Race-Blind Policies Ignore Ethnicity and Mask Education Disparities

Mar 11 Race-Blind Policies Ignore Ethnicity and Mask Education Disparities


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Contact: Jonathan Tran, jonathan@searac.org, 916.428.7444



Repeal of Prop 209 is an Important Investment in California’s Future & Economy


SACRAMENTO, CA – For nearly two decades, Proposition 209 (Prop 209) has prevented educational, employment, and other public institutions in California from considering race as a factor in admissions and hiring—a misguided and flawed policy that has masked and proliferated significant disparities in these arenas.

In addition to race, Prop 209 prevents the consideration of ethnicity in recruitment, admissions, and retention programs by state universities and colleges, creating barriers to recognizing unique assets and challenges within tremendously diverse Asian American communities. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) supports the Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA 5) and urges California policy makers to repeal Prop 209.

For the nearly 1 million Southeast Asian Americans living in California, Prop 209 has maintained or worsened access to higher education. In California, only 15.5% of Cambodians, 14.5% of Hmong, and 9.6% of Laotians have a college degree or higher, compared to 48% of Asian American communities in aggregate and 31.3% of White communities. SEARAC recognizes the importance of affirmative action, highlighting that it accounts not only for race, but for challenges that so many Southeast Asians face, such as poverty, being the first in the family to attend college, having immigrant parents, and attending low-performing schools that do not prepare students for standardized testing. 

SCA 5 is a necessary and important step in recognizing and celebrating California’s diversity. Its passage will help California’s world-renowned public universities attract and enroll a student body that meets high academic standards and reflects the cultural, racial, geographic, economic, and social diversity of California. As SEARAC’s Executive Director Quyen Dinh describes, “Affirmative action policies recognize that test scores are just one indicator of college readiness. A student’s ability to overcome racial, ethnic, and socio-economic challenges contributes to his or her ability to succeed in higher education, and to enrich the learning experience of all students.  A student’s race and ethnic background should be valued as an asset.  Evaluating students simply by standardized test scores and GPA will continue to rob our education system of its rich diversity. Race-conscious policies will prepare the next generation of leaders with essential skills and knowledge to thrive in an increasingly diverse state and global economy.”  


SEARAC is a national organization that advances the interests of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans by empowering communities through advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building to create a socially just and equitable society. We envision a socially, politically and economically just society for all communities to enjoy for all generations.