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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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.

Continue reading “Asian Americans would not lose out under affirmative action”

Efforts to repeal Prop 209 halted; voters will not vote on #SCA5 this November | #edu4all

California Assembly Speaker John A Perez. Photo credit: Sacramento Bee.
California Assembly Speaker John A Perez. Photo credit: Sacramento Bee.

Fresh off the presses, California State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez has caved to political pressure levied upon him regarding Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA5), a bill advanced by California Democrats earlier this year and which, at the time, received unanimous Democratic support. I, obviously, have been writing in the last few days in support of SCA5, presenting the overwhelming evidence that shows that Prop 209 has been damaging to the UC system.

But, as expected by everyone who has been following this debate, Speaker Perez announced that he would not put SCA5 to a general assembly vote this cycle, meaning it will not appear as a referendum for voters on the November ballot.

The announcement came as no surprise following days of outcry from vocal groups of Chinese Americans in Southern California, many repeating a series of misleading statements first spread by Chinese-language ethnic news media and conservative PACs. In the wake of the outrage, three Democratic Chinese-American senators who had previously supported the measure — Sens. Ted Lieu, Carol Liu, and Leland Yee — issued a joint letter withdrawing their support and calling for a delay in the vote; in explaining their change of heart, the senators cited an online petition that had garnered over a hundred thousand signatures as well as hundreds of calls made to their offices. Congresswoman Judy Chu also voiced her reservations about SCA5.

Conservative Chinese American groups such as the 80-20 Initiative, which spear-headed the anti-SCA5 efforts in Southern California — have already shifted their focus towards using the issue to further partisan goals. Over the weekend, 80-20 sent an email to their listserv members, requesting donations and instructing them to register as Republicans.

Personally, while I am happy that Chinese Americans were able to demonstrate our political clout in California, and achieve a clear political victory in that state, I am disappointed that this victory was achieved through a largely uninformed, non-factual message that appealed mostly to the fears of the Chinese American base. The SCA5 debate of the last few days was characterized not by nuance, but by clearly untrue statements that drew upon the dual assumptions of Asian American exceptionalism, and Black and Latino underachievement. Rather then to have a sophisticated conversation about affirmative action — an imperfect solution worthy of prolonged and complex debate — the conversation was dominated largely by racial fear and misinformation. And sadly, the ramification of this advocacy will have real-world consequences on the ongoing exclusion of underrepresented minorities from California’s publicly-funded institutions of higher learning.

As Chinese Americans come into our own as a nascent political voice, is this really the face of Chinese America we want to present?

In the end, I am thankful I got to be a part of this debate (and I am thankful to all of you readers who showed up on my blog to voice your opposition to me, but who did so as an effort to elevate the level of the discussion). I’m glad that my efforts helped to present a counter-narrative to the vocal Chinese American opposition to SCA5, and invite all of you new readers to my blog to stick around and become regular readers, as well as to generally remain involved in the fight for social justice.

I look forward to efforts down the road that might one day repeal Prop 209, and until then I urge Chinese American voters who spoke out so vocally against SCA5 to now apply that same energy to the real threat to Asian American admissions in the UC system: state-wide budget cuts, which is the only legislative action in the last 22 years to cause a drop in Asian American in-state admissions, and which did so by a shocking 25%.

On the plus side, maybe now I’ll get to write all the posts I had to put on the back-burner this last week.

Act Now! If you supported SCA5 and/or efforts by Asian Americans to present a different opinion on the bill, I urge you to check out my list of groups that voiced approval of SCA5, and to donate to their ongoing efforts on behalf of Asian American advocacy.