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The Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this week has struck down on affirmative action in college admissions. What does this mean? What can we do? Where do we go from here? All of these questions will be answered in this week’s episode of AACRE Thursday at APEX Express.
Miko Lee and Cheryl Truong are joined by affirmative action experts, Vincent Pan, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and Sally Chen, Harvard alum and CAA’s Education Equity Policy Manager for a discussion on SCOTUS’s repeal of race-conscious admission policies.
Make sure to tune in!
CAA and APEX Express are proud to be a part of the Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE) network.
Let’s Talk Affirmative Action show Transcripts
Miko Lee: Good evening, you are on APEX Express. This is Miko Lee and Cheryl Truong. Tonight is an AACRE night, APEX Express is proud to be part of the AACRE Network, which is Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality.
Cheryl Truong: Tonight, we’re talking about the Supreme court’s ruling against affirmative action in the repeal of race conscious admission policies just earlier this week week. Joining us today from Chinese for Affirmative Action are co-executive director Vincent Pan and education equity policy manager Sally Chen
Miko Lee: Sally and Vin, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Sally, I know that you have had a personal connection to affirmative action. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal connection? And I know you wrote an article that was amazing in the LA Times. Tell us about your experience.
Sally Chen: Absolutely. I was born and raised in San Francisco. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who are working class worked in restaurant and service industries all of their time in the United States. And from a young age, I was both a translator and advocate for my parents, whether that was letters from our landlord in the mail, dealing with insurance, calling the bank, and.
All of these experiences really shaped my motivations, my aspirations, and ultimately the content of what I wrote about in my college application at the time. I talked really candidly about my background and ultimately matriculated to Harvard in 2015. As a part of my experiences as an organizer, a student organizer on campus involved with various racial justice efforts, including advocating for ethnic studies and for supporting junior faculty of color on campus I came to be involved with student for fair admission versus Harvard in my junior year of college. I ultimately was one of eight students and alumni that testified in support of race conscious policies such as affirmative action for two reasons. One, for how I saw the benefits of race conscious policies reflected in my own admissions experience.
I had gotten to look at my admissions file and I saw how much of the reality that I would not have been able to get across all of who I am with my skills, strengths, perspectives, without talking about race and ethnicity, without talking about my background, my upbringing, and second, because of how I saw racial diversity on campus, playing out in really meaningful ways for cross-racial school coalition building or our joint advocacy.
And I really think it’s important. It’s important to highlight that in the course of this case. Students for Fair Admissions, Ed Blum’s organization, never brought forward a single student in any of his proceedings to testify, to even show proof that they had been harmed by race conscious policy, and as one of the only eight students who did get to weigh in on this case, on the public record.
We all showed really direct support and answered the question that I was disappointed to see that the Supreme Court justices did not answer, did not hear in answering why these policies are important, why racial diversity is important, why racism is still a reality in the society.
Miko Lee: Thanks for that Sally. Vin, as the co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action can you talk about the impact of this ruling across the work that you’re doing with CAA?
Vincent Pan: Sure. I’m happy to do so. Miko and, and thanks for having us on the program. You know, I think that the ruling is devastating on so many different levels.
I think most notably it affects college admissions and who will have access to higher education. It’s already been a very difficult struggle for students of color, for students from backgrounds that, you know, may have been less traditionally college going. And this will make it even harder for students to present the entirety of themselves for consideration at the most select private institutions of, of higher education. But on another level, I think that impact is, is even worse. Because when you really read and understand the ruling that the supreme court conservative, super majority made and understand, you know, how those individuals got onto the court we can also recognize that this ruling is about going backwards on the whole issue of race and racial justice. Because it is trying to convince America again that the way to deal with racism is to either pretend that it doesn’t exist by sticking our head in the sand, or by saying that racism is okay and that we can live with these deep inequities that affect so many of us.
So I think for CAA and, and for the communities that we work with and we represent it’s a time to really deepen our resolve and our commitment because the work for racial justice is not going to be easier by this decision, but in many ways becomes even more important.
Cheryl Truong: In a similar vein, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said that deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And so, Sally, I was wondering just because you were a first-generation student at an Ivy league school. I was wondering what your experience was like just navigating these educational systems
Sally Chen: Absolutely. As I mentioned, my parents were working class immigrants. They had not attended college themselves. And in my K 12 educational journey, a lot of. What I was able to navigate was, for the most part on my own. My parents were not able to help me with my homework starting in around third or fourth grade, and I nonetheless, I still felt that a lot of the values and the lessons that they taught me were of value. That people who do not often have their voices uplifted should nonetheless be heard. That people who are directly impacted by issues are experts on issues. And when I was writing my college application, my personal statement, I talked a lot about wanting to do work that would be relevant to the communities that I’m from to Asian American communities of the Bay Area that I called home.
And I remember when I wrote my personal statement, I actually had advice from my counselor at the time who himself was Asian American. And he said something along the lines of, don’t tell an Asian immigrant story. It’s not compelling, it’s not of interest. And. I remember at the time as a young person feeling utterly crushed honestly, by that advice.
And in the end, I didn’t listen. One because I had already written my statement and I was not going to rewrite it, being a tired student myself, but second, because I really felt that I wanted to be going to an institution that would. Value the perspectives that I would bring that would see the value of my presence there.
And are still able to and are empowered to. Speak directly about the issues that affect our lives, about what shapes our perspectives, and that no student should feel they have to hide who they are or what their needs are, or what their goals and ambitions are either.
Miko Lee: Well, number one, thank you young Sally for standing up for yourself, not listening to that counselor and just saying, I’m gonna speak my truth. Yay. Thank you for doing that. This brings up this question that I’m hearing Edward Blum and all these conservatives bring up around a holistic idea of admissions.
And having colorblindness. Can both of you talk a little bit about that holistic admissions process? Because Sally, like you’re saying, part of your upbringing is being an immigrant, you know, having to translate for your parents. So now with this new ruling, this whole idea of colorblindness, how do you separate those two out?
Vin, can you speak a little bit about that process and what does that mean and, how are they gonna go forward? How are people supposed to go forward with this idea of a holistic admission process, but also being colorblind? Doesn’t one contradict the other?
Vincent Pan: They, they absolutely contradict.
And so what makes sense is to have a holistic process that takes into account, not just academic performance, but also extracurriculars, also adversity, also race and ethnicity, gender, immigration status. Like all the things that make us human beings. , as a result of being these full human beings, being able to participate in learning processes with beloved students and classmates and to share those perspectives. And so, why this court ruling makes no sense is because it somehow suggests that we consider everything else but race when we know that race is actually one of the driving and determinant factors of how we experience life. Maybe there’s a time or a place where that wouldn’t be the case but in the United States, it has probably been one of the most important factors in terms of how people experience life. Not only historically but today. So in some ways colorblindness is just a mask. There’s, there’s really no such thing as colorblindness in the way, you know, America navigates either it’s public policy or it’s social and cultural life.
Colorblindness becomes a way of, of just saying, we’re going to make invisible people of color. And, you know, Blum and, and his allies and the super majority of conservatives on the court, that’s really what this has always been about. And it really has been an effort to turn back much of the progress that began with the civil rights era and the in the sixties, to try and reckon with race by more directly confronting and addressing it.
Sally Chen: Right. And. Totally agree with everything Vin is bringing up here, and I can speak to a little bit just how holistic admissions works. Naming first that holistic admissions at generally elite institutions include often hundreds of factors including gender, sexuality, religion, geographic diversity.
Socioeconomic status includes a large range of factors, and this calling out specifically of race as being problematic is just as ridiculous as Vin has discussed. And if anything, the decision from the court really throws a confusing challenge to colleges and universities around how they can navigate these limitations and move forward.
We really see the role of advocates in this space to both show support for and call for accountability from colleges and universities to still hold racial diversity and equity as part of their goal, part of their mission, and that. They need to invest more and double down on the alternatives available to them, and even to implement policy changes that were available to them even before this decision that can open access for more students in particular students of color that I’ll plug here on CAA’s website. We have an open letter to colleges and universities outlining some of these changes, including eliminating legacy preferences, removing racially biased SAT or ACT tests as evaluation for admissions or merit scholarships, and really looking at racial diversity, after admissions to continue tracking data around who is being admitted and encourage diverse student matriculation to support financial aid or mentorship programs for first generation college students, and to really double down and invest more in these practices that we know work and that are more important than ever.
Cheryl Truong: Thanks Sally, for that plug.
If folks are interested in signing that open petition that Sally mentioned, we will have it linked in our show notes.
We’re going to take a quick music break and listen to a Burmese track. “Thai Rhymes with Sound” by Ma Ei Moe. This is a recording by Columbia records from back in around 1932 and features the saung-gauk, an arched harp that is considered the national instrument of Burma.
And a little fun fact for all of our listeners out there, the saung gauk is said to be the only surviving harp in Asia.
Cheryl Truong: you are tuned in to apex express at 94.1 KPFA and 89.3, KPF B in Berkeley and [email protected].
That song you just heard was a Burmese song called “Thai Rhymes with Sound” by Ma Ei Moe. The singer is singing about the colors and smells of each flower. How in the summer, after the long monsoon season flowers are in bloom.
Once again that was “Thai Rhymes with Sound” by Ma Ei Moe.
Now, back to the show. Where we will be diving in a little bit on asian american history and Asian Americans, long history of supporting affirmative action.
Cheryl Truong: Vin, you mentioned something really important earlier, and I just it’s so important that I want to say it again.
Asian Americans have had a long history of supporting affirmative action since the 1960s. And yet Blum is perpetuating this harmful narrative about affirmative action attacking, targeting Asians.
And weaponizing this fear against other communities of color. I wonder if you can talk a little bit more about this.
Vincent Pan: Yeah. Well, you know, the, the narrative it is very problematic.
It’s very dangerous. And for me personally, I, I find it sickening. ,the reality is that almost all the gains made by Asian Americans, in this country have been in part, due to leadership by African Americans. Uh, in the 1960s on civil rights. It really opened the door for, immigration to be expanded from Asian countries.
It opened the door in education and employment. In public contracting, media representation, political representation. So, this idea that somehow Asian Americans could ever afford to be against affirmative action because of some false belief that select school admissions at the smallest, most elite institutions are working against them and to blame that on other people of color, you know, it’s, it’s quite frankly, it’s horrifying and it’s also not true. Right. We know through the research and through the evidence that there is discrimination, of course against Asian Americans in all sectors of society, but it very, very rarely, and I would say almost never has anything to do with how affirmative action is practiced.
It has to do with anti-Asian racism. So again, the cause of fighting anti-Asian discrimination can be solved with things at college admissions, like better training, more oversight, really making sure that there are not biases that creep into the process.
But to suggest somehow that one of the more powerful tools for rectifying systemic discrimination is a cause, it’s not just cynical. it’s also, I think, reflective of just the lengths that the far right is willing to go. And to really use basic tenants of the Constitution and equal protection and flip them upside down in their head.
I’m very, very discouraged when I see Asian Americans who put a fall for these lies. It behooves the rest of us. Asian Americans had to really speak out, you know, speak out in solidarity with other communities that are marginalized and oppressed to speak out in support of, of race conscious programs, whether that’s in college, admissions or in the workplace, or in culture and, and media.
I think Asian Americans, you know, we, we have our work cut out for us, both in terms of rooting out anti-blackness in our, our own communities in terms of really getting educated on how public policy and complicated areas work. But also, to take this as a challenge to do even more to lead the way to push for policies that makes society work for everyone.
Miko Lee: Vin can you back up and speak a little bit more about Asian-Americans history of support for affirmative action? I know there was a 2020 Asian-American voter survey that said that 70% of Asian-Americans actually support affirmative action, even though the narrative has been shifted a lot. But can you go back in time with us a little bit about how AAs have had this history of supporting affirmative action?
Vincent Pan: Sure, I’m happy to, you know, so Chinese affirmative action was found in 1969 and it’s important to know at the time, affirmative action did not have the same sort of political controversy around it because it was understand as a broad approach and a deal. Simply stated that we have to be proactive to try and fix these problems that we’ve inherited, that lead to unfairness and discrimination towards women, towards people of color, towards folks who are trans and queer.
It’s not a hard idea to grasp that you can’t take a society that is so unfair and just automatically expect that by doing nothing, things will get better. No. And so for more than five decades in, in all areas of society, CAA and other Asian American groups with other Asian Americans have fought for affirmative action.
And they continue to fight for affirmative action. But I think, in some ways they’ve come to misunderstand just how much affirmative action has benefited us. And so when, you know, I have community members tell me how much they like, say Everything everywhere, All At Once, pushing for Asian Americans, the media is affirmative action.
When folks say that they really want to see more Asian American judges or senators or maybe someday the president. That’s a form of affirmative action. So it’s not surprising that many of the polls do show when people understand what affirmative action is, Asian Americans overwhelmingly support.
Now I think what we’re seeing though, in terms of this very loud vocal minority is frustration around select school admissions. Or to be quite blunt, maybe their kid didn’t get in. Right. That frustration is, is, is driven by a whole number of things, including unhealthy of what higher education in the United States could be, um, but other things as well.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to explain in the future know, like the constructive ways to push against anti-Asian discrimination and to create productive outlets for some of these frustrations. For example, just expanding the pie and making sure that there are more good school and college slots for everyone as opposed to like buying into this idea that a good education or somehow needs to be this very, very scarce commodity by design. Right. But, you know, I think that it’s also very true that Asian Americans, and it’s really primarily East Asians and South Asians, who I think have got caught up in this.
That’s also part of this challenge of a growing right wing within our communities that also needs to be confronted.
Miko Lee: Thank you for that. , you know, this whole idea around the colorblindness and holistic admissions and really talking about how many students can be allowed into these elite schools. One of the things that the justices didn’t address was the bulk of folks that get into these school sites, which is, you know, 43% of Harvard admissions fall into the legacy, donors ,and children’s of staff. Those are the folks that are getting this special admissions. Sally, can you talk a little bit about that? Who is getting access into these select schools and why that aspect hasn’t been addressed?
Sally Chen: Absolutely. Part of what VIN had talked about was the idea that we already knew, which was that college admissions as it stands is not fair, and that there’s so much work to be done to make sure that there is meaningful, real access for all students. And one of the first points on our open letter to colleges and universities in calling on them to reassess all the different levers that they have to address inequity in college admissions in this moment is to reexamine exactly what you named this Athletic Legacy Dean’s List, children of.
Faculty, A L B C category under which, as you named at Elite institutions, this factor is often the first in consideration and even when it is not explicitly named the numbers that you see around students in these types of categories. Applying under early admissions, applying under early action. As a kind of backdoor for them to be able to ensure their admissions in ways that disadvantage certainly first generation students, immigrant students, students of color that are not benefited by these policies.
We see that this is one of the key areas where we do need to address what some people have said is, Affirmative action for wealthy white students and that while this still stands, there is a very clear contradiction in how college admissions is allowed to continue to operate.
Miko Lee: Thanks for that, Sally. We know already that nine states have passed anti-affirmative action laws and California sadly did this with Prop 209. Vin, can you talk a little bit about the impact that that has had on the uc system in California and how that can be utilized as a model for how we deal with affirmative action in other states and nationally in the future.
Vincent Pan: Sure, sure. It’s a really important question because there’s aspects of Prop 209, the ban on affirmative action in California that overlaps with the ruling that occurred at the Supreme Court. Prop 209 really limited race and gender conscious programs in California’s public institutions that deal with education, employment, and contracting, but it did not govern any of the private institutions. And so, you know, the, the private colleges and, and universities in California were not affected by Prop 209. And I should also say that businesses in the private sector were not affected by it either.
Supreme Court ruling affects institutions of higher education that are both public and private. And private because most private colleges have received at least some federal funding. And so they will be governed by this as, as well. What we saw in California was a real drop in access for students of color at the UCs. We saw a tremendous drop in the number of minority owned and women owned businesses who were able to obtain public contracts. We saw real slowdown in the diversity of the public sector workforce. And that includes teachers, includes civil servants, it includes firefighters.
We also saw, and this is one thing we need to be careful about, sort of an overreaction too, where many government agencies who could still do a lot of different things just decided not to even try not to even ask the question. Through the support and leadership of advocates, it’s taken time, but we’ve been able to get many of these institutions to do better.
At some parts of UC, you do see a rebound in the number of students of color because folks have learned to be more assertive and to really understand that they have to do everything that the law will allow. And I think there’s a lesson there for public colleges and universities. To what Sally was saying before it’s on our petition.
This ruling should not be an excuse for college presidents and universities to back down or to shy away from this, this critical question of how we achieve racial justice in society. It’s a call to action for them to really make sure they’re doing everything possible. And that includes getting rid of the SATs.
It includes making their campuses more welcoming for students of color by having stronger ethnic studies programs. It includes really accelerating the need for a more diverse faculty. It also means thinking about how we can get at issues of the adversity that students of color face and being able to account for that in the application process.
In California we are unfortunately, with Prop 209, we made it very, very hard for ourselves. To achieve the type of equitable society that we all want. But as hard as it’s been, we’ve recognized that there are multiple tools, and affirmative action was a powerful one, but it was not the only one. We’ve got to get better at using all of the tools available to us and also developing new ones.
Cheryl Truong: So I’m so glad we’re actually talking about Prop 209 because it’s a point in history where we’ve already repealed affirmative action and we have seen how it affects our communities.
I think 40%, the enrollment of black and Latino communities dropped by 40% with the passing of Prop 209. This is going to change how a lot of young people imagine their futures because now we are being told that we cannot financially succeed or we won’t have financial opportunities due to this example of systemic racism. How do you think this repeal of affirmative action is going to impact how families and communities think about our futures? And if you have any advice you’d like to share especially with high schoolers who are trying to navigate the college process in the wake of this repeal.
Vincent Pan: Well, I’ll, I’ll go first and I would love to hear what you think Sally.
I think a lot of it is still unclear, right? We know like the pathways are as a result of the ruling and by limiting affirmative action or really ending affirmative action in, in college admissions, it’s gonna be much, much, much harder. But a lot of it will depend on what the colleges and universities decide to do.
If they decide to take the easy way out and say we really can’t prioritize diversity and inclusion anymore, then the numbers of students of color are going to drop dramatically. There’s no question about that. But on the other hand, if the colleges and universities say, okay we’ve got to double down on our commitment to diversity because our schools can’t function if they’re only serving just one community, the white community or just one community, the rich community. If they really step up and understand that’s not acceptable, then they will have to employ every single tool at their disposal with the absence of affirmative action. And they will have to also create new ones. I think if they do that, then perhaps there’s more reason to be optimistic. what does that mean for, for students and families? I think they have to stay engaged and to really understand what’s happening in, in this space. It’s important as Sally has said before, for students to talk about adversity, to present themselves as who they are. and to also know that in many parts of society that there is still discrimination against all students of color and people of color. It’ll depend on finding allies in particular universities or colleges and really understanding what they’re trying to do in this moment. Are they looking at this as an excuse to go back to when universities were really just for rich white men ? Or are they going to really step up and meet the call that this ruling really demands of all of us.
Cheryl Truong: We are deep in conversation with affirmative action specialists, Sally Chen and Vincent Pan from CAA. We’re going to take a quick music break and listen to some music by Namgar, an international ethno music collective that fuses traditional Buryat and Mongolian music with pop, jazz, funk, ambient soundscapes, and art- pop.
We’ll be back in just a moment with more on the supreme court ruling after we listen to “part two” by Namgar.
Cheryl Truong: Welcome back.
You are tuned in to APEX express on 94.1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFB B in Berkeley and online at kpfa.org.
That song you just heard was “part two” by Namgar, an incredible four- piece Buryat- Mongolian ensemble that is revitalizing and preserving the Buryat language and culture through music.
Now, back to the show as we continue our conversation with Vincent pan and Sally Chen discussing their valuable insights regarding the Supreme court’s recent ruling on affirmative action.
Miko Lee: I wanna go back Vin, to something that you just said about getting faculty to look more like the students, and I’m wondering both of your response to actually also getting the Supreme Court to look more like our population , and actions that can be taken to actually change the Supreme Court.
Vincent Pan: Well, the Supreme Court questions are as, as many of your listeners know, Supreme Court members are appointed for life and there are not that many of them. It becomes very important to make sure that we have people in the White House who make those appointments.
Who I would say not only appoint people who look like America, but who actually represent a vision that works for all Americans. In a very small body like that you’re gonna have your Clarence Thomas’s who, you know, are African-American, but in, in my view, are not representing the interests of, of African-Americans at all.
It speaks to the importance of being involved political process and voting and civic engagement throughout the country and being smart about it. I think for folks who say that elections don’t matter, here’s another example of just how much they do. I think that the representation in all aspects of government is also critical.
And again, that’s not just the folks who work at college and university say, but it’s also in Congress it’s also all of our elected officials, and I think that we are making progress in, in this way. But for Asian Americans, we again have to be very, very careful because you do see folks running who are Asian Americans on the far right.
It’s incumbent upon us not just to vote for someone who looks like us, but to be smart and, and to vote for people who represent the interest of all those who’ve been left behind, including our communities.
Miko Lee: That’s right. And I guess I’m asking about expansion of the Supreme Court and actually changing the very function of how it’s operating.
Sally Chen: I can uplift here specifically on Supreme Court reform. That is one of the areas in which many of our advocates and allies have been thinking about in and planning for, in pivoting in response to this recent slate of decisions that came out. I’ll uplift here. Equal Justice Society, one of our , close partners, both in the Prop 16 campaign and ongoing that they have really dug into exploring and researching and educating people on the history of Supreme Court expansion at Pivotal moments in US history and other opportunities for reform and even intervention. Curtailing some of the Supreme Court’s power and really calling on the other branches of our federal government to step up here, whether that is our Congress or the executive branch and highlighting equal justice society as well as an expert in that area.
Vincent Pan: Yeah, it’s a great point, Sally. You know, and I think it is something we all have to look more closely at because you see like ruling, after ruling, after ruling they are all right wing decisions that sort of overturn not only settled law but are really trying to take the country backwards, to a place where none of us want to go.
So whether that’s on reproductive rights, whether that’s on racial justice issues, whether it’s on, student loan, debt relief. This term in particular, right? Voting rights, Trans and queer rights. It’s just like one after the other. So I do think it does make sense to look at ways to try and get the Supreme Court to do what it was meant to do.
And at the same time are so many things for all of us work in the grassroots to, to engage in as, as well. And so when we talk about all these other tools at our disposal, we need to know that many of those occur at the local level. sometimes we have pretty good laws maybe passed at the, the state level, but they’re not implemented at the city or township
I think that there are always very, and this is one thing I’m really, you know, proud of that we do at CAA and proud of all the folks in AACRE, there’s so many ways to push for social justice. And as despondent and, and frustrated and angry as many of us are about the Supreme Court latest rulings, one thing we cannot say is that there aren’t things that we can do. And that’s one thing in particular that I think for Asian Americans, we have to, you know, we have to step up our game on.
Sally Chen: Thanks Vin. And just adding on that, a lot of CAA’s work on the ground, whether that’s in our civic engagement team or our Chinese digital engagement is engaging directly with students, families, community members, and the message that we want to send to students and their families is that our young people should follow their dream, should be able to celebrate their identities, and reach their full potential, strive for success in ways that are meaningful to them. They should feel able to be unapologetically themselves and at the end of the day know that, we, the broader community, are ultimately with them separately. I did, I was thinking a little bit about the legacy question.
I just wanted to add one more piece, if that’s okay. Which is that. Reform around the removal of consideration of legacy or significant donations in college admissions is not a new conversation. And in fact, we’ve seen universities like Amherst College only a few years ago, publicly announced that they would no longer consider legacy as a factor in admissions. And they saw a significant change in the demographics of their student bodies admitted .The number of first generation college students certainly increased and they did see racial diversity overall broaden and that this is not a new change and it’s not one that is unprecedented either, and that we really have seen universities already at the forefront of taking action even before this decision came.
Vincent Pan: Right. The other piece that I think has been lost in all this is there are more Asian Americans, uh, who attend City College of San Francisco than who are in all of the Ivy Leagues. So there’s a real distortion of just how important the Ivy Leagues are in real terms for Asian Americans.
Another good thing to know is that more than half of Asian Americans who are in any type of higher education or in community college, Right. So if we understand that the real damage of the Supreme Court ruling on the one hand is in the way, it’s changing how this country wants to deal with the issues of race and racism.
You know, we could also know that for Asian-Americans who are seeking college, that there also has to be an emphasis on where students are actually at, which is in the community colleges. Community colleges have historically been dramatically under invested in. We know that there need to be better pathways for folks to get from the community colleges into to four year degree programs.
I think that the degree that we can at CAA we also wanna lift up the need for all of our communities, not just to always be focusing in on what the media feeds us, which is that we only care about the Ivy Leagues, but to focus in on what we also live and experience. That it is the community colleges, it’s the CSUs. It’s all these other nontraditional pathways to higher education that our community benefits from. ESL classes, vocational training. Now, all those need support as well. And those are also other ways to drive educational equity across and with other communities of color.
Miko Lee: Well, Vincent Pan and Sally Chen, you’ve given us so many things to think about and so many actions that we can take from fighting for investments in more community colleges to paying attention to Asian American candidates to make sure that we’re in values alignment to checking out this open petition that is on the CAA website, which we will put a link to.
What else can people do to get involved so that they can actually take action around affirmative action?
Sally Chen: Well, certainly our open petition is still available for signatures. We are hoping to, and are rapidly reaching a thousand signatures by the end of this week, but we are preparing to use that as the launching off point for a lot of engagement with colleges and universities, certainly advocates that have relationships to their alma maters, to their networks should engage as much as possible, show their support publicly for the investment in commitment to values of racial diversity and equity, especially at these institutions of higher education .And like Vin had mentioned, a lot of this implementation will , happen at the local and state level. Folks should pay attention to any attempts to broaden this decision beyond the scope of what it should be, of any kind of backing down from originally stated commitments to equity, diversity, inclusion, and to call that out where they see it.
Vincent Pan: Yeah, obviously I second what Sally has, has said in terms of ways for folks to get involved, especially on the issue of, of colleges and universities and access and equity to those institutions. You know, I, I think more broadly for Asian Americans, it, it really can’t be understated how dangerous a time we are in. And that what, the anti civil rights litigator Ed Blum, has done and the way that our community is now being portrayed that it becomes important. So, so important, even more important for Asian Americans to speak out. To speak out and, and declare themselves as an anti-racist, to declare themselves as a supportive of affirmative action, and to declare them themselves in solidarity with all people who have been oppressed..
It’s the time to lift up our histories as activists, as people who have fought for civil rights and social justice. This ruling coupled with everything that we know is going on with the escalation of anti-Asian hate, with the uprising in China, just behooves our community to really to reflect and to, and to move forward and to act, as you said, Miko.
And so I think that one of the great ways to support affirmative action in the broad sense is by getting involved with any of the key social justice issues that are currently needing our attention. Again, it’s intersectional. And so whether it’s voting rights, reproductive rights, trans and queer rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, there’s just so much work that all advances this broader ideal that really reflect what affirmative action has always been about.
This has to be a wake up call for Asian Americans. Most of us have fought for progress. Most of us know that our fate is intertwined with other communities of color, but there’s also far too many who’ve been on the sidelines.
And this should be a wake up call to engage on, on the side of those who have been fighting for justice and equity for all communities and not allowing themselves to be exploited by groups and people who clearly do not have our community’s best interests at heart.
Miko Lee: That was a great wrap up, VIN. Thank you. Is there anything else either of you would like to add?
Vincent Pan: Yeah, I have one thing. There’s, there was one part of the ruling that was also very instructive. Part of the conservative majority, the ruling said, well, the only institution of higher education and learning that can still maybe consider race are military academies. In effect saying that no, well, we want diversity in the schools that are preparing people to go and die in wars. Right? But it’s not in the rest of of society. And so I thought that was like extremely telling, right? Because I think that these right-wing folks, they really don’t believe in colorblind. They only want to use it as a way to mask white supremacy. But in instances where it won’t uphold white supremacy, then they will toss it overboard, right? So they want race conscious admissions for military academies. They want race conscious admission for the military. I mean, you know, that tells us everything I think that we need to know about what’s motivating them. I’ll pause on that. The other thing that I think affirmative action as it was conceived and as it moved in the 1960s benefited white women, and white women have been perhaps the largest beneficiaries of affirmative action programs. And affirmative action programs have always included gender, right? To say that this has been just about affirmative action when it really is about how we understand race in America. Some parts of the community will still continue and say, oh, this is about whether or not the admissions process is fair.
But it really is about trying to solve what’s always been maybe the most difficult thing to solve in America. The question of race. And that there have not been uprise Of opposition against affirmative action programs that have helped white women. It is only because affirmative action has been a tool that’s been able to increase racial diversity at some of these institutions that we’ve seen such a backlash against it.
Miko Lee: Holy cow. I just have a whole nother series of questions about white women beneficiaries, but that’s another show. Sally, do you have anything that you wanna add?
Sally Chen: I’m good. Thank you both so much, Miko and Cheryl for this interview.
Miko Lee: Thank you. Thanks to both of you. I actually additionally have more questions about what’s behind this Ed Blum guy, like what’s in it for him? I mean I’m kind of blown away. I know we’re at time, but I do wanna have a further conversation about that too, because it’s like, dude is the rebellion to his progressive parents. He was raised by Jewish progressive parents and he’s every progressive’s parents nightmare. I just like, what’s in it for him? Is this just a money thing? Like what’s that about?
Vincent Pan: That’s great question. Yeah, I don’t know, but maybe there’s a, a six hour version of this podcast that we could do time where we’re just going all different directions.
Cheryl Truong: check out our website, kpfa.org to find out more about the fight for affirmative action and equal access to higher education. And to learn more about our wonderful guests, Sally Chen and Vincent pan.
We think all of you listeners out there, keep resisting, keep organizing, keep creating and sharing your visions with the world. Your voices are important.
Cheryl Truong: Apex express is produced by Miko Lee, Paige Chung, Jalena Keane-Lee, Preeti Mangala Shekar. Shekar, Anuj Vaidya, Kiki Rivera, Swati Rayasam, Nate Tan, Hien Nguyen, Nikki Chan, and Cheryl Truong
tonight’s show was produced by me cheryl. Thanks to the team at KPFA for all of their support. And thank you for listening.