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Affirmative action has never been adequately defined. Many local officials refused to comply. Throughout the forties and fifties, there was a broad, top-down drive to build fair-employment practices and to integrate institutions like the armed forces and public schools. The premise of affirmative action was that, for African-Americans, the status quo was innately negative. To act affirmatively was to acknowledge the history of denigration and inequity that continued to define black life, and to come up with ways in which the future could be different.

In , Johnson amended his order to ban discrimination on the basis of sex. In the face of government slowness, affirmative action came to be defined by the judicial system. In , the Supreme Court considered a case brought by Allen Bakke, a white man who believed that, if he had been a minority, he would have been admitted to the medical school at the University of California, Davis.

Admissions policies could no longer acknowledge the past; they could only advance a more diverse future.

Diversity eventually became a self-rationalizing principle , and produced an entire industry of counselling and compliance. Throughout the seventies, higher education and business were expansive in their duty to act affirmatively—an effort supported by both Republicans and Democrats.

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Together, they drafted Proposition For the first time, American voters were given the chance to weigh in on large-scale affirmative-action policies. The effect on the enrollment of people of color was immediate. Between and , offers of admission to African-Americans at Berkeley and U. Pedro Noguera, a professor of education at U. In the following twenty years, a wave of ballot initiatives inspired by Prop. In addition, affirmative action was outlawed in Florida, through an executive order, and in New Hampshire, through legislation.

In some states, like Texas, California, and Florida, colleges and lawmakers explored other ways to maintain racial diversity, such as considering socioeconomic factors in admissions decisions, or creating programs to guarantee admission to public colleges for the top graduates from each high school. But the most powerful defense of affirmative action came, once again, from the courts. In , the Supreme Court ruled, in Grutter v. Cases like these, which involve college admissions, tend to draw headlines.

Seattle School District No. The effect of this back-and-forth has been that we tend to consider affirmative action only in a narrow spectrum of activities. Even victories for affirmative action establish precedents that draw the circle of acceptable practices ever smaller.

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But it has become the most prominent way that these suspicions are aired, since the stakes are so clear. Life rarely seems so zero-sum as it does when we imagine that we are vying for the lone seat in the classroom. Yes, absolutely.

The origins of affirmative action assumed a racial binary of whites and blacks. Stories of academic overachievement came to define how many outsiders understood Asian-Americans. Wei, who has a broad face and a gentle but assertive voice, has been a reporter and an editor at the World Journal for twenty-six years. The paper is a vital resource for new immigrants, providing information about voting, garbage pickup, and civic rights.

He began recounting the history of Chinese people in America, beginning with westward expansion and the gold rush, in the mid-nineteenth century, when an influx of largely poor Chinese immigrants provided cheap, often indentured, labor.

The Rise and Fall of Affirmative Action

They were the ones who founded the Chinatowns. Wei marked a spot on the time line: the Chinese Exclusion Act of , born of xenophobia, which effectively ended Chinese immigration for sixty years. And then, coinciding with the Cold War, another mark on the line: the sixties, as the United States began recruiting talented students, particularly in the sciences and math, from places like Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Wei was describing people like my parents, who came from Taiwan in the early seventies, for graduate school. It was no surprise that communities like the one I grew up in were seen as the model minority—our ranks had been selected to come to America and pursue largely untroubled middle-class lives. Moments of crisis reminded the diverse, far-flung Asian-American community of the need to unify across lines of class, geography, and national origin. Wei added a mark at , the year that Vincent Chin, a young Chinese-American man, was beaten to death in the suburbs of Detroit by two white men.

The lenient verdict prompted outrage and nationwide organizing, and became a turning point in Asian-American politics.

Governments should be colour-blind

At the nineties, Wei drew a heavy vertical line. After the massacre in Tiananmen Square, in , the United States began welcoming immigrants from mainland China in large numbers. The Chinese Student Protection Act of provided green cards to nearly fifty-five thousand Chinese nationals, and this influx accelerated in the two-thousands, particularly after the financial crisis spurred a desire for foreign investment.

As of , there were an estimated Wei said that the more recent immigrants included engineers and tech workers, among others, with enough resources to move straight to the suburbs. They have arrived at a time when China is ascendant. Many of these immigrants can be found on WeChat, which is something like a messaging app combined with Twitter, and was introduced in China in It quickly became the primary way that Chinese people engage with the digital world. Then you turn on in J. What should be done? A six-year-old said that we should kill all the Chinese.

The bit went viral in the Chinese media, where an abbreviated, translated version had Kimmel advocating genocide against Chinese people. The World Journal picked up the story.

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Kimmel apologized. The following year, SCA-5, a bill that sought to overturn Proposition and restore the consideration of race in school admissions, passed in the California State Senate. Polling data suggested that California voters were open to the bill. A survey from showed that Asian-Americans supported affirmative action by a three-to-one margin. For many lawmakers, unaware of WeChat, or the gateway effects of the Kimmel affair, this loud and aggressive opposition to SCA-5 came as a surprise.

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Much of the Chinese-American organizing was happening beyond the reach of mainstream media. In March, , SCA-5 was withdrawn. Yukong Zhao, who lives in Florida, was one of the activists. Zhao arrived in the United States in , and focussed on graduate school in urban affairs and business, finding a job, his visa and citizenship, and family life.

He rose through the ranks at Siemens. During the financial crisis, Zhao noticed that many Chinese families had not lost their homes. He began exploring the cultural differences between Asians and everyone else, and self-published a book on the subject in After the Kimmel incident, Zhao became more engaged.

The next year, he started an organization called the Asian American Coalition for Education. Later, the issue came closer to home. Zhao met Edward Blum through a Chinese reporter. The Department of Education dismissed the complaint, but the Department of Justice opened an investigation in Though Joe Wei was broadly supportive of people like Zhao, he was apprehensive about what might result from their efforts. After all, we are latecomers. We are new to this country. In May, , about six months after filing the lawsuits against Harvard and U. He paid his own way, and talked to a couple of hundred Chinese people curious about his legal strategy.

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There was a buffet afterward. After his visit to the S. Many took to WeChat. Within three days, Blum says, about fifteen thousand people had joined S. Events like these, which went largely unnoticed by the press, began to reshape how Chinese immigrants understood affirmative action. But they confirmed what researchers like Karthick Ramakrishnan, at U. Riverside, and Janelle Wong, at the University of Maryland, have found: although Asian-Americans consistently support affirmative action, since around support among Chinese-Americans has noticeably fallen.

News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Terms Privacy Policy. All rights reserved. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. Join HuffPost Plus. Hey there! Among them is IvyLeagueAdmission. Consulting services offer guidance in turning children into top-college material, with some targeting tykes who have barely begun to walk. The best of the counselors build thick dossiers on each student to have selling points on hand. The ratios tended to be much better in schools that were predominantly white or where most of the students were college bound; schools that were half to three-quarters minority had one counselor for every students.

Of course, even if students get into a selective college, they still confront the question of how they are going to pay for their education. In the period since , the tuition at four-year colleges rose about three times as much as the Consumer Price Index and Crossing Eight Mile 61 similarly outpaced wage growth for most segments of society. Until the early s, colleges routinely met to compare how much aid they planned to give certain applicants, to bring their offers into line and avoid falling into bidding wars. From a bottom-line perspective, it makes much less sense for a college to offer a full scholarship to a poor kid than it does to spend that money on partial scholarships to draw several wealthy kids who will pay the rest of their college costs and maybe even donate generously as alumni.

Although need-based programs still accounted for more than 70 percent of all state college aid spending in the — academic year, more than two-thirds of need-based aid was being distributed by just eight large states—California, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas—and many others had small need-based aid programs or none at all, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. Studies of its HOPE program have concluded that 90 percent of its scholarship money is handed to students who would have gone to college regardless of aid, which may help explain why the program is wildly popular among those with above-average incomes.