students were actively recruited to elite universities to end racial segregation; only in the last two or three decades have we no longer received additional consideration under race-conscious affirmative action, and 4) all students, regardless of race, benefit from the diverse student life that is achieved through race-conscious affirmative action considerations in college admissions through broader exposure to different viewpoints as well as better preparation for an increasingly globalized market.

All this aside, there is a persistent myth within the American political landscape that Asian Americans are universally opposed to affirmative action. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the affirmative action issue is one that highlights the diversity in Asian American political thought.

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