According to a report by the San Jose Mercury News, a California senate proposal that would allow state universities to consider race in admissions is creating rifts between ethnic groups in the state.
At the time, supportive conservative organizations claimed 209 would “restore and reconfirm the historic intention of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” while groups on the left — including a broad coalition of ethnic, feminist, and civil liberties groups — claimed that a return to a color-blind, “merit-based” admissions process would reward wealthier, white students who attend better high schools and score higher on standardized tests.
Today, however, Asian-American groups are fighting the attempt by California legislators to re-introduce affirmative action measures to the admission process. Currently, 78 percent of Chinese-American students who apply to a satellite of the University of California are admitted, as well as 75 percent of Korean-Americans and 75 percent of Indian-Americans. Among non-Asian applicants, the highest rate of admission is among white students, which stands at 65 percent. But only 55 percent of Latino and 45 percent of African-American applicants are admitted.
Asian-American opponents of SCA5 are worried that, if passed, it would decrease the number of slots available to Asian-American students. According to Vincent Pan, executive director of San Francisco’s Chinese for Affirmative Action, “there was a bombardment of negative information from Chinese-language media who framed it as a return to quotas. They whipped the issue into a frenzy.”
The 80-20 Initiative, an Asian-American political action committee run by S.B. Woo, claimed that Asian-American students will be “punished” for having higher standardized test scores, and encouraged its Asian-American constituents — who currently vote predominantly Democratic — to “scare” the Democratic Party by re-registering as Republicans.
Woo’s plan is to “play one party against another [so that] the Democratic Party knows that if they keep on pushing SCA5, then lots of people will be voting on the Republican side.” The 80-20 Initiative’s website refers to this tactic as “the Jewish strength,” and claims it is “NOT well-known to most Asian Ams, especially not to recent immigrants. Jewish Americans combined their clout in business, media, entertainment and politics to punish those who showed anti-Semitism. They prefer to achieve results QUIETLY, because they are often shockingly effective. They know that their effectiveness is, by now, well-known to politicians & nation’s top decision makers! Boasting it to “average Joes” is neither called for nor wise.”
The 80-20 Initiative hopes to achieve a similar level of clout, and claims that it is “almost there, if we want to emulate Jewish Ams. The biggest difference in Building-Blocks-of-Group-Clout is: donation habits.”
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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