San Francisco, CA– Closing arguments presented today in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v Harvard signify an important juncture in the fight to preserve affirmative action in the Trump era. While still months away from a decision, probable appeals after the ruling indicate that a conservative Supreme Court may determine the fate of affirmative action.
The case is of special concern to Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), which 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 fifty years, CAA has used affirmative action as a critical policy tool to advance fairness and equality for Chinese Americans in these and other areas.
Equal and fair access to quality public higher education of Asian Americans has also 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, and worked to keep City College open and tuition-free.
Without affirmative action, we could not have made these and other gains locally and across the country.
In January 2019, CAA joined Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and 31 other Asian American groups and higher education faculty groups as co-amici in a post-trial amicus brief in support of race-conscious admissions at Harvard University. Dispelling prevailing myths that pit Asian Americans against other students of color, the post-trial amicus brief highlights the cynical racism that undergirds SFFA’s attempt to roll back affirmative action.
Rather than remedy any potential discrimination against Asian applicants with measures that would address and remove any bias or unfair treatment, SFFA has asked for the elimination of race-conscious programs that would threaten progress made for all communities of color in all institutions of higher education and beyond.
“While Asian Americans continue to be vulnerable to discrimination, SFFA’s case is politically motivated and they have failed to make any connection between alleged negative action against Asian Americans with race-conscious admissions,” says Cynthia Choi co-Executive Director at CAA. Dismantling affirmative action would worsen discrimination against most Asian Americans while failing to address pragmatic solutions to ensure excellent educational opportunities for all including more universal and tuition-free public colleges and universities.
Vincent Pan, co-Executive Director at CAA added, “Ultimately, CAA is invested in this case not because elite schools such as Harvard present the best path forward for educational equity, since roughly half of Asian Americans attend community college, but because dismantling affirmative action would have devastating negative impact for Asian Americans and other communities of color in all sectors of society.”
Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) is a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco. Our mission is to protect the civil and political rights of Chinese Americans and to advance multiracial democracy in the United States. We advocate for systemic change that protects immigrant rights, promotes language diversity, and remedies racial injustice.