March 7, 2014
Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) was founded in 1969 to address historic and persistent institutional racism that systematically excluded Chinese Americans from major sectors of the labor market and promotional opportunity, equal access to vital public resources and services, and full and equal participation in civic affairs and government at local, state and national levels. For over forty years, CAA has used affirmative action as a critical policy tool to advance fairness and equality for Chinese Americans in these and other areas.
CAA has worked closely with other Asian American organizations and like-minded African Americans, Latino Americans and Native Americans to promote equality of opportunity for all historically excluded groups. We are proud of what we have accomplished for Chinese and Asian Americans and of our track record advancing the rights and well-being of all minorities in the U.S. We are also painfully aware that we along with other minorities still have a long way to go and believe affirmative action remains a legitimate and powerful tool for fairness and justice.
Since Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA 5) became recently known to the public, CAA has been in communication with elected officials and civil rights organizations. The issues raised by SCA 5 are important for all communities, including the Chinese American community.
Equal and fair access to quality public higher education of Asian Americans has been a priority for CAA since its inception. In the 1970s, we fought for and won the rights of thousands of Chinese-speaking students in public schools in Lau v. Nichols in 1974. In the 1980s and as recent as 2008, CAA has fought against University of California (UC) policies that were and are discriminatory or biased against Asian Americans. CAA has also defeated efforts by California State University (CSU) to deny access to predominantly immigrant students who have needed English assistance. And we have prevailed over the special interests who sought to stop the Chinatown campus of City College of San Francisco that now serves 8,000 immigrant and working class students.
Without affirmative action, we could not have made these and other gains locally and across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court has been called upon to reaffirm the legitimacy of using race and gender among other criteria in education, employment, and contracting. We also need to remain vigilant in assessing how government institutions and private businesses implement affirmative action.
It is our strong opinion that affirmative action must remain a tool for advancing fairness and equality for Asian Americans and others in the foreseeable future, and ought to be embraced in solidarity with all communities that face systemic discrimination.
With respect to SCA 5, we support amendments to include:
- The explicit prohibition of quotas;
- Addressing discrimination in public employment and contracting;
- Growing the diversity of high school graduates eligible for CSU and UC;
- Resources for targeted recruitment and outreach; and
- Honoring the State’s Master Plan for Higher Education to make affordable access to high-quality college education universal.
Furthermore, discussions about admissions at the most competitive University of California campuses – Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego – should address absolute numbers and not just relative percentages. Quality public education should not be a zero-sum game. For example, by significantly increasing both total enrollment and priority for California residents at these campuses, the number of Latino and African American students could grow without a reduction in the Asian American student population.
It is absolutely imperative that our community find a way to join forces with other minorities and the broader community to fight for equality of access and the expansion of opportunity in public higher education.