Asians Rally Against SCA 5, Call It Revival of Affirmative Action

Zen Vuong, Pasadena Star-News, March 8, 2014

Asians in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond joined forces Friday to rally against a proposed Senate constitutional amendment that they said would punish their children for working hard to achieve the American Dream.

Olivia Liao, president of the Joint Chinese University Alumni Association, said Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 is racist because it allows public education institutions to give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

“(Legislators) feel like the Chinese-American community isn’t paying attention to politics,” Liao said. “We are concerned citizens. We need to stand up when things are not right; we need to be heard. We shouldn’t have any (exceptions) related to race. After all, America is a free country.”

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, is sponsoring SCA 5, an amendment that would repeal portions of Proposition 209, which prohibited discrimination against people based on their unchangeable identities. If passed, the amendment would allow public education institutions to give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

About 65 people—including 11 current and elected officials from San Gabriel, Monterey Park, San Marino, Claremont and Walnut—agreed that affirmative action ended with the November 1996 passage of Prop. 209. Bringing the program back, they said, would lower the ranking of the UCs and Cal States.

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Yet Marina Tse, a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said SCA 5 would create racial division.

“This kind of program needs to be established at the high school level, not at the university level,” she said. “It has the possibility of encouraging administrators and officials to discriminate based on skin color. It has a negative impact on high-performing students and Chinese students. We need to put merit and academic performance as a priority.”

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By Friday evening, about 96,500 people signed a Change.org petition asking the California State Assembly to vote no on SCA 5.

Among the amendment’s supporters are the American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and California Teachers Association.

From 1995 to 1998—using pre- and post-Prop. 209 findings—the number of blacks, Latinos and Native Americans in the University of California all declined, according to the most recent online data from the UC Office of the President. Yet the number of Asians rose by 12 percent in the same time period.

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