Cristina Garcia, Asians, and Affirmative Action: What It Means to Me

By Guest Contributor: Nicole Gon Ochi, Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA)

Last month, reports surfaced that California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the #MeToo activist under investigation for sexual harassment and under fire for using homophobic slurs, also made racist comments about Asians in 2014, when she reportedly said, “This makes me feel like I want to punch the next Asian person I see in the face.” Garcia’s statement came during a heated moment in California’s history when a bill (SCA 5) to repeal California’s ban on the consideration of race in college admissions (Prop 209) was defeated by Asian American opponents of affirmative action.

Garcia’s comment is undeniably hateful and offensive. It essentializes all Asian Americans into a single trope and targets them for violence. I wholeheartedly denounce Garcia’s comment, however I also empathize with her underlying anger because the anti-affirmative action organizing around SCA 5 was deeply painful for many people. For decades, although Asian Americans have benefited from affirmative action, we as a group have been used as a racial wedge to minimize the effects of structural racism, denigrate other communities of color, maintain white supremacy and argue for the virtues of colorblindness.

As a whole, Asian Americans have largely resisted efforts to co-opt our own history of discrimination and exclusion to reinforce a racial hierarchy that continues to harm us.  When conservative white politicians began using Asian Americans as a racial wedge in debates over elite admissions policies in the 1980s, leading Asian American academics and activists resisted this characterization.  A majority of Asian Americans voted against Prop 209 in 1996 and public opinion polling consistently shows that Asian Americans support affirmative action. So, it came as a surprise when a small group of highly organized, primarily Chinese immigrants quickly and effectively pushed Asian American state legislators, many of whom had already voted for the bill, to ultimately turn back an effort to restore equity to public higher education.

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Filipinos are underrepresented at most selective of UC campuses | #BlockBlum #IAmNotYourWedge

uc-berkeley

The question of how Asian Americans are impacted by affirmative action was a major topic of discussion earlier this year with the fight over SCA-5, and has returned with the filing by conservative partisan Edward Blum’s two lawsuits against Harvard and University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill seeking to end affirmative action on the basis that it discriminates against Asian American applicants.

The problem with Blum’s assertions are that he argues that the vast majority of Asian Americans oppose affirmative action (not true), and that all Asian Americans are currently directly disadvantaged by affirmative action policies (also not true). This latter point merits additional consideration: whereas Blum’s lawsuit treats Asian Americans as a monolithic group of high-achievers, the reality is that the AAPI community includes a broad range of Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic groups spanning a spectrum of income and educational opportunities. Yet, the specific needs of these (predominantly non-East Asian) ethnic groups are typically ignored by anti-affirmative action groups.

It is pretty much settled fact that well-represented Asian American students enjoyed high admission and enrollment rates at public universities such as the University of California (UC) system under race-conscious affirmative action, and that these admission and enrollment rates remained largely stable for most of the time after its abolishment; these data indicate that in the aggregate, race-conscious affirmative action  hasn’t really impacted Asian American admission at the University of California. At elite schools such as Harvard University, Asian Americans are similarly well-represented at nearly four times our national demographic percentage — a fact that is included in Blum’s lawsuit as well as in many other sources.

However, is there an effect of affirmative action when Asian Americans are disaggregated by ethnic group? Specifically, does race-conscious affirmative action produce an observable benefit to Southeast Asian American enrollment for example? Conversely, does the absence of race-conscious affirmative action hurt Southeast Asian American applicants?

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Reappropriate: The Podcast – Ep. 10 | Mismatch Theory

This episode was recorded two weeks ago but for a variety of reasons I didn’t have time to publish it! This is episode 10 of Reappropriate: The Podcast, and it features guest Snoopy Jenkins (@snoopyjenkins) and I tackling the problems with the oft-cited pseudo-scientific theory of college mismatch.

You can view the podcast above or listen to the audio only version at the bottom of this post. To subscribe to Reappropriate: The Podcast, you can subscribe on YouTube or through the iTunes store.

In the episode, we mention that we will be writing more on the subject of Mismatch Theory to accompany this podcast episode. Please check back on this blog over the next few weeks to see those posts when they are published.

Check back later today for episode 11 of Reappropriate: The Podcast!

SCOTUS undermines minority rights in upholding Michigan anti-affirmative action ban

Is anyone else surprised that the two voting women justices  (Justice Kagan recused herself because she had worked on the case) decided in favour of protecting the rights of the minority?
Is anyone else surprised that the two voting women justices (Justice Kagan recused herself because she had worked on the case) decided in favour of protecting the rights of the minority?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action which upheld a voter-decided ban on race-conscious affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Followers of my blog know that I am passionate about the defense of affirmative action in this country, and have advocated strongly against Prop 107 in Arizona, and more recentily in favour of California’s proposed SCA5, a bill that would have repealed Prop 209 for California’s public university system.

Anti-affirmative action advocates are celebrating the Schuette decision as the final nail in the coffin of affirmative action. Anchors on Fox News are even hailing the Schuette decision as a victory for civil rights, the proverbial “Promised Land” of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

But, let me be clear: this is a spurious interpretation of Schuette, one that seems designed more to energize the anti-affirmative action base than to provide a clear and accurate summary of the Schuette decision.

Furthermore, while Schuette is certainly a setback for the affirmative action fight, the decision has far more general implications for minority rights in this country that should not be swept under the rug. In fact, the Schuette decision should be disconcerting not just to defenders of affirmative action, but to all minority groups (particularly people of colour): Schuette ultimately had only a minimal impact on the legal questions raised in the affirmative action fight, but its damaging impact on minority rights may be vast and still virtually unknown.

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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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