Old white guys aren’t the only opponents of affirmative action

Affirmative action, Berkeley style

Affirmative action, Berkeley style

It turns out old white guys, aka Republicans, aren’t the only people who object to affirmative action programs, a lesson the Democrats who control the state Legislature learned recently.

After vehement protests from California’s large Asian community, the Legislature shelved a proposed state constitutional amendment on Monday that would have asked voters to allow state colleges and universities to use race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions, overturning part of Proposition 209.

The measure sailed through the state Senate on a party-line vote and was headed for approval in the Assembly when unexpected opposition surfaced. The Asian-oriented 80-20 PAC announced its opposition and threatened to remove Asian American lawmakers who supported the measure.

“The days when (Asian American) politicians can take the money and votes from their community, and do whatever suits their personal ambitions are over,” said one letter from the group. “We will see to it that such politicians be defeated in the next election cycle.”

That prompted the eight Asian Americans in the Assembly to back off the issue and the three Chinese Americans in the Senate who voted for the amendment to urge the measure be withdrawn.

Asian Americans have a lot to lose if Proposition 209 is rolled back. When voters approved 209 in 1996, African Americans made up 7.1 percent of student admissions to UC Berkeley and Asian Americans were 32.1 percent. Last year, African Americans dropped to 4 percent of admissions while Asian Americans increased to 42.3 percent.

“Asian Americans have always been picked out to be stepped on in race-conscious college admissions,” S.B. Woo, president of the 80-20 PAC, told the Sacramento Bee. “We have exerted our influence through our huge email list.”

Republicans, who maintain that improved K-12 schools will make college more attainable for all, were probably smurking when Senate Republican leader Bob Huff issued the following statement:

“The people pushing SCA5 repeatedly try to change the discussion with misinformation, saying that people don’t understand the issue…There has been an outcry across the state because people do understand the issue.”

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