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.
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.
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?
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!
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.