It’s an oft-quoted statistic in the ethnic media that Asian Americans support affirmative action. But those organizations reporting this statistic are mostly liberal-biased organizations that use questionable statistical methods. As we’ve seen from SCA-5 and other popular uprisings among Asian Americans, lots of us, if not most of us, are against affirmative action. Affirmative action discriminates against Asians, but I thought I’d talk a bit more about the rift between the ethnic media and the rest of us.
First, I wanted to direct you all to Jean Kwok’s excellent opinion piece in Time Magazine, where Kwok talks about the specialized tests in New York City’s public schools and how her achievement on the test enabled her to rise from sweatshop work to become a successful bestselling author. Some Democrats in New York City, alarmed by the high enrollment numbers of Asian Americans and low enrollment numbers of “underrepresented minorities” at specialized public schools, have been trying to “diversify” the schools by eliminating or downgrading the test in favor of “holistic” admissions. According to the Wall Street Journal, some people are trying to make the specialized school admissions similar to universities, which often flat-out discriminate against Asian Americans based on “holistic” criteria.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said a holistic review of a student’s academic career would be akin to the process at top colleges.
“If it’s good enough for Harvard and Yale it should be good enough for the students of New York City,” he said.
He should’ve said: “If it’s racist enough for Harvard and Yale, it’s should be racist enough for us!”
I sometimes wondered why I’m against affirmative action while so many Asian Americans in the media are against it. After reading Jean’s piece, I think I figured it out.
I’ve read tons and tons of opinions by Asian Americans who write about how Asians are privileged, how most of us come to this country educated, and how we need to move aside and let politics selectively “diversify” the workforce. They write about how even though their parents didn’t speak English when immigrating, they automatically had an advantage over underrepresented minorities because of their education. They write about how Asians supposedly mostly come from selective integration which chooses the most educated, and how we now need to give back.
I realized this is probably true for a lot of Asians who write for the ethnic media. Many of their parents probably did come to this country after already being educated elsewhere. Educated people know how education works and understand numbers. It’s not that hard for such people to transition into similar work, even if it’s not at the same level as what you had in the motherland.
My problem (and Jean’s problem) is that I don’t come from that stock. None of my grandparents were college-educated. All of them, with the exception of one grandmother who was born here, were dirt-poor when they immigrated. My other grandmother was a seamstress, like Jean Kwok. She also speaks no English. She worked long, thankless hours for very little money. My paternal grandfather immigrated with no money and was basically homeless the second he set foot on American soil. For my parents and grandparents, the key to their success was the American meritocracy and belief in education. My grandfather achieved his career by passing licensing tests and ascending the ranks of the merchant marine. My father and his brothers attended the specialized NYC schools because they studied and did well on the test. But we come from a working class family history–we don’t come from families who had money and education back in the motherland.
What I’m saying is that I’m happy for these Asian Americans who were born families that were educated and had money in the motherland. But there are tons of other Asian Americans in this country who are working for slave wages and have little access to the privileges that our Asian American media spokespeople have. I wish there were more of us working-class Asian Americans in the ethnic media, but from what I’ve seen so far, there are very few of us. There’s me, there was Ying Ma, and now there’s Jean. I’m not sure I know of any others. Of the three, only one is a bestselling author, and none of us are professional journalists.
Outside of the non-elite people like us who come from a working-class family history, there is also another very large group which opposes the liberal attack on the meritocracy, and that is the educated people from Asia who immigrated to the States. Educated people typically immigrate because they believe there are better opportunities here. They don’t support racial policies that make it harder for their children to succeed. Their activism is what made it possible for California to defeat SCA-5.
I think most of us are against affirmative action. There’s only one group of Asian Americans that overwhelmingly supports affirmative action, and it is comprised of the second and third generation who pursue careers in academia, government, and the media. Even though they’re the most culturally powerful group, they don’t represent the experiences of most Asian Americans. Many have bought into the common liberal narratives. The problem is that the typical liberal narratives don’t include the struggles of the working class or new immigrants.
Anyway, I have no idea if we’ll ever have any kind of resolution on the affirmative action/testing issue. I just hope that people will read this and hear the voices of those Asian Americans who have a smaller voice in the ethnic media. People like me, Jean, and Ying Ma are no longer working class, but there are hundreds of thousands of new Asian Americans who are where we were just one or two generations ago. There are hundreds of thousands of new immigrants who came here for better opportunities, not to fight racist laws like SCA-5. I hope the world will think about these hard-working individuals and their children before advocating for racist laws. These are the people who will face the greatest hurdles if we kill the American meritocracy.