"If you could change one thing, just one thing in your past, what would it be?"
Right now, I’m just listening to Arianna Grande songs over and over, so my blog posts may all be a response to the questions she brings up in my own head. But a friend asked me the above prompt, and to help me out, I’m listening to “Almost is Never Enough.”
Generally, I don’t regret anything in my life. Although I’m flawed, I’ve come to realize that that makes me human (thanks anime), and I like who I am now, though I will continue to grow and change.
But…if there was one thing that I could change about my past, I would’ve told, in person, Sam before he left for New York that “He was the best conversation I’ve had in a very, very long time. And though we were just friends, I probably would have said yes if he ever asked for anything more. I’ve always found him to be the most intellectually challenging, and thus, attractive man I’ve met in DC - from the first time we met and talked about the nature of faith and fact to the last days before he left, when we debated the technicalities of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder and what that meant for the future of voting and civil rights.”
I would have said, “Sam, I like you, and I’m sad to see you leave. Who will I talk about the nature of everything and nothing with now? One day, I hope, you and I will be the same city. And I would be stable enough to handle a real relationship and you would be ready to date. Until then, goodbye, my friend.”
I don’t have regrets. But if there was one thing I would have to change in my life, I would have said the above lines earlier this year.
When people ask me about my hobbies, I’m like…uh, well, I help run a queer API organization on the side and I’m volunteering for a local political campaign.Oh yeah, I’m also trying to start a cover cover band, to cover covers of popular songs. So if you know anyone who can sing or play instruments, lemme know!
We are not Laotian refugees. We are Hmong. Address us as who we are and not the technical jargon that US immigration used to define us. We are Hmong.
Forgive for rambling, but I need an outlet somewhere.
About a month ago, I was at a regional summit for a national queer Asian Pacific American organization. A dear friend and mentor of mine gave a presentation on the deportation of Southeast Asians, and I couldn’t sit through it. So I left and went outside for a cigarette and air. And as I sat outside, I couldn’t help but start crying because it’s about my community, my people who have been left behind in refugee camps, my people who have been brought over into the low-income areas of America with little support, and who are now being deported back to countries we’ve never known as home.
It was heartbreaking because that week I had to fight with other Asian Pacific American organizations for just a few thousand dollars for a project that would benefit all of us. And I had to fight Latino organizations just to make sure that they didn’t leave us out of immigration again - to make sure that our families are not just some asterisk on a project that we called a unified project and front for both AAPI and Latino communities.
And as I sat crying on the steps outside, one of the organizational directors who’s known me since I was 20 comes out and he says, “Kham, I am so proud of you. You’re the only one - the only queer Southeast Asian male doing what you’re doing. You have have to be strong. Don’t let them see you cry. I know it’s hard, but don’t let them see you cry.”
But I can’t help it. I can’t help but cry. I’ve been fighting my own communities for so long just to have my humanity recognized: Hmong, Southeast Asian, Asian American, LGBTQ, People of Color, my own organizations - everyone. And it’s so lonely. And I didn’t realize that I’ve been so sad for so long. Because for all the love that I’ve felt for my communities, I’ve never felt them love me and people like me back. And to be the one, the only one who is queer, who is Southeast Asian, who is male, who comes from impoverished beginnings, from a no-name school doing this in DC is so lonely. Because there’s really no one where who understands.
And I have to be rock. I have to be strong, to show my place, to talk my piece, to push the agenda forward - regardless of whether or not people like it.
I have to be stone for my family, then for my college mates, then for Hmong LGBTQ folks, and for queer southeast Asians in Asian America in DC. A role model. Thick skinned. Someone who has to be strong. But I feel so lonely, out of place, and sad.
My family back home says, “We’re so proud of you.” My friends and supporters here say, “We’re proud of you.” And those younger than me who have seen the work I do say, “You’re a role model because of the work that you’ve done.” And I just want to say “no, no, no. Just let me be me, please.” And I’ve only just realized after a year here that I’m sad and I feel alone, even though there are so many people who love and support me, because it’s just one obstacle after another with no one here who can understand why I crave so much to meet another person like me - someone who can sit with me and say, “Kham, I know.”
Truthfully, I just miss my friends, my gay Southeast Asian brothers. The ones who yell at me for messing up, for not checking my privilege, for making stupid mistakes, and the ones who sit there with me when I’m sad.
An introductory overview of Affirmative Action in higher education, based on a brief that I put together for some of our organizational members. Though this is just an introduction, suffice to say, Asian Pacific Americans (statistically) support Affirmative Action, and we, as a community should continue to support it in both higher education, public employment, and contracting.
"You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair." - President Lyndon Johnson
AN INTRODUCTION TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICANS
Affirmative action policies in higher education remain a controversial issue in the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. Although affirmative action has provided a pathway for APAs into higher education, some claim that the influx of APA students in higher education and the rate of educational attainment within the APA community have led to AA programs negatively affecting and excluding APA students from selective higher education intuitions. This policy brief provides an overview of affirmative action laws, including disaggregated APA educational data and arguments in favor of and opposing affirmative action.
Affirmative Action: affirmative action policies are institution based programs that allow for the consideration of race, ethnicity, and sex during the application process. Programs are not limited to admission policies, but can include targeted outreach to specific underrepresented groups, among other individual university programs.
Negative Action: negative action, in this context, refers to policies that prevent or restrict the admission and enrollment of students because of race, ethnicity, or sex due for any variety of reasons. NA can come in the form of admission caps, quotas, and higher test score and GPA requirements, among other things.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Affirmative Action was first mentioned by President John F. Kennedy when he issued Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961. This EO included a provision stating that government contractors take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed…without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin.”
A few years after, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created under President Lyndon Johnson with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first federal agency authorized by Congress to promote equal opportunity. President Lyndon B. Johnson then superseded EO 10925 by issuing Executive Order 11246 on September 24, 1965, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by organizations that received federal contracts and subcontracts. EO 11246 was amended in 1967 to include sex.
Affirmative action programs were drastically reduced under President Ronald Regan in the 1980’s. His administration did not require federal contractors to comply with such policies. In 1996, California approved Proposition 206, which made it illegal to consider race, sex, or ethnicity in state employment, contracting, or university admissions. The state of Washington passed Initiative 200 in 1998, which prohibited preferential treatment similar to Proposition 206. Similarly, Michigan passed Proposal 2 in 2006, which also made affirmative action illegal. Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma have all followed suit and banned affirmative action.
Multiple legal cases have occurred challenging the validity of affirmative action. The selected cases below highlight the most notable challenges to these programs in higher education.
OVERVIEW OF LANDMARK AFFIMATIVE ACTION CASES
Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971) – The Duke Power Company required that its employees passed an intelligence test or had a high school diploma in order to work in manual labor jobs. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that the practice was illegal under the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause. This ruling established both indirect and unintentional discrimination as illegal.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1968) – SCOTUS ruled that the practice of setting aside a specified number of seats for minority students was unlawful; however, the decision upheld the use of race as one of several factors in the acceptance of qualified applicants on the grounds that diverse student bodies are a compelling state interest.
Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) – The University of Michigan’s undergraduate admission affirmative action policy used a system that assigned point for certain factors, among which underserved races was given an automatic assignment of 20 points out of a total 100 points. In this case, SCOTUS upheld the value of diversity in higher education, but decided that the use of race in the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school was not narrowly tailored enough to achieve the university’s diversity goal.
Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) – In this case, SCOTUS reaffirms Bakke by stating that diverse student bodies are a compelling state interest. They support the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program on the grounds that its consideration of race is seen merely as a plus among a myriad of other factors. In essence, the law school’s policy was individualistic and holistic, narrowly tailored to fit the diversity goals of the university, unlike the undergraduate policy which acted as a way to insulate underserved raced from other applicants.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2013) – Ms. Fisher claimed that she was a victim of racial discrimination because minority students with lower numerical test scores were admitted to the University of Texas. SCOTUS withheld a decision; however, the decision still allowed for the consideration of race in the admissions process, so long as it is “narrowly tailored” to the diversity goals of the institution.
FACTS ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
There are no federal congressional laws or executive orders explicitly regulating affirmative action policies in the application process of public higher education institutions. AA programs vary from university to university. However, legal precedent has established the following:
1.) Diverse student bodies are a compelling state interest;
2.) Affirmative Action programs must be narrowly tailored to fit the diversity goals of the university;
3.) They can take into account the entirety of an applicant’s background and life experience, including his or her race;
4.) Quotas are illegal.