California Poised to Restore Affirmative Action After Nearly 25 Years

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, left, is congratulated by Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, center, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, after ACA5 passed today. (Photo credit: AP/ Rich Pedroncelli)

Nearly 25 years ago, California voters passed Proposition 209, a state constitutional amendment that barred public institutions (such as public universities and state agencies) from considering race, gender, or ethnicity in admissions, hiring, or contracting. In so doing, California became one of only eight states in the US to ban the use of race- or gender-conscious affirmative action.

The aftermath of Proposition 209 was immediate and stark. A year following passage of Proposition 209, Black, Chicanx, Latinx, and Native admission rates to UC schools fell precipitously — by nearly 30% at some campuses — and remained depressed for the more than two decades that followed. Barriers in government contracting also led to an estimated annual loss of $1 billion in contract dollars by minority- and women-owned small businesses.

In the nearly 25 years since Proposition 209’s passage, the loss of affirmative action has only served to further crystallize the ways in which structural inaccess disproportionately excludes Black and Brown communities. We have seen an erosion of Black and Brown enrollment in California’s public universities, and fewer state contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses. Proposition 209 was clearly decided in error, and it is time for a new generation of California voters to be empowered to correct the persistent exclusion of so many Californians of colour.

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BREAKING: California Legislators Introduce Bill to Reinstate Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity For All

Legislators and activists announce ACA5, a bill to repeal Proposition 209 and to restore affirmative action in the state. (Photo credit: Magali Kincaid / Twitter)

Nearly 25 years after ballot measure Proposition 209 ended race- and gender-conscious affirmative action in the state of California, several California legislators are working in partnership with a broad multiracial coalition of advocacy groups and have introduced a new bill — Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA5) — to repeal Proposition 209 and to restore equal opportunity for all Californians.

The bill, announced in a press conference at the California State Capitol this morning, cites the damage enacted by two decades under Proposition 209 to women, people of colour and minority-owned businesses, many of whom have become increasingly underrepresented in California state schools and the professional sector.

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Most AAPI actually DON’T think affirmative action hurts us in college admissions | #BlockBlum #IAmNotYourWedge

POFR - affirmative action - unc-thumb-640xauto-10601

This is perhaps the most exciting and satisfying report of negative data I have ever read.

Opponents have long argued that existing surveys showing broad support for race-conscious affirmative action among AAPI have obscured disapproval of these policies based on how the questions were worded; earlier studies asked questions regarding affirmative action broadly based on wording used by the non-partisan Pew Research Group. Yunlei Yang of the Silicon Valley Chinese Association criticized this methodology when he wrote for the LA Times in his op-ed (“Asian Americans would lose out under affirmative action“), saying “I find the poll question misleading and Ramakrishnan’s reasoning deeply flawed.”

That criticism was echoed on BigWOWO, where blogger Byron Wong wrote, “If [the poll’s question wording] is not a loaded question, I don’t know what is.” Among his other concerns, Byron went on to advocate for an alternative question wording that limited scope to college admissions, saying:

Most people have heard the debate about college admissions since it affects everyone. People already know that college affirmative action makes it more difficult for Asian and white kids to get into selective colleges. People already have their views.

The basic premise is that had a survey polled Asian American (or specifically Chinese American attitudes) on affirmative action in college admissions, and asking whether or not these policies hurt Asian American acceptance rates, the answer would reveal a resounding majority opposition to race-conscious affirmative action.

Not satisfied, it seems, to simply disprove these nay-sayers, the primary investigators of this year’s surveys on Asian American political opinions have now “clapped back” with an abundance of evidence that almost completely dismantles these (apparently baseless) criticisms.

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Proof that UCLA’s race-blind holistic review admissions is inadequate for campus diversity

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Earlier this week, The Daily Caller — a national conservative website — reported on the work of UCLA professor Tim Groseclose. Groseclose is a conservative-leaning professor of political science at UCLA, and he recently set out to prove a very specific and inflammatory charge: that UCLA’s post-Proposition 209 holistic review process was actually race-based. In a book called “Cheating: An Insider’s Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA“, Groseclose presents his data purporting to demonstrate widespread use of holistic review to make determinative decisions in favour of minority applicants to UCLA. The Daily Caller summarized Groseclose’s findings as follows:

[Groseclose claimed] that the research is proof that UCLA accepted more black students than if they had followed the law, which negatively impacted white and Asian applicants.

He claims that the racial preferences were used when the university would review applications that were marked for further consideration. In those instances, black applicants with incomes over $100,000 were around twice as likely to be accepted than white and Asian applicants with incomes of $30,000 with similar test scores.

Groseclose’s charges are pretty serious: he alleges that UCLA is violating state law. But, two things also make this article particularly interesting: 1) Groseclose made the full dataset he received from UCLA’s admissions departments available, and 2) he makes a testable hypothesis.

Groseclose’s book is not peer-reviewed and even before embarking on this analysis, I noted some incorrect statements made by the DailyCaller article. So, I took it upon myself this morning to download Groseclose’s dataset and test his central assertion — that UCLA’s holistic review process is covertly race-based affirmative action — myself. Sufficed to say, Groseclose’s conclusion did not hold up.

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Reappropriate: The Podcast – Ep. 1 | Affirmative Action

Yep – I started a podcast! I had been toying with this idea for awhile (nearly a year, actually), because there are many topics that I think are fun to tackle in a more conversational style; last night I finally buckled down and recorded my first episode. Right now, I’m calling it Reappropriate: The Podcast (but I am taking name suggestions and all other feedback!)

I envision the podcast as an interactive live conversation on various social justice and identity politics issues, relative to current events and pop culture. All episodes are recorded live through Google+ Hangouts; viewers can submit questions beforehand (through Twitter) and/or during recording and have their questions answered on-air. Episodes will later be released in video (through YouTube) and audio (through iTunes).

The inaugural episode of Reappropriate: The Podcast is available right here at the bottom of this post, as well as on YouTube (embedded video above). Our topic for Episode 1 is affirmative action, and specifically perspectives in the Asian American and African American communities. We tackle Proposition 209 (and its effect on on-campus racial diversity in the UC schools), SCA5 and even the brewing political fight in the New York City elite public school system. My guest was Snoopy Jenkins (@SnoopyJenkins)!

Next episode topic: “Thinking Man” Superhero Movies: The Matrix, The Nolanverse, The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and more (again, featuring guest Snoopy Jenkins, who has graciously agreed to be my guinea pig until I iron out the podcast format and other issues). Submit your questions and mark your calendars now!