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In California, a bill to revive affirmative action is dead. Mainstream media reports convey that opposition from insurgent Asian Americans groups killed the measure at the last minute. If this is true, then there is much work to be done in Asian American communities about the benefits of affirmative action.
However, it is more likely that the measure was primarily opposed by white voters, and an over-hyped loud minority of Asian American opposition became a convenient scapegoat for lawmakers. After all, more than 75 percent of Asian American support affirmative action programs. Even when Prop 209 was passed by overwhelmingly white voters, Asian Americans were scapegoated for supporting the repeal effort even though 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against the ban. The backlash against Asian-Americans for the latest affirmative action debacle is the same old “divide and conquer” strategy, and we must stop falling for it.
I support affirmative action. I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Contrary to myths, Asian Americans have been hurt by Prop. 209, and projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Prop 209. Moreover, Asian-Americans do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action.
We need to restore affirmative action in California, and we need to stop allowing the white majority to use the increased Asian American enrollment numbers as a way to defend a ban that only they support overwhelmingly.
In their newly released book, The Triple Package, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld propose that some groups are naturally better than the others due to certain cultural traits they possess. I was on HuffPost Live to discuss the book, and to debunk its central notions, which you can watch here:
If the embed link is not working, you can also watch it here.
Some quick points I’d like to reiterate that are also mentioned in the video:
1. Amazed about the publicity and attention that this book is receiving because it is saying nothing new
Whiteness and white supremacy has been predicated on classifying and ranking racial and cultural groups over history, and demarcating some of these groups as less than the other. And discriminating against the people who are supposedly lower on the totem pole. It’s just the same old racism, repackaged as the triple threat.
2. The Triple Package is ahistorical.
Speaking of history, I think the arguments that Chua and Rubenfeld make are very ahistorical. If hard work is the way to success in this country, then descendants of slaves, and migrant workers should be the richest and most successful people. Why are they locked out of prosperity? Rather, Rubenfield and Chua gloss over the fact that the wealth of some groups has been based on the exploitation, looting, plundering over other racial and ethnic groups – the indigenous people were mostly wiped out, black people were enslaving, and now incarcerating at highest numbers. What’s most problematic is that it provides a justification for racial and cultural discrimination – some groups of people are just not as good as others.
3. Perpetuates the model minority myth, which then justifies anti-black racism
Indian population in the U.S. tends to be higher-income because they mostly migrated as “high-skill” workers, and already had education and class privilege that allowed them to migrate and achieve success in U.S. However, there are over 300 million Indians living in poverty in India. And then there are many Indians who are actually not doing so well in the U.S. How does Chua account for that? She just appears to be perpetuating the model minority myth – which is predicated on anti-black racism. These cultural groups are “making it” in America so why can’t black people do so? That’s the implication of The Triple Package.
4. Dangerously suggests that we have moved beyond racism, which is simply not true
I think success is mostly systemic. It is predicated by affinity and closeness to whiteness, environmental factors such as the neighborhood someone grows up in, and class—the wealth of parents – and social connections that someone has as a result of their class and race.
For more critiques of the book, check out this post by friend, Scot Nakagawa.
While I think it is fantastic that Occupy Wall Street is offering immigration training to protesters, I also think that the well-meaning individuals quoted in this article also need to wake up and realize that undocumented immigrants have been organizing for their rights quite visibly and vocally for several years now, risking everything from arrest to deportation to imminent death. The question is not really about where we are in terms of being the 99% but where have you been?
I’m not sure why people of color, who face the brunt of an oppressive system on a daily basis, are always expected to follow the lead of the outraged cisgender white citizen masses instead of the other way around. Lets be real – undocumented immigrants are the bedrock of a system that extracts surplus value from our labor while denying us basic due process and civil rights. On a related note, in a latest poll, 79% of Latino voters support the California Dream Act, compared to 30% of white voters, which is quite telling and sums up my point.
I don’t think there is one correct way of resisting or fighting for our freedoms and at the same time, highly recommend How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloo:
Nonviolence declares that the American Indians could have fought off Columbus, George Washington, and all the other genocidal butchers with sit-ins; that Crazy Horse, by using violent resistance, became part of the cycle of violence, and “as bad as” Custer. Nonviolence declares that Africans could have stopped the slave trade with hunger strikes and petitions, and that those who mutinied were as bad as their captors; that mutiny, a form of violence, led to more violence, and thus, resistance led to more enslavement. Nonviolence refuses to recognize that it can only work for privileged people, who have a status protected by violence, as the perpetrators and beneficiaries of a violent hierarchy.
I heard Shailja Patel, a Kenyan-Indian poet perform Shilling Love recently, and it moved me beyond measure. I’ll leave you with another powerful performance by her:
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for someone who eats absolutely no meat, including fish? Try Tofurkey, I’ve been told. We’ll see how that goes.
This isn’t particularly surprising.
American civil liberties get massacred during such crises. Instead of calling Major Hasan an ‘alleged’ shooter till he is confirmed guilty by a court of law (Fifth Amendment), speculators have already gone judge, jury and executioner on him.
What’s despicable is that allegations of Islamic terrorism are already in the media spin and public discourse over this gruesome incident. The mainstream media wasted no time in linking a minority religion to a mass murder simply due to our preconceived notions of who commits ‘terrorism’ or ‘jihad’ for that matter. As a response to this unjust heterogenous racial interpellation, Muslim organizations were quick to come out and condemn the attacks. As a response to backlash, many will back away from the interpellation (I am not a Muslim) rather than condemn all violence.
United States national identity has always predicated on a phantasmic threat of an internal or external Other, from indigenous peoples to slaves to USSR during the Cold War to immigrants and anyone that can be marked with an old Orientalist trope. Often, labels create a self-fulfilling prophecy that reinforces a bi-polar world-view. The case of Major Hasan might just be one of those self-fulfilling prophecies hidden beneath moral panic.