Republished from The Unz Review
Last week I was invited to speak at the annual conference of the Education Writers Association, with the topic of my panel being the perspective of Asian-Americans on Affirmative Action policies in college admissions. Despite having the only white face among the four presenters, I believe my analysis made a useful contribution.
A couple of months ago, the issue had unexpectedly moved to the fore of the national debate. Democrats in the California State Legislature had unanimously backed SCA-5, a proposed 2014 ballot measure intended to repeal Prop. 209 and thereby restore Affirmative Action, banned in 1996. Since the 1990s, California had effectively become a one-party Democratic state, and many expected the voters would roll back that controversial legacy of the Pete Wilson Era. Every Asian in the Legislature is a Democrat and every Asian had supported the repeal without hesitation.
But once word of the proposal filtered out into the general Asian-American community, massive opposition spontaneously erupted, and within three weeks nearly 120,000 Asians had signed an electronic petition denouncing the proposal. Their intense hostility centered on the restoration of racially-conscious admissions policies for the prestigious state university system, reflecting their widespread belief that this would eventually result in the establishment of “Asian Quotas,” denying Asian students an equal chance for admission to public universities.
When over a hundred thousand individuals unexpectedly join a grassroots protest, politicians pay attention and within a few days every Asian legislator had reversed course and declared opposition to the measure. California Asians are a core Democratic constituency, usually backing that party’s candidates in the 75% range, and the stunned Democratic leadership quickly tabled the suddenly divisive proposal, which threatened to split their electoral base.
During the weeks that have followed, liberal advocates of Affirmative Action policies argued that Asian-American fears of a looming Asian Quota were totally mistaken, the product of dishonest conservative propaganda and misleading coverage in the ethnic media. Indeed, these were exactly the arguments advanced by two of my fellow panelists, OiYan Poon of Loyola University and Robert Teranishi of UCLA. But although my presentation did not focus on the particulars of the recent California controversy, I think I demonstrated the underlying roots of the concern that had so galvanized the Asian community. Continue reading