Lipsitz' omission of Asians from speech was wrong

    “”Let’s see [the recent incident of flyers on campus depicting Ku Klux Klan members] for what it is: an opportunity for black students, Chicano and Chicana students, white students, gay students and everything in between to say we refuse to allow our university to say this is okay.””

    Part of Dr. George Lipsitz’s speech at last Wednesday’s rally against the aforementioned flyer, it might be forgiven for forgetting a certain large portion of the student body in his happy coalition. But his inflammatory comments regarding the “”criminal admissions policy of the University of California”” leave little doubt as to why Dr. Lipsitz might be inclined to forget over a third of the campus population. After all, that third of the population is the best argument, simply by their sheer presence, of the failures of not having affirmative action.

    “”Since they ended affirmative action … the people who have replaced the beautiful black brothers and sisters, Latinos, Filipinos and Cambodians are the people who have come from the wealthiest neighborhoods in our society. We used to have a student body that was young, gifted and black. You look at the poster circulating this week, we now have students who are dumb, shiftless and slacks.””

    Dr. Lipsitz, chair of ethnic studies at UCSD, might be forgiven for implying that, as much of the public and popular press seems to assume, whites (and white supremacists) have flooded back into UCSD since the repeal of SP1 and the end of affirmative action in admissions for the campus.

    But let us look at the facts for a second: The percentage of white UCSD undergraduates has been dropping for the last six years continuously. And it should be no mystery as to who are replacing them. Asian students, whose percentage has grown at nearly the white attrition rate.

    So, what has the end of affirmative action brought? Apparently, lazy, stupid Asian students who are white supremacists according to Dr. Lipsitz.

    Maybe that’s a gross extension of Dr. Lipsitz’s comments. But on the other hand, as an ethnic studies professor, surely he knows the implication of what he says when he refers to the composition of the student body post-SP1.

    Dr. Lipsitz is furthermore factually wrong on at least two points. Filipino undergraduate enrollment at UCSD has remained at a nearly constant level for the past six years (at five percent, with one year at six percent). Also, Mexican-American proportions have remained virtually constant, although a small drop was witnessed after the repeal of SP1.

    At its best, Dr. Lipsitz’s glaring omissions of Asian students in his analysis of affirmative action and unity against free (albeit stupid) speech is ignorance unbecoming of an ethnic studies professor reputed to be one of the best lecturers on campus. Dr. Lipsitz may have mentioned Filipinos and Cambodians, using them cheaply in unsubstantiated rhetoric. But the Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Malaysian (and more) students on this campus are certainly not “”in between”” “”Latinos”” and “”Black brothers and sisters.””

    At worst, the omission is the continuation of the systematic denial of implications of Asian students in university admissions. Their over-representation in the University of California is certainly not due to white privilege. And it is not due to a lack of adversity either: California was a segregated state in the 19th century, aligned against the Chinese. Many of your Asian classmates are the sons and daughters of nearly penniless Asian refugees of fascist or communist regimes throughout East Asia.

    Despite opinion to the contrary, hate crimes against Asians happen in this country — for anyone who thinks that American society treats Asians like everyone else, this writer invites them to try being Asian in the Midwest.

    And yet this year, UCSD admitted more Asian students than whites. A logical conclusion is that racism is not institutionalized in the university admissions process. What is institutionalized is class warfare — the continual oppression of those people without a family background of education. Asians, as an ethnicity, are no harder-working, or lazier, or smarter, or more motivated than the rest of the world.

    What America has witnessed is a selection bias of enormous magnitude — the people who made it out of these regimes were disproportionately the most educated, from the most historically connected families. The children of these immigrants have made it to the university system in droves despite the fact that they are still somewhat racially disadvantaged in American culture (for anyone who disputes that, Asians are still under-represented in Congress, and grossly under-represented in corporate America for the number of higher degrees they hold). But in making it, they have shown that it is not race that plays the determining factor in admissions — it is class.

    While the historical injustices of American culture have yielded a correlation between low wages, low education and some ethnicities, to address the problem from a race perspective is absurd when race is no longer the causal factor. If historical injustices were a reason to bias university admissions, why do we not favor students of Japanese-American ancestry?

    To turn the injustice of class disadvantage into evidence for continuing racial discrimination is inexcusable. It is counterproductive because it encourages society to use the rather predetermined (in the sense that these students have already 12 years of education that will set the course for their lives) enrollment statistics of a public university as a gauge of success rather than the true reform of primary and secondary education to serve the needs of the disadvantaged in America. And by crying wolf, it detracts from real struggles against discrimination, such as law-enforcement profiling, threats against Arabs (and ironically, Sikhs, who wear turbans) and the constant ridicule of the gay and lesbian community.

    Although it may be tempting to believe otherwise, Asians are not a model minority, nor are they the “”silver-spoon fed”” aristocracy that Dr. Lipsitz denounces as having taken over the university. The children of the Asian immigrants to this country are blessed with families that arrived with little or no money, and who found themselves faced with the same hostility as any other minority in America, but who had faith in education, and the opportunities that it could provide.

    The best thing that this historical quirk can convey is that our country has moved beyond institutionalized racism. And furthermore, it is now our responsibility to instill that faith in education in everyone, starting with the most disadvantaged first — of any race.

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