HomeAsian AmericansAsian Americans and California's Affirmative Action Ballot Measure

Asian Americans and California’s Affirmative Action Ballot Measure

In just under two weeks, California voters will decide whether or not to restore affirmative action in their state. If Proposition 16 passes, it would reverse a ban on considering race, gender or ethnicity in public university admissions and public contracting in California established by Proposition 209 in 1996, The New York Times reports.

Asian Americans have long been the poster children for minority dissent of affirmative action. But several Asian American civil rights organizations have expressed support for Proposition 16. According to the measure’s campaign website, organizations like Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Japanese American Citizens League have endorsed Prop. 16.

A research group called AAPI Data surveyed 600 Asian American voters and found that 35 percent of Asian American voters in California supported Prop. 16. Around 21 percent opposed the measure and 43 percent remained undecided.

Asian Americans are more supportive of the measure than Whites. Only 26 percent of Whites support Prop. 16 and 51 percent oppose the measure. Asian Americans have also expressed more support than most California voters. Thirty-one percent of California voters support Prop. 16 and 47 percent oppose it.

Although many Asian American voters remain unsure about Prop. 16, the survey found widespread support for affirmative action amongst the Asian American community. AAPI Data found that 66 percent of Asian American voters surveyed in California support affirmative action.

Some Asian American groups and individuals have also expressed their opposition to Prop. 16. On October 21, The Sacramento Bee spoke with Asian Americans who oppose the measure.

“As an individual and as a coalition, we believe in the American ideal that a man or woman should not be judged by race,” Dr. Wenyuan Wu, executive director of Californians for Equal Rights told The Sacramento Bee. “This measure groups people together along racial lines that are not true in real life.”

The Bee also reported that Asian American politicians like Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell have received criticism from their Asian American constituents for supporting the measure. Low says that more should be done to reach out to Asian Americans who oppose the measure.

“The official (Yes on 16) campaign side recognizes and understands the major opposition is coming from the Chinese community, but they’re also not doing as much as could be done to … talk to Asian opposition,” Low said.

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