ACA 5 will bring racial equity and fairness to California

I support the need to bring racial equity and fairness to our California society. ACA 5 will help provide those opportunities to all in our public universities.

ACA 5 is the constitutional amendment that will be on California voters’ November ballot. It would reverse Proposition 209, the state’s prohibition on affirmative action, which voters approved in 1996.

ACA 5 will help level the playing field in public employment and government contracting, where Asians are sorely underrepresented. Women and girls are also beneficiaries of ACA 5, especially in light of the fact that women are still paid less than men; and black women are paid even less than white women.

Many people believe that I am a good example of the model minority story. In fact, it is a myth because I am actually a product and beneficiary of the Legal Opportunity Program (LEOP), an affirmative action program at UC Hastings in 1991. Programs such as LEOP provide students of underrepresented ethnic, gender, social and economic backgrounds the opportunity to succeed in an inequitable world. As a young immigrant learning English as a second language, I would not have gotten into UC Hastings based solely on test scores and grades. Nor would I have survived the rigorous curriculum of law school without the tutoring program that guided me throughout the first year in law school. My success today is one that I attribute to the help I’ve received through this vitally important program.

Proposition 209 outlawed the use of race or gender as one of many factors in consideration of admitting students at California public universities. It was passed after I graduated from these schools. The devastating effect of Prop 209 is clear: The percentage of enrolled minority and disadvantaged students dropped drastically in the UC and CSU systems, further exacerbating the inequities of the past quarter century.

Systemic racial inequity still exists in 2020. For example, Latinos account for less than 25% of the student population in the UC/CSU system, while the Latino population in California is reaching close to 40%. This imbalance is shocking and a clear reminder that the status quo is not working. With the latest Black Lives Matter protests and movement, the need for racial equity reform is appallingly clear. Even though we had a Black president in the United States, the success of one person does not equate with the elimination of systemic racism. On the contrary, it’s getting worse.

With President Trump’s latest proclamations of Chinese virus, or “Kung Flu,” many Asian Americans recently have experienced racial discrimination and have been told to “Go back to China.” As a Chinese American, I recognize the urgent need for us to build bridges with all people of color, as discrimination against one is discrimination against all. We must stand tall together to call out these unacceptable behaviors and not allow ACA 5 to become a wedge that divides us.

Well-managed affirmative action programs do not guarantee any numerical quota or make a decision based solely on race or gender. They consider these factors in totality. Those espousing affirmative action as being a quota system are deliberately misconstruing the facts of such programs and must be called out.

I believe that thousands of students from disadvantaged backgrounds of all ethnicities and women will benefit from the equal opportunities afforded by ACA 5. Furthermore, all students attending these universities will benefit from a more diverse educational experience to better prepare them for the real world. An educational environment with only the elites is merely an ivory tower that perpetuates stereotypes held against ethnic minorities. I wish that we were truly a colorblind society, but we are far from that. ACA 5 can get us closer. Let’s make it happen.


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