SDAAFE Letter to Gubernatorial Candidates on Affirmative Action
Ten Reasons to Say
No to Prop 209 Repeal
San Diego Asian American For Equality (SDAAFE), a registered PAC organization with 1700 members, and our network of like-minded organizations statewide, are concerned that 2018 gubernatorial candidates in California were being pressured to support the repeal of Prop 209 under the pretense of supporting “diversity” and “equality”, using nebulously defined “Affirmative Action” term to achieve race-based policy objectives not permitted under the US and California constitutions.
Affirmative Action (AA) is a highly-loaded phrase that carries diametrically opposite meaning to different people. No thoughtful debate can be engaged without clearly identify which one of the four common versions is being discussed:
1) The Lyndon Johnson definition vs. the current practice
2) Race-based AA vs. socioeconomic-based AA
The phrase AA was originated in President Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925 in 1961 and in President Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 in 1965. The exact original words are: “Take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” The focus is to stop discrimination using these criteria, not to engage the reverse to support one’s desire for social engineering. The current practice is the exact opposite of the Johnson EO, instead, we must make all decisions based on these considerations. In short, changing “without regard to” into “must consider”. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it succinctly (Parents Involved v. Seattle, 2007): “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Today’s policy practice, as advocated by special interest groups trying to repeal Prop 209, through legislative actions such as SCA5 and (perfectly masqueraded) AB1726, is anti-affirmative-action by the Johnson definition.
SDAAFE supports Lyndon Johnson AA and opposes the current practice. We support helping socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals of all races, as oppose to selecting out people for disparate treatments based on their skin colors. Electing policy preferences based on peoples race and ethnicity is fraught with danger. Let’s consider a few pertinent factors:
- Race-based policy objectives violate the US and California constitutions. The Equal Protection Clause” in the 14th Amendment (“No State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law”) and California’s Prop 209 (“The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”) clearly forbid such policy or practice. Furthermore, “Racial balancing is not transformed from ‘patently unconstitutional’ into a compelling state interest simply by relabeling it ‘racial diversity’.” (Parents Involved v. Seattle, 2007)
- Judging people by their skin colors is the most insidious form of racism. Even the leading liberal voice of the 1970s’, Justice William O. Douglas admonished that “The Equal Protection Clause commands the elimination of racial barriers, not their creation in order to satisfy our theory as to how society ought to be organized.… One other assumption must be clearly disapproved: that blacks or browns cannot make it on their individual merit. That is a stamp of inferiority that a State is not permitted…. All races can compete fairly at all professional levels. So far as race is concerned, any state-sponsored preference to one race over another in that competition is in my view ‘invidious’ and violative of the Equal Protection Clause.” (DeFunis v. Odegaard, 1974)
- Racial preference, either for or against an individual or a group, is morally repugnant. “One of the principal reasons race is treated as a forbidden classification is that it demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of his or her own merit and essential qualities.” (Rice v. Cayetano, 2000) “Preferring members of any group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake.” (Regents of UC v. Bakka, 1978)
- The majority of American people do not support race-based AA. When Americans are survey on whether they support Affirmative Action, the answers depend on how it is phrased. According to the three separate pollings by LA Times/EPIC-MRA/Newsweek, when asked about “race-based” AA, only 26% of the general population supports it, when asked about “socioeconomic-based” AA, 60% supports it.
- Race-based AA policy worsens socioeconomic class stratification. According to 2004 data, 86% of African American students in highly selective colleges are middle or upper class, thanks in part to race-based AA. (“The Shape of the River”, by William G. Bowen & Derek Bok, former presidents of Princeton and Harvard respectively.) In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, plaintiffs challenged the use of race in admissions, arguing that Texas’s race-neutral “Top Ten Percent” creates sufficient racial diversity: 4.5 percent African-American and 16.9 percent Hispanic in 2004. Yet the university argued that a “race-based” plan is still needed to bring in affluent minorities to create diversity within diversity, and an incredulous Justice Kennedy retorted “So what you’re saying is that what counts is race above all.” By contrast, here in California where racial consideration in state university admission is banned, California schools must work harder to achieve diversity and instead focus on socioeconomic status, with great level of socioeconomic diversity achieved.
- The justification for race-based policy is unsupported by the data. In 2014, The SCA5 sponsors openly argued that “The best and the brightest are not getting into colleges”, the poor and the minorities were not helped, there was a “Asian problem” to be resolved, despite the fact that Hispanics students is a clear majority of the combined UC/CSU enrollment in 2013, with 27243 more Hispanics students than white, despite the fact that 41% of the UC student are low-income Pell Grant recipients and 42% are first in family to attend college. (http://accountability.universityofcalifornia.edu/2013/2.6.1/AF14-2.6.1-UW.png)
The truth is both the minority enrollment and graduation have increased since Prop 209, thanks to a better academically qualified student body without overt racial consideration. Prop 209 caused a reshuffle of student populations among various UC/CSU campuses without major changes in the overall enrollment figure for each racial group across the system. Rather, it better matched each student’s academic preparation to the specific campus he/she is enrolled, leading to dramatic increases in 4-year graduation rates among all racial groups.
UC/CSU requires the completion of A-G courses as a minimum admissions criterion. The poor state of California secondary education system ensured many high school students do not possess such a qualification therefore ineligible. For example, among the 2013 graduates, only 29.1% of all Hispanic 12th grade completed A-G, of those 74.3% were offered admissions. In comparison, 47.1% of white students completed A-G, of those 53.4% were offered admissions. Where is the purported discrimination that SCA5 sponsors claimed? (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/04/6374257/viewpoints-uc-should-trumpet-minority.html, California Dept. of Education, Data Reporting Office,http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/stgradnum.asp?cChoice=StGrdEth&cYear=2012-13&ProgramName=All&cTopic=Graduates&cLevel=State&myTimeFrame=S)
- Racial preference hurts American competitiveness, and is very unpatriotic. The US secondary school “pipeline” is lagging behind other countries. In the 2009 global Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, the US ranked 30th in math and 23rd in science out of 65 countries. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said it was “an absolute wake-up call for America!” In 2012, the US ranked 35th overall in the PISA survey. The same Secretary Duncan argued “We must invest in early education, raise academic standards”. President Barack Obama also recognized that we Americans are not living in a bubble. In his commencement speech to the historically black Morehouse College students on May 19th, 2013, he told the aspiring graduates “…in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured and overcame.”
- Racial preference is not even needed because race-neutral socioeconomically based alternative works. Locally in San Diego, we have a shining beacon of hope. The Preuss School UCSD used a race-neutral approach to fix the high school pipeline problem. It is a charter school built and run by UCSD with eligibility limited to students of all colors from low income families with non-college parents. The diverse student population include 68% Hispanic, 10% black, 19% Asian, and 3% white. It was ranked the “5th best school in California, and 42nd nationwide by US News $ World Report in 2014, and “top transformative high school in the nation” by Newsweek. Its students achieved an astounding Academic Performance Index (API) of 888, and the seniors are 100% college bound. Thank you UCSD for the inspiring leadership! Why can’t such a successful race-neutral solution be promoted statewide to solve the high school pipeline problem, rather than rigging the UC/CSU college admissions with race-based policy? SDAAFE strongly support socioeconomically-based approach to help all underprivileged kids. We are keenly aware that, due to socioeconomic reality, such policies would statistically result in African American and Hispanic students being helped much more than others and we wholeheartedly welcome such an outcome.
- Racial identity is fast evolving, becoming less and less relevant over time. In a multi-cultural and multi-racial society, should a government policy favor Elisabeth Warren for her self-identified 1/16th or 1/32nd Cherokee blood, or disfavor an Asian American student because “their kind” is perceived to be over-represented? Should the 52% Hispanics K-12 student population in California be considered “minority” requiring a different college admissions standard, or should a much smaller Asian American student population be considered “majority” requiring the opposite treatment? The more we ask, the less tenable race-based government policy objectives become.
- Racial preference is divisive and exact extremely high social costs on our society. It causes social strife. It fosters victimhood, removing any incentive to excel. The “racial preference” debate on false premise deflects urgent attention to education quality, thereby permanently condemns kids of all races to dysfunctional secondary schools. The list goes on…
True diversity is the diversity of ideas, the celebration of our differences; it’s not clumsy attempts to equalize everything on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin. Thereby, SDAAFE will equivocally oppose any attempt to repeal Prop 209. We and our like-minded organizations, together with millions of Asian American voters, will be watching very carefully where does each gubernatorial candidate stand, which political organizations are behind such pushes, and vote accordingly.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I have a dream. Do you?