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Reinstatement of affirmative action may fail to make California ballot
March 16, 2014 1:42 PM   Subscribe

As reported recently by the San Jose Mercury News, Asian-American Democrats in the State Assembly now look to be blocking the reinstatement of race-based affirmative action in California, previously on the fast track for the November ballot, after it passed through the State Senate with all Democrats, including three Asian Americans, supporting the measure, and all Republicans opposing.

Democrats hold over two-thirds of the seats in each house of the State Legislature, and two-thirds is the required threshold. This threshold cannot be met without Asian American Democratic Assemblymembers, unless some Republicans vote in favor of advancing the ballot question. The three Asian-American Democratic State Senators have now switched sides themselevs, and are urging the Assembly to turn down the measure.

All of this is at least partially in response to a grass roots effort with a Change.org petition at its center.
posted by MattD (74 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was there any real chance of something like that passing anyway?
posted by codswallop at 1:44 PM on March 16


how about investing in higher education so that all universities are better and have more places and there isn't so much competition?
posted by jb at 1:59 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Not that I'm advocating for or against this, but I'm wondering if somebody can answer- why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration? It seems to me that it addresses the question of privilege without favoring any race over another, except as a consequence of structural imbalances already in place.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:09 PM on March 16 [13 favorites]


why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration?

Something something bootstraps, probably. Which is depressing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:11 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration?

Why would ethnically-based ideologues support something that might help some of the oppressors? Better to just keep it racial. Nice and clean divisions, no tests or assessments or anything to worry about.
posted by codswallop at 2:15 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


codswallop: "Better to just keep it racial. Nice and clean divisions, no tests or assessments or anything to worry about."

That's... irony, right?
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:17 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration?

I think the point of affirmative action, in part, is to diversify a class, per se, in terms of racial balance. You're talking about financial aid, really, aren't you? Which plenty of "poor" students get, regardless of race.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:18 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


You're talking about financial aid, really, aren't you?

Affirmative action is about acceptance; income-based financial aid comes only after that.
posted by griphus at 2:20 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "I think the point of affirmative action, in part, is to diversify a class, per se, in terms of racial balance. You're talking about financial aid, really, aren't you?"

No, I mean preferential admission for people who might have had lower grades because they didn't have as much time to study while they were working to help support their family, or couldn't afford SAT prep classes, or whatnot.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:20 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


That's... irony, right?

In a sense. But you can't pretend "affirmative action" is something that isn't based on race.
posted by codswallop at 2:21 PM on March 16


Wow, that change.org petition is egregiously misleading bullshit.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:22 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


No, I mean preferential admission for people who might have had lower grades because they didn't have as much time to study while they were working to help support their family, or couldn't afford SAT prep classes, or whatnot.

Interesting. I suspect that is harder to prove. Lots of middle class teenagers work 30 hours a week.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:22 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration?

A) It totally is. B) But it doesn't solve the problem. (Key quote: '"We were trying to prove that you get race by getting the right socioeconomic factor," Carnevale said. "We can never do it."')
posted by asterix at 2:23 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


I think affirmative action is a legitimate way to help improve overall equality, and I support it. On the other hand, I'm not sure I would have gone to college where I did if I were all-asian instead of half-asian, so I think this is a legitimate concern for the Asian-American community. I remember reading an article years back where someone from admissions at Harvard was quoted as saying, and I paraphrase, if we did admissions based only on scores, we'd have an incoming class of 1,600 Asian women, and no one would want that.
posted by snofoam at 2:23 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


(To clarify my last post, the "and no one would want that" is part of the quote as I remember it, not my personal opinion.)
posted by snofoam at 2:26 PM on March 16


Income doesn't map neatly to the kinds of inequalities and lack of opportunities that AA is designed to address. Low income whites may still have access to better schools, may be raised in environments that aren't openly hostile to progress and laws/police that aren't actively out to put them in jail, may be given more career and educational opportunities and attention. They may be low income but they and their parents and grandparents weren't necessarily born into a world that seems to be out to get them. That's the course that's trying to be corrected.

I don't see a way to get around this "minority vs. minority" dilemma if we're emphasizing under-represented minorities, as I think we should. That means that Asian-Americans and whites will see lower admittance numbers as blacks and hispanics see higher admittance numbers. That's just the way this has to work, I think, and maybe the Asian-American community needs to come to grips with the idea that they're not lacking in educational opportunities as much as other groups are.
posted by naju at 2:27 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


why is class/income-based affirmative action never a consideration?

My guess would be that there isn't enough funding and college admissions slots for all the low socio-economic-status white people that would also qualify if one approached it purely in those terms. Affirmative action seems predicated on the assumption that those minorities are dealing not just with the challenges that come with being low SES but also a system/culture that puts up additional challenges for certain ethnic minorities compared to say a white person of the same socio-economic-strata.
I'm fortunate enough for that not to have been my personal lived experience, but compelling arguments abound as to that being a thing.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 2:27 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Since 1996, the year voters approved Proposition 209, state universities have been barred from "discriminating against or granting preferential treatment" to any racial or ethnic group in college admissions, hiring and contracting. Since then, admission offers to black students have plunged 49 percent at UC Berkeley and 16 percent at UCLA, the state system's two most prestigious schools.
I think there's a strong argument to be made that AA, while certainly imperfect, is correcting for something grievously wrong with both the public education system and the admissions process. Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.
posted by griphus at 2:28 PM on March 16 [15 favorites]


Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.

True. However, in the past 18 years, it has gotten much, much harder to get into any top tier school.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:31 PM on March 16


Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.

I would be curious to see if their graduation rates are up a lot since it became harder to get in.
posted by codswallop at 2:33 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I think it's weird that they're still treating Asian Americans as a single "model minority" bloc, when it's well known that there's a huge difference of income, class, and discrimination experienced within the Asian/Asian American Community.
posted by FJT at 2:33 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


AA is good and necessary. AA is also flawed. It's not as simple as turning it off and on, like a light switch.

It has been known for a while that AA disproportionately "punishes" those groups which "overperform" relative to other groups (e.g. Asian-Americans, in contrast to other groups), while also disproportionately "favoring" those subgroups within those groups which "overperform" relative to other members of the group (e.g. middle-class Chinese-Americans, in contrast to lower-class Hmong-Americans).

This does not mean that AA is not also good and necessary, but the fact remains that there are flaws which need to be addressed.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:36 PM on March 16


Asian-American Democrats in the State Assembly

Is there an official "Asian-American" caucus or something?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:43 PM on March 16


how about investing in higher education so that all universities are better and have more places and there isn't so much competition?

Because education is not something you can just order up like more kitchen sinks or microwave ovens. There is a finite amount of product (good professors and, truth be told, students bright enough to get value out of them). You can of course build all kinds of schools and classes and call it a college education, but it will largely be sham goods. As, arguably, it already is.

But then, I've always been a proponent of public high-schools good enough to fit the great average with job skills, and a return of the apprentice system. Return higher education to the absent minded scholars and similar misfits, with course work rigorous enough that the Hooray Henries flunk out freshman year.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:44 PM on March 16


Is there an official "Asian-American" caucus or something?

From TFA: "Eight Assembly Democrats belong to the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus".
posted by asterix at 2:44 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


I don't see a way to get around this "minority vs. minority" dilemma if we're emphasizing under-represented minorities, as I think we should. That means that Asian-Americans and whites will see lower admittance numbers as blacks and hispanics see higher admittance numbers. That's just the way this has to work, I think, and maybe the Asian-American community needs to come to grips with the idea that they're not lacking in educational opportunities as much as other groups are.

Except what's most likely going to happen is that white enrollment will remain about the same while Asian-American enrollment plummets. When Prop. 209 was adopted, Asian-American enrollment in UCs grew disproportionately more than white enrollment. In a way when people talk about race-based affirmative action as bringing beneficial diversity to the rest of the student population, there almost seems to be an implicit understanding that they're really bringing beneficial diversity for the benefit of the white students.
posted by gyc at 2:50 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Maybe it doesn't really matter, but it seems easier to accept white people being "punished" by AA if you assume that they are/were also the beneficiaries of institutionalized racism. I think it would be very hard to argue the same about Asian-Americans.
posted by snofoam at 2:53 PM on March 16


Might want to change the "affirmtiveaction" (sic) tag to "affirmativeaction"
posted by dhens at 2:55 PM on March 16


Maybe it doesn't really matter, but it seems easier to accept white people being "punished" by AA if you assume that they are/were also the beneficiaries of institutionalized racism.

It gets worse when you consider how AA as it currently works also often "punishes" low-class, African-American descendants of US slaves, in favor of the children of African and Caribbean immigrants. It's a problem inherent in how AA relies on broadly, arbitrarily defined groups: those subgroups which "overperform" relative to other members of the group get a significant boost.

It's tough, because you want the system to be as fair as possible, but you also have to be aware that the perfect can be the enemy of the good.

Except what's most likely going to happen is that white enrollment will remain about the same while Asian-American enrollment plummets.

There has also been some hugger-mugger about how college admissions moving away from pure grades and tests often acts as a sort of informal "affirmative action for white people". When grades and tests are prioritized, it's easier for many immigrants, outsiders, etc. to find their way in. When you need to do ballet and track and violin and Eagle Scouts and whatever else, you start rewarding a lifestyle that many people can't have in the first place. (Of course, the other side of it is that not everybody has the resources to ace those tests, either.)

I'm not saying that the solution is to run back to a more pure grades and tests criteria, but it is food for thought.

Again, no system will ever be perfect, etc. etc. etc.

...

Return higher education to the absent minded scholars and similar misfits, with course work rigorous enough that the Hooray Henries flunk out freshman year.

I don't disagree, but what happens when it's not the Hooray Henries who are flunking out? Many people who scrape themselves from poverty and into a place of elite-ish higher education often find themselves at a much greater risk for dropping out. The "nice" thing about privilege is that you're often more used to certain expectations and workloads, and you're also more assertive about getting and receiving help when you need it. On average, it's much easier for people on the edge to fall off.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:09 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


According to this 2012 study (still in process), minority grad rates in the UC system went up after Prop 209. Not everyone gets into Cal.
California students have more competition from international students, whose governments often pay the full rate.
What would help minority students the most would be to expand the community college system--those students can transfer to UCs, but it's very hard to get all the credits in a reasonable amount of time.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:09 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough (as in, not funny at all), the undergraduate population at all but two of the UC campuses is an Asian-American majority. Latinos and African Americans are woefully underrepresented. What the activists in this case are pushing for is basically racist, but the current system isn't racist against them, so I guess they think that makes it okay? Every race for itself!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:26 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Return higher education to the absent minded scholars and similar misfits, with course work rigorous enough that the Hooray Henries flunk out freshman year.

The Henries Sr. are the ones endowing these schools with loads of cash for accepting and graduating the Juniors and it goes on and on. The sort of Hogwartsian fantasy of higher education as a place strictly for the young person who spent all their time in their room reading books (or whatever precocious academic pursuit you pick) is just that: a fantasy. What's worse, is that it is a fantasy that doesn't include the kids who never had the time or the space or even the books to do so. And yet they'd just as well benefit from college, and their communities would benefit from their college education.
posted by griphus at 3:28 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


When Prop. 209 was adopted, Asian-American enrollment in UCs grew disproportionately more than white enrollment.

The enrollment had to go up, there were other demographic trends happening since 1996, including a jump in the Asian population. In 1990, the Asian population was 9.2% of California. In 2000, it was 12.3 %. And in 2010, it's 14.9%.

And there's also other trends, including the graying of the White population. (nationally, the average age of Whites is 9.4 years older than the average age of Asians).
posted by FJT at 3:28 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


California students have more competition from international students, whose governments often pay the full rate.

This is actually a very good point. UC Davis is actively recruiting out-of-state and international students for financial reasons.

Also, see page 21 of this PDF for a breakdown of UC demographics. It's really kind of remarkable.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:32 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.

Well, sure, I can easily make that argument -- all I have to do is quibble with the word "deserve." Because your deserve may be vastly different from my deserve, and if my goal is to eliminate AA or other diversity programs, I simply debate you on the meaning of the word. Thinking about college as something a student deserves seems to be one of the problems here. Very few people would claim that they "deserve" a certain job; it's understood that many factors go into hiring new positions. But because colleges are largely overwhelmed with applicants, simple metrics are used to define the meaning of "deserve" and eliminate entire pools of otherwise fine applicants.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:34 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough (as in, not funny at all), the undergraduate population at all but two of the UC campuses is an Asian-American majority.

I think you mean plurality, and not majority! According to WashPo, "[t]his year’s class is 36 percent Asian American, 28.1 percent white, 27.6 percent Latino and 4.2 percent African American."
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:35 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.

I would be curious to see if their graduation rates are up a lot since it became harder to get in.


Based on what I read in the LA Times a few weeks ago, they have had an increase in overall African American admissions to the UCal system (though a significant decrease in admissions to the two flagship campuses), and graduation rates for African Americans have increased across all campuses.
posted by killdevil at 3:38 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Since then, admission offers to black students have plunged 49 percent at UC Berkeley and 16 percent at UCLA, the state system's two most prestigious schools.
I think there's a strong argument to be made that AA, while certainly imperfect, is correcting for something grievously wrong with both the public education system and the admissions process. Pretty sure it is hard to make an argument that half of the previously-admitted African American students objectively did not deserve to go to Berkeley.


Well, I'm not sure how you'd be "pretty sure" of that. Let's face it: the point of affirmative action is to admit a lot of students who wouldn't otherwise make the cut based on all the relevant nonracial factors. (I agree with (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates's point that "deserve" isn't the best word choice here.) And I'd want to look more closely at these statistics rather than cherry-picking.

Also, it's misleading to look at the results of one state (or a few states) abolishing affirmative action. You have to consider how this plays out not just in one state, but in the whole country. As long as most states still use affirmative action, those states are going to accept minority applicants at artificially heightened rates. On average, students are naturally inclined to accept admission at the highest-ranked schools they can get into, which for minority students will tend to be schools that use affirmative action (since the point of affirmative action is to accept students who would have otherwise been rejected). So the race-neutral schools will accept minority applicants at artificially lowered rates. None of that is a dependable reflection of what it would be like if racial affirmative action were abolished nationwide (e.g. through a Supreme Court ruling), which is what I'd prefer.

Although state-by-state abolition of affirmative action is flawed, I still support it on the whole, since I think racial preferences in admissions harm students of all races. Of course, it directly harms Asians and whites. It superficially benefits blacks and Hispanics — mainly those who are otherwise relatively privileged. It isn't a program aimed at helping poor blacks; notwithstanding that blacks in America are unfortunately more likely to be poor than other Americans, the blacks who get admitted to top-notch schools will tend to be from higher income levels. And it ultimately harms black and Hispanics, by enticing them (at a very young age, when few of us have the greatest foresight) to go to schools where they have a harder time competing and thriving than if they had gone to the schools that would have accepted them without regard to race.
posted by John Cohen at 3:50 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I think you mean plurality, and not majority!

Yes, yes. What I meant was Asian Americans have the tallest bar on the graph at most of UC's campuses.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:53 PM on March 16


BuddhaInABucket, back during the runup to Prop209, its main proponent, Ward Connerly, visited UC Berkeley. During a speech he suggested that race-based affirmative action was unfair, and that perhaps class-based affirmative action was the way to go, and that it might be fairer. I wasn't at the speech, but friends were and it was covered in the Daily Cal.

After 209 passed, as we all know, Connerly engaged in a state-wide campaign to create an economic-class based affirmative action program. And we all know how that turned out!
posted by wuwei at 3:55 PM on March 16


how about investing in higher education so that all universities are better and have more places and there isn't so much competition?

Because education is not something you can just order up like more kitchen sinks or microwave ovens
.

Sorry, I realize my first comment sounds flippant.

But I've also spent a lot of time thinking about university admissions in the USA, UK and Canada (the three university systems I've personally/professionally dealt with). In the US, there is great concern about racial equality; in the UK, they worry constantly about class equality in their better universities.

But in Canada, it's not such a big deal, and it's because we've turned the issue upside-down. Instead of worrying how we select students "fairly" for a small number of places at a small number of "good" (or top or elite) universities, we've made most of our universities "pretty good" and even the top universities are sufficiently large and many compared to the population that access isn't a huge deal. Your university experience isn't made or broken on admissions -- and neither are your life chances so changed by acceptance to one Canadian university over another.

I realize that we do export part of the problem - the children of our elite apply to elite universities in the US and UK, and thus obtain opprotunities non-elites can't. But we do have a good, robust university system with both wide access and maintenance of academic rigour at the high end.
posted by jb at 4:01 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


Also, for those who don't live in CA, there's the UC system, and the Cal State system, as well as the community colleges. Over 70% of California’s K-12 students are students of color, which means "minority" could take on a whole new definition in a few years.
"58% of CSU students are students of color (including over 136,000 Hispanic/Latino, nearly 65,000 Asian, and almost 21,000 African American students). One-third of CSU undergraduates are in the first generation of their family to attend college."
Life goes on even if you don't get into UCLA or Cal.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:32 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


"As lifelong advocates for the Asian American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children,"

"We have found a formula that works for our kids, and everyone else can go straight to hell." That's how I'm reading this. I guess these legislators don't represent anyone except the Asian-Americans living in their districts.

What to do these folks think will happen in the future? Where will their very well-educated kids go to live that will be safe from the massive harm that perpetuating an inter-generational underclass creates? A policy that helps our children but screws over the state as a whole isn't really helping much of anyone.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:34 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm not sure how you'd be "pretty sure" of that. Let's face it: the point of affirmative action is to admit a lot of students who wouldn't otherwise make the cut based on all the relevant nonracial factors.

Have you read The Shape of the River? What about its conclusions do you disagree with?
posted by asterix at 5:02 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


1adam12, in fairness a lot of these Asian Americans are here in the states as a result of utterly failed states and civil war resulting from...class conflict. You'd think they'd learn from history, but nope, learning all the wrong lessons. I see this constantly. If the shooting ever starts, they'll be the first ones begging for stormtroopers to kill all the poors, oblivious to their own hand in starting this shit in the first place.
posted by wuwei at 5:11 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Life goes on even if you don't get into UCLA or Cal.

On an individual level, yes, but the UC system not reflecting the state's demographics is an issue. It suggests there's a barrier to access somewhere. If you look at the Berkeley demographics, it's somewhere between meeting the a-g subject requirements and applying to Berkeley for Chicano/Latino students. African-American students seem to apply in numbers roughly proportional to the state's population* but either disproportionately don't get in or disproportionately go elsewhere. Anyway, some of this is a K-12 inequality problem and some of this is Berkeley's problem (if underrepresented students think they will have a better experience elsewhere). But either way, it's a problem.

(Coincidentally, the UC application asks a lot of questions about your family background. In particular, it asks about how much money your parents make and on what date(!) they entered the US if born elsewhere. That last one led to amusing conversations about whose parents knew off hand, whose parents got married on day 89 of a fiance visa and could work it out that way and whose parents just made up a date.)

*Yes, I realise 18 year olds don't necessarily reflect the state's population.
posted by hoyland at 5:15 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


A policy that helps our children but screws over the state as a whole isn't really helping much of anyone.

This assumes that the state as a whole is being screwed over. One could equally well argue that Chinese females are simply raising the bar, and their higher standards are long term better for all of us. But again, I go back to the question of public high-schools, which is where the ball is really dropped. Lot of colleges are basically an extended make-up session, and an expensive one at that.

Anyway, none of this is going to matter in a few years because California is going to implode financially and all the clever people will bugger off.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:21 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


This report, Ethnic Health Assessment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in California (downloadable as PDF), says:

The Asian American (AA) and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) population is very diverse, representing more than 50 racial/ethnic groups and 100 languages. The social profile of AAs and NHPIs by subgroups also differs dramatically by culture, language, religion, immigrant status, and socioeconomic status. AAs and NHPIs represent over 13% and 0.6% of the total California population respectively. Filipinos represent the largest Asian subgroup (27%), followed by Chinese (26%), Vietnamese (12%), Asian Indians (10%) and Koreans (10%). Among AAs, Japanese report the highest proportion of mixed-race background. Native Hawaiians represent the largest NHPI subgroup (32%), followed by Samoans (23%) and Guamanians/Chamorros (17%). The NHPI population is comprised of many mixed race individuals. Native Hawaiians, in particular, have the highest proportion of mixed-race background.

I'm not seeing UC populations split down into anything other than "Asians and Pacific Islanders," but I'd be interested to know if the college population reflects the state's actual demographics. As others have said, "Asian" or "Asian-American" covers an enormously diverse group, not all of whom fit the model-minority stereotype.
posted by jaguar at 5:38 PM on March 16


The Berkeley demographics page I linked above separates Asian and Pacific Islander, but doesn't go finer than that. Anecdotally, I don't think Asian Berkeley students represent Asian Californians, as I'm pretty sure Filipinos are underrepresented, but I could also be totally wrong.
posted by hoyland at 5:51 PM on March 16


I did find the data for the UC system as a whole, in the Statistical Summary of Students and Staff (pdf) from the president's office.

On page 27 of the document, it shows Fall 2012 enrollment broken down by ethnicity. It gives absolute numbers, and this is only for new undergraduate and graduate school enrollment, but I calculate:

Filipino/Pilipino (8,831 students): 11.02% of AA enrollments, 3.70% of all enrollments
Chinese (31,698 students): 39.55% of AA enrollments, 13.28% of all enrollments
Japanese (4,104 students): 5.12% of AA enrollments, 1.72% of all enrollments
Korean (9,094 students): 11.35% of AA enrollments, 3.81% of all enrollments
Pakistani/East Indian (9,399 students): 11.73% of AA enrollments, 3.94% of all enrollments
Other Asian (17,011 students): 21.23% of AA enrollments, 7.13% of all enrollments

These numbers don't include international students, which are another 20,851 students not described by ethnicity or country of origin.

So the current UC enrollments would indicate that all Asian-Americans are likely not overrepresented based on California's demographics, but that Chinese and Chinese-American students very much are overrepresented.
posted by jaguar at 6:26 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


This report, iCount: A Data Quality Movement for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Higher Education (pdf), issued by Educational Testing Service and the National Commission on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Research in Education, is also fascinating. There's a section specifically on the UC system.

UC Berkeley:The data reveal a particularly bleak picture of disproportional representation of AAPI sub-group applicants to UC Berkeley relative to their representation in the state. Low representation among AAPI applicants is a particularly problematic trend for Pacific Islanders (Samoans, Guamanians, Tongans, and Native Hawaiians), Southeast Asians (Laotians, Cambodians, Hmong, and Vietnamese), and Filipinos. Samoans, for example, are seven times less likely to be represented among AAPI applicants to UC Berkeley than Malaysians, relative to their proportional representation in the state.

UCLA: Disaggregate data reveal that the average rate of admission for AAPIs in the aggregate is not representative of individual sub-groups. Some AAPI sub-groups (Taiwanese, Malaysians, Chinese, Asian Indians, and Japanese) have a higher rate of admission than the average rate of admission for all AAPIs. On the other hand, there are other sub-groups (Hmong, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Thais, Cambodians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, and Koreans) with a lower rate of admission compared to the mean rate of admission for all AAPIs. The gaps between some sub-groups are significant. Taiwanese have a rate of admission to UCLA that is 7.7 percent higher than the average for AAPIs in the aggregate while Hmong have a rate of admission that is 13.1 percent below the average. Put another way, Hmong applicants have a rate of admission that is 20.8 percent lower than Taiwanese applicants.

I just think it's important to remember that there a great many Asian-American groups who are hugely underrepresented in higher education, and that policies designed to limit all Asian-American enrollment may hurt these already disadvantaged groups even more.

I'm a fan of affirmative action policies in general, but I think it'd be helpful to add more nuance wherever possible.
posted by jaguar at 6:41 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


When I studied at Cal (four years after the start of Prop. 209.), a popular instructor of computer science at one point in the introductory lectures shared with us that he loved teaching because of the students: especially the lower division classes, in part because there's people from all backgrounds, while specifically to contrast he said, notice how the diversity gets less and less over time as you move onto the upper division courses. That's what I saw during my time: lots of East Asians, and lots of white Caucasians, some Indian students, very few other minorities, and virtually no black students. Eta Kappa Nu, the student honor society, was literally over 90% East Asian; the student research honors group was also heavily Asian; I remember some caucasian faces but they were very few. He was correct, and interestingly he did not actually justify or explain his clearly mild dismay—I question if maybe he thought he was in a room that shared or even understood his valuation of diversity.

I recall this story because I first heard about this on the Asian American subreddit a couple weeks ago, a few posts kept appearing each week. There is a lot of opposition amongst the commenters; I'd say over 90% expressed anti-SCA sentiments. The arguments that I read were basically reactionary; a commonly espoused view was "I am against SCA 5 because admissions should be based only on merit (and/or income)." It was a fairly dismaying moment for me when I found out that my views were so opposed to those of my fellow Asians.

But I did learn three valuable ideas. SCA 5 has a problem in that it doesn't come with concrete predictions as to what the trade-offs, the actual outcomes, can or will be. Lack of concreteness in policy is almost guaranteed to be a problem if the goal is to convince all stakeholders why such a policy should pass. Second was the view that SCA 5 itself triggered a lot of the conflict/infighting amongst the various minority groups—surely a more sensitive approach for all groups would have had a better chance of succeeding. Third, and closely related to the previous, was the "validity" of the reactionary, resisting response of this particular segment of Asian Americans—I can understand the backlash happened because their voices and concerns weren't heard in the first place.
posted by polymodus at 6:45 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Good. In California "affirmative action" is a euphemism for racial discrimination that particularly targets Asian students. Their minds and hard work are as "valuable" to a university as anyone's. The opportunities in public education should open to anyone equally based on measurable merit and not on racial preference -- which is, in fact, racist and belongs in the past.
posted by knoyers at 7:12 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Where will their very well-educated kids go to live that will be safe from the massive harm that perpetuating an inter-generational underclass creates?

They have gated communities in California, don't they?
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:37 PM on March 16


From TFA: "Eight Assembly Democrats belong to the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus".

Fucking thank you for the fucking information from the fucking article.

The CA Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus website hasn't been updated, and doesn't (that I can fucking find) include information about this ballot initiative.

Wouldn't the simple solution be to make sure Asian Americans (at least those "ethnicities" represented by this caucus) also be included in affirmative action plans?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:10 PM on March 16


Fucking thank you for the fucking information from the fucking article.

You're fucking welcome!
posted by asterix at 8:46 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu isn't the supposed problem that Asian Americans are already disproportionally represented in relation to general population and there for any affirmative action is going to disproportionally impact Asian Americans? Are you saying they should entrench the already disproportionate representation at the expense of America-Americans?
posted by Mitheral at 8:49 PM on March 16


I was being facetious. I don't know what the solution is, really, but on the other hand I'm no fan of identity politics... even though it is quite socially acceptable as we see here in this very thread to casually make racist comments about Asians in an American context.

My take is that the phone calls to this caucus from constituents are not from "failed transplants" or whatever, but from hardworking people who may have immigrated to the States within the past couple of generations, and have worked hard to advance themselves and their children. They work hard, full stop.

It seems misguided though, to scrap affirmative action just based on the fear there won't be enough spots for Asian folks. I don't think it's a silly thing to call your state representative about, but I would think that this Democratic Asian caucus would show a bit more leadership with their constituency. It's remarkably unsophisticated, but I guess this is politics.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:55 PM on March 16


So KokuRyu, since you're an expert on Asia, why don't you tell me about the class background of the ethnic Chinese immigrant population over time, starting in the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and going through the early 1980s? Let's include Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Mainland and the former French Indochina as one entity for the purposes of this discussion. Bonus points if you can explain the class background of the new suburbs in Southern California?

And also, can you explain what you mean by racism? Because it's a pretty loaded term, best to make sure we're all talking about the same thing before you so casually accuse me of being racist against my own people.

And also, can you explain what you mean by "identity politics" since that is also a pretty loaded term? Can you differentiate that from "regular" politics? Or is identity politics something only non-white people do?

Thanks.
posted by wuwei at 9:00 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


[Folks, this needs to not become a challenge-and-response game. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 9:24 PM on March 16


KokuRyu, the current issue is actually that reinstating affirmative action is likely to disadvantage Asian-Americans. The current state of affairs in California, without affirmative action, is benefiting Chinese-Americans at the expense of almost all other ethnic minority groups.
posted by jaguar at 9:32 PM on March 16


It's likely to disadvantage everyone who isn't currently disadvantaged. That's how affirmative action works. You let in some people who otherwise wouldn't get in and you keep out some people who would otherwise get in. No such thing as a free lunch and all that.

The way these guys are defending their privilege? Yeah, they are doing exactly what old white dudes do when defending old white dude privilege, for exactly the same reasons, and it isn't any more becoming here. Everybody wants to help their kids and sometimes eliminating privilege is hard to differentiate from hurting your (privileged) kids. Yes, helping the underprivileged helps society as a whole but that is a very subtle argument and not as snappy and emotionally charged as "don't hurt my kids".
posted by Justinian at 11:58 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I had this white roomate in (UnivCal) grad school newly arrived from North Carolina who had all the black/white racist apologia down. But then when he had to face the Asians in grad science classes he was definitely left in the dust. After one quarter, he slunk off to Ft. Collins in CO where, I suppose at that time, the white man was still KING!
posted by telstar at 12:04 AM on March 17


Why are we even continuing this charade that there are limited seats in the first place and that there isn't room at the table for everyone who sincerely wants to go?
posted by mikelieman at 3:05 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


The way these guys are defending their privilege? Yeah, they are doing exactly what old white dudes do when defending old white dude privilege, for exactly the same reasons, and it isn't any more becoming here.

This doesn't make sense to me. I don't see how Asian-Americans are privileged in any way, much less that it's the same as "old white dude privilege." Even without AA, it is harder for Asian-Americans to get into many schools, despite excellent academic records, etc., which is typically justified by the school wanting to have a diverse student body (not speaking about UC here). Asians have never been the majority in the US, oppressing other races. Asian-Americans have faced (other than slavery) the same types of discrimination as other racial minorities in this country. Some Asian-Americans have been successful in some areas, but it is in spite of discrimination, not because of privilege.

In this case, the article positions the situation as 5 Asians blocking the referendum when there are 80 members of the Assembly. It's not like they are using their majority vote to block this resolution. It's probably just chance that they happen to have enough votes to make a difference. One might even wonder why an article would focus on their five votes rather than any of the others voting against this.
posted by snofoam at 4:34 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


There are inherently limited seats at Berkeley, UCLA and the medical schools. The winners in reinstated affirmative action would be Mexican Americans, it's pretty clear.

It's not clear who the losers would be.

If a reinstated affirmative action resembled contemporary Ivy League admissions, it would be Asians, as they suffer under the "well-rounded excluding classical musicianship" rubric the Ivies use to keep their Asian admissions low.

If it resembled pre 209 UC affirmative action, with URMs being guaranteed admission to Berkeley and UCLA if they met minimum UC systemwide criteria, and whites and Asians got the rest of the spots ranked by honors-and-AP weighted GPA and SAT, it would be whites -- you could easily see whites as single digit percentages of the freshman class at Berkeley, with Asians somewhere in the 30s and Mexican Americans well over 50%.
posted by MattD at 4:45 AM on March 17


Some Asian-Americans have been successful in some areas, but it is in spite of discrimination, not because of privilege.

Things change for ethnicities as they integrate with the United States - Asians have been remarkably successful as of late, and tend to do better than ethnically white Americans in terms of income and other markers of prosperity. (The situation is very different for new immigrants, tho.) With this prosperity comes some of the awesome stuff you can do for your kids - private schools, personal tutors, music lessons.

They're playing the game the way the power elite in this country claims it should be played; the problem is the power elite has always been full of bullshit. They're not about keeping out unaccomplished people from their social circles. They're about keeping those not in their social circles out of their social circles.

Jews and Italians ran face first into this in the 20th Century (especially Jewish kids applying to college - the Italian kids who made the grade could always find a spot in a great Catholic school.) Now it's the assimilated and prosperous Asian community's turn to deal with it.

In typical one-percenter fashion, they power elite are gleefully using their racist rejection of Asians as a wedge to keep disadvantaged ethnic groups in their place (Latino, Native American and African American, specifically). This is to depress wages and stifle class mobility for the middle class - you know, where prosperous and successful Asian American families live.

Oh, no, it's not Humphrey Bottomshire IV with his "Gentleman's C" and prep school varsity letter in Lacrosse keeping your straight-A violinist daughter out of Stanford. It's affirmative action black/Mexican people, as we all know black/Mexican people are naturally less intelligent and more lazy than Asians.

Asian Americans are being played for chumps, and by a tired old scam that's been run against the Germans, Scotts-Irish, regular Irish, Polish, Jewish, Italians and everyone else who looks like they're making a go of it. It's disheartening.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


snofoam: "One might even wonder why an article would focus on their five votes rather than any of the others voting against this."

It's probably at least because of the break with party lines and a reversal of initial support.
posted by Mitheral at 6:31 AM on March 17


on what date(!) they entered the US if born elsewhere. That last one led to amusing conversations about whose parents knew off hand, whose parents got married on day 89 of a fiance visa and could work it out that way and whose parents just made up a date.
posted by hoyland at 7:15 PM on March 16


I don't follow this at all. If you immigrated to the US, why wouldn't you know when you did that? It's a date that comes up all the time when you fill out immigration paperwork. I can easily tell you offhand the date I landed in the US because I have to write it down a lot.

It's a weird thing for the university to care about, though.
posted by joannemerriam at 9:52 AM on March 17


Why are we even continuing this charade that there are limited seats in the first place and that there isn't room at the table for everyone who sincerely wants to go?

Um, because there isn't? California's finances are bad, to say the least, and there isn't tons of money going toward UC schools any time soon. Enrollment is high and among my friends who've gone to UC schools it's not at all an uncommon experience to be unable to enroll in classes they need in particular sequences because classes are full and there are not enough resources.

Sure, California has a large tertiary school system including UCs, Cal States and lots of community colleges, but let's be honest, we're not talking about affirmative action at Cal State Dominguez Hills here, we're talking about seats at Berkeley and UCLA. I don't see another Berkeley springing up any time soon (partially for the reasons outlined upthread about why "make all education better!" is not particularly helpful given fiscal and political realities).
posted by andrewesque at 11:42 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


joannemerriam: "I don't follow this at all. If you immigrated to the US, why wouldn't you know when you did that? It's a date that comes up all the time when you fill out immigration paperwork."

The paperwork is asking when their parents immigrated. Is this really something someone born in the USA fills out all the time?
posted by Mitheral at 5:53 PM on March 17


Is this really something someone born in the USA fills out all the time?

I'm in this situation and I have never been asked for this information. On the other hand, I applied to the UC schools and I don't recall this field, since I know I would have had to ask my parents for this information.
posted by andrewesque at 6:51 AM on March 18


If you immigrated to the US, why wouldn't you know when you did that? It's a date that comes up all the time when you fill out immigration paperwork.

The only reason I know biscotti's is because it was the day before our wedding. But, thinking about it, I'm not sure if that counts -- she entered that day as a legal nonimmigrant under her K fiancee visa. So it might be that the day she legally immigrated is either the day we filed the I-485 to adjust her status or the day she got the I-551 stamp in her passport.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:42 AM on March 18


And no, it's not something Americans fill out all the time. Though most dealings with potential employers or the government do involve either telling them your race and ethnicity or saying that you'd prefer not to say that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:43 AM on March 18


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