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

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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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#IAmNotYourWedge: Lawsuits against Harvard & UNC assert anti-Asian discrimination in admissions

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Edward Blum, the mastermind behind Monday’s newest anti-affirmative action lawsuits, claims his latest campaign was not intended to target and exploit Asian Americans. His Harvard-focused website begs to differ.

On Monday, a newly formed group called Students for Fair Admissions which was created by Edward Blum — a Republican on a one-man mission to end affirmative action in university admissions, and the man behind the Fisher case — filed two new lawsuits against two of the nation’s elite universities. The lawsuits come after over a year of Edward Blum canvassing for “just the right Asian”: rejected applicants to Harvard, Univeristy of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Blum was looking for Asian Americans willing to become the new Abigail Fisher: someone willing to be exploited as the next public face of the affirmative action debate. The screen-caps in this post are from those microsites and make clear Blum’s racialized intent in making that new face an Asian American one.

Blum’s lawsuits, filed on behalf of an Asian and a White plaintiff respectively, assert that Harvard and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill employ discriminatory admissions practices in their affirmative action policies; in contrast to the Fisher case, these two suits argue that affirmative action policies constitute discrimination against both Asian American and White applicants.

The suit against Harvard University involves an Asian American applicant who presumably filled out the form above. The suit describes the applicant as having scored highly in GPA and standardized test scores, but was denied admission to Harvard. The suit then alleges that the reason for the student’s failure to receive admittance was because Harvard treats race as “a defining feature of [an] application”, which is not permitted under Supreme Court rulings.

Yet, the evidence for this assertion appears scant.

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#Election2014: A Mostly Disappointing Night for Asian American & Pacific Islander Politicos

Infographic by APAICS.
These aren’t the election results you deserve, but these are the election results you’re going to get right now (Infographic by APAICS).

2014 was a record-breaking year for Asian American and Pacific Islander political candidates: this year, 39 AAPI candidates launched a campaign for Congressional office compared to 29 in 2012 and only 8 in 2010. 22 AAPI candidates made it past their primary races compared to only 13 two years ago. Four AAPIs were running in a gubernatorial race with an additional 3 competing for the Lt. Governor’s office in Hawaii. An unprecedented 159 AAPI candidates were running for a local elected office in 26 states.

Election Night 2014 was certainly shaping up to be a big night for AAPI political representation. Sadly, this just wasn’t our year. After the jump, here’s the the breakdown of what happened last night.

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Asian Americans would not lose out under affirmative action

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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?

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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