The San Francisco Chronicle noted Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown had joined a challenge to the portion of 1996′s Proposition 209 that prevented state universities from using race in college admission decisions, with his lawyers telling the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the provision of state law “imposes unique political burdens on minorities” and violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. But what the media almost never point out, and the Chronicle doesn’t, is that the UC admissions status quo before 1996 indisputably punished a minority. This is particularly insane when one realizes that affirmative action is meant to atone for white racism. In California, who paid the price for this historical sin? Asian-American students. Says who? Says The New York Times, quoting UC documents.
This is from the March 31, 1996, N.Y.Times story about UC’s adoption of a plan that even before Prop. 209 was passed would have phased out the use of race as a factor in deciding college admissions by spring 1998:
An internal [UC} report in May 1995, based on a computer simulation, predicted that such a change would result in a 15 to 25 percent overall rise of Asian-Americans at the University of California, and as much as 25 to 35 percent increase at Berkeley and U.C.L.A., where 75 percent of students would be admitted on merit. The number of whites would remain about the same, but Hispanic students would dip 5 to 15 percent and African-Americans would drop somewhere between 40 and 50 percent.
To repeat: Without affirmative action, white student numbers would have been unchanged, but Asian-American student enrollment would have exploded.
Now you can argue, if you’re so inclined, that there’s nothing wrong with asking some high-quality Asian-American students to go to slightly lesser schools so more Latino and black students can go to UC schools. You can argue that for whaever reason, this isn’t a particularly big issue in the Asian-American community, so it shouldn’t be a big issue to other racial groups.
But what you cannot do is look at the old UC policies that Jerry Brown pines for without concluding, to use the language that Brown’s lawyers used with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that they impose unique burdens on minorities — various Asian-American groups. You can also make a case that this violates Asian-American students’ constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
What’s funny in a disgusting way is that even after Prop. 209 became the law of California, some UC officials still tried to get around it — and still ended up punishing one category of Asian-American students in the name of atoning for white racism.
Here’s what I wrote back in 2007 after a long New York Times magazine article laid out how UCLA covertly tried to evade the plain intent of Prop. 209. The article showed how in Westwood …
1980s-style racial spoils politics are back in business, thanks to administrators and professors who think they have figured out how to evade the plain meaning of 209 to help one group — blacks — at the expense of another group: Asian-Americans.
This disturbing fact is part of why political science professor Tim Groseclose recently resigned from UCLA’s committee on undergraduate admissions. For four months, Groseclose has been stonewalled in his efforts to find out what if any objective standards were being used under UCLA’s new “holistic” admissions approach.
Here’s what Groseclose already had confirmed: Black applicants’ admission rates soared by nearly half when UCLA went “holistic,” while Latino and Native American admission rates went down slightly.
When he further parsed what data he could get, the evidence that “holistic” was code for race favoritism became overwhelming.
A “holistic” approach is supposed to be one that factors in the obstacles individual students faced — in particular, family poverty and parents’ education levels. At UCLA, the parents of Vietnamese-American applicants are on average poorer and less educated than the parents of African-American applicants. But instead of seeing their admission rates go up under the holistic system, Vietnamese kids’ rates plunged, from 29 percent to 21 percent.
This is the sort of thing I believe that led Chief Justice John Roberts to make his famous declaration about racially motivated government policies: “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”
I look forward to a convoluted explanation from the Governor’s Office on why it’s OK to punish Asian-Americans in the name of atoning for white racism. If anyone is capable of such pretzel logic, it is Jerry Brown.