HomeCampusOpEd: Asian Americans weren't the ones that killed affirmative action

OpEd: Asian Americans weren’t the ones that killed affirmative action

By David Monkawa

The rightwing Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to get rid of “Affirmative Action”.

They agreed with Edward Blum of Students for Fair Admissions, who sued Harvard and UNC, alleging that their admissions policies discriminated against Asians who were given lower points for racist “personality” traits.

Janelle Wong, Dir. of Asian American Studies, Univ.of Maryland
states, “Racist terms like “strong silent” were used for Asians but also used to describe Black and Latinx students so the lower courts found no discrimination after thorough investigations that involved Asian students.”

But the MAGA majority of SCOTUS did, along with another gut punch by not cancelling student debt the next day. But they left affirmative action for the military intact so non-white officers can lead soldiers into US wars. Almost half of the military is working-class people of color.

In California, affirmative action was killed when Prop 209 was passed in 1996. Black enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley fell by 40% and 34% for Latinx students.

Edward Blum is a White Texas Republican and passionate anti-affirmative action activist whose tactics are similar to Alan Bakke, who sued UC Davis for using racial quotas in 1974.

He claimed that affirmative action was “reverse racism” against Whites. Blum used
“Asians”, the “model minority” as the plaintiffs instead of Whites to divide and confuse affirmative action supporters.

In 2014 Blum was a guest speaker at the Houston Chinese Alliance where his friend, attorney and businessman, David Cao connected him with local Asian professionals who backed up Blum’s narrative that Asians are victimized by affirmative action. But he couldn’t find any Asian students at Harvard to testify.

In fact, Asian Americans support affirmative action based on polls. A  2022 survey  by APIAVote, found Asian voters favored it by 69% when it is “designed to help Black people, women, and other minorities get better access to higher education.”

Affirmative action policies were one of many reforms initiated by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s. By the end of the decade, inflation and unemployment were rising and US dominance was being challenged by the “third world”.

US racial capitalists embraced “Reaganomics” (neoliberalism) including some democrats, to restore their global wealth to post-war WWII levels.

Around 1980, unions were weakened or busted, factories ran away overseas,
environmental and trade barriers were trashed and Wall St. went unhinged. This led to the greatest rise in inequality during any president’s term, 3,184,000 fell into poverty

Reagan even tried to get rid of affirmative action, E.O.#11246 signed by Johnson in 1965. He was unsuccessful back then.

Graphs about US inequality show a sharp rise upwards from 1980. This same rise
appears in graphs about incarceration, job offshoring, homelessness, the rise of hate groups and other indicators.

So in some African American and Latinx households, deserving sons and daughters were able to attend good colleges due to affirmative action.

But in these same working-class and some middle-class homes, dads were being laid off, moms denied women health coverage, junior was getting shot by cops, and eviction notices were being hammered onto doors.

60 years of affirmative action increased enrollment and diversity. But inequality drove millions into student, medical or mortgage debt and the standard of living went south for working folks, especially for people of color.

The gains from affirmative action were being devoured by inequality and its popularity fell. Conservatives called for its head and even POC distanced themselves and said, “I just want to be judged on my merit, not skin color.”

The battles to maintain and expand affirmative action type policies will continue throughout the nation. Some are demanding that “legacy admissions” be dumped and to scrutinize a student’s social status like those who come from royalty.

It is one front in the broad democratic struggles for equality and the united front against White supremacy and fascism.

Americans deserve free quality college education for all who want it. Several countries already have it, why can’t we? “Simply” taxing corporate offshore tax havens will raise more than enough to pay all tuition for one year, about $600 bill. ($40,000 average tuition 3 X 15 mill students 4 )

Billions less that the recent war budget. US students have already
been going overseas to the EU where 10 countries have tuition-free or very low fees for universities including the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris or the University of Munich.

The US has enough resources to create quality schools and universities where needed. We must fight for every small reform but dream big. Starting with an overhaul of the broken Bureau of Indian Education system and making Historically Black Colleges & Universities debt & tuition free.

Funding and building free colleges in the 16 so-called “territories and possessions” of the US-that would be affirmation! It will take all of our organized strength at the ballot box and in the streets to win it.

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  1. Hello David Monkawa please read this article written yesterday about affirmative action and Asian American history(or oriental American history as east Asians were once referred to as)

    can you please read this very important article. It speaks a lot about affirmative action and how Asian Americans Chinese japanese etc have not benefitted from the civil rights movement in the way that we think and can explain some of the subconscious and conscious racism and hate towards the aapi community. It addresses the very different path that Asians particularly orientals as they were once called had to take in America. A question is if Asians were beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, why are the only group with the highest percentage of people reporting fear of just leaving their homes because their Asian faces would generate violence towards them. Stares. ostracization from bars and basketball game environment, Jeremy lins treatment in the NBA. America cannot pretend to be a just society while failing to even confront some of the greatest sins that Asians had to endure in America and continuing to endure in such a visible manner in 2023.

    Kelly Wong Smith


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