Given the many ways that affirmative action benefits Asian American students and their communities, we should see conservative solicitude for Asian Americans “harmed” by affirmative action as strategic rather than genuine. Conservative opponents of affirmative action have not, generally speaking, taken an interest in other issues that affect Asian American welfare in unique ways, ranging from employment discrimination to health care to immigration.
So why the conservative concern when it comes to affirmative action? The answer is that Asian Americans provide a convenient tool for opponents of affirmative action. By framing opposition to affirmative action as concern for Asian Americans, opponents of affirmative action can protect the existing racial hierarchy — with white people at the top — while disguising their efforts as race-neutral rather than racially motivated.
We suspect that Asian Americans will see through this clumsy and cynical attempt to deploy them in service of dismantling affirmative action. And at least for the time being, the Supreme Court has been clear that affirmative action policies are constitutional. But if anything, anti-affirmative action efforts demonstrate the need for racial diversity. One way to improve upon the shallow racial understanding of affirmative action opponents is to ensure diverse educational environments that promote clear thinking and honest conversation about racial issues.
I have a short essay called “The Misuse of Asian Americans in the Affirmative Action Depate” just out in the UCLA Law Review Discourse — the online companion to the UCLA Law Review — about the way opponents of affirmative action have attempted to leverage Asian American identity and experience in support of their position. Of course, some Asian Americans do oppose affirmative action, as is to be expected in a large and very heterogeneous community, but the larger point of my essay is that the claim that “Asian Americans” are “harmed” by affirmative action is not supported.
The second part of my conversation with Osamudia James (Miami Law) about her wonderful article “White Like Me” is now available! Check it out. Great material for those who teach affirmative action in Constitutional Law I and II, or for any upper level seminar relating to race.
After a brief hiatus, The RightsCast is back! Listen to Professor Khiara Bridges (Boston University Law) explain why class-based affirmative action is a poor substitute for race-based affirmative action. Particularly interesting is the discussion of why class-based affirmative action suffers from the same supposed infirmities as race-based affirmative action. That is, the arguments people make against race-based affirmative action are equally true of class-based affirmative action.
I have now made available a Chinese translation of my piece on why Asian Americans should support affirmative action. The translation is available here.
Please note that the piece was published in Chinese before SCA5 was temporarily removed from the California legislature’s agenda, while the English version on my blog was published after SCA5 was removed. There are some minor phrasing discrepancies as a result, but the substance of the piece is the same.
Affirmative action in higher education remains one of the most contentious issues in America today. The U.S. Supreme Court considered affirmative action last term and will do so again this term. California’s legislature recently considered a bill, SCA5, that would have paved the way for voters to overturn Proposition 209, the state’s existing ban on race-conscious admissions in higher education. Although the California Senate passed the bill, members of the House recently announced that the bill would not move forward in time for voters to consider it in 2015. But the issue remains very much alive in California and will likely be reconsidered for 2016.
The debate over affirmative action raises unique considerations for Asian Americans. While research has shown that a substantial majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action, some vocal opponents of SCA5 have claimed the bill would have dramatic negative consequences for Asian Americans applicants. These claims are unfounded. Speaking both as a law professor who has taught in the UC school system and as a proud Asian American, I believe that Asian Americans should support SCA5 in the California legislature and affirmative action in higher education nationwide. Here are ten reasons: Continue reading →