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No to race based admissions in college winning battle for attention in Asian American community

UCLAJudging from recent media coverage, it would seem Asian Americans overwhelmingly oppose affirmative action. This coverage runs contrary to recent polls and statements from Asian American leaders.

The National Asian American Survey conducted in 2012 found 75 percent of Asian Americans support  “affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better jobs and education,”

The survey was conducted by professors Karthick Ramakrishnan and Taeku Lee from the University of California.

All three Asian Americans in the California State Senate voted with the majority to support SCA5, a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to reinstate race based admission in California public universities.

The civil rights group Chinese for Affirmative Action released a statement saying “it is our strong opinion that affirmative action must remain a tool for advancing fairness and equality for Asian Americans and others in the foreseeable future, and ought to be embraced in solidarity with all communities that face systemic discrimination.”

Recent headlines run contrary to that sentiment.

The headline in the Pasadena Star News read: Asians rally against SCA 5, call it revival of Affirmative Action

The headlines in the liberal political blog the Daily Kos read “Groundswell of Asian American opposition to affirmative action.”

The story began this way:

“If you have ties to the Chinese American community here in California, you have no doubt seen a torrent of chain emails railing against SCA-5 this past 2 weeks. SCA-5 is a state constitutional amendment to overturn Prop 209 and re-instate race-based affirmative action to college admissions. This issue has politicized Asian Americans like you wouldn’t believe, in a way that serves as a cautionary tale to state Democrats.”

So what is going on here?

Are Asian American political leaders out of step with the communities they represent?

Or is this a case of the vocal minority catching all the attention?

SCA5 sailed through the California Senate 27 -9 with very little media attention or opposition.  The issue is now in the State Assembly. But largely on the opposition from segments of the Asian American community, the tide appears to be turning.

What makes this more surprising is that SCA5 won’t change a thing. It would merely put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

Now even the three Asian American state senators are asking that supporters slow things down and get more input from the public. Senators Leland Yee, Ted Lieu and Carol Liu are asking the bill’s author, State Senator Ed Hernandez, to build consensus before moving forward.

Congressional Rep Judy Chu and Assemblyman Ed Chau have come out against SCA5, according to the Pasadena Star News.

This groundswell of opposition is reminiscent to the vocal opposition in the Chinese American community to busing of school children in the 70s to achieve racial integration in schools.

Education is a major priority in Asian American family as much of the gains achieved in the community have come through education. SCA5 strikes at the core of that value.

While the opposition appears to be winning the public relations battle for now, they might want to take a larger view.

Asian Americans remain largely underrepresented in many segments of society. Despite their educational gains, you see very few Asian Americans elevated to leadership positions.

If you oppose affirmative action in education because you feel it will hurt your son or daughter’s chances of getting into a university, what about when they are looking for that big job or promotion?

Is your goal to get a degree, or to enter the career of your choice without fear of the bamboo or glass ceiling?

Is racism and discrimination a thing of the past? I think most Asian Americans would agree the answer is no.

Affirmative action is an effective means of opening doors. We need to make sure that door swings wide open.

 

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