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.
Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 (SCA5) would strike the prohibition on racial and ethnic considerations in attendance decisions from Proposition 209, which was passed in 1996 despite strong opposition from the Asian-American community.
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."
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