California’s legislature is trying, yet again, to bring back racial preferences in college admissions. Never mind that its residents overwhelmingly approved a ban against such discrimination in a referendum. If lawmakers succeed, they will penalize Chinese Americans, a growing force in the state. So why such dogged determination that could backfire politically?
Several forces are at work here. One is that without such inducements as the racial preferences of affirmative action, the whole structure of identity politics eventually collapses. Those who are intent on transforming America’s institutions, culture, and economic system need to preserve the division of society into antagonistic groups.
Anathema to them is the ability of people of any race to succeed individually. The interest of the purveyors of identity politics is to replace the American narrative — which they dub “hegemonic” — with a counter-narrative, which is anti-capitalist and anti-individual rights.
Identity Politics Is More Important than Votes
So people have to be suborned to stay within the confines of their groups and rise collectively in a way that replaces America’s structures. Nobody can be co-opted into the American narrative.
The ultimate political goal of making America more collectivist, and making Americans less reliant on individual striving and more dependent on government, is paramount. It trumps the loss of some votes here and there. This is especially the case if such erosion of support can be minimized by “Asian American” affinity groups, such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), which pushes racial preferences.
This is what is behind such a naked power push in the middle of a pandemic. Chinese Americans, however, have for a decade now become a force in the fight against racial preferences, standing up real grassroots groups that threaten the monopoly of organizations such as AAJC.
For that, they have relied on mass protests in Boston, conferences in Washington, government hearings in Hartford, and organizing efforts in California. Will coronavirus lockdowns stymie the work of these grassroots groups?
The signs are good. Californians of all colors who understand what is at stake are organizing online and through Zoom meetings to ensure the legislature does not revoke Proposition 209. In 1996, Californians passed that resolution banning the use of race, ethnicity, or sex in university admission selections with a comfortable 10 percent margin.
California Democrats are poised to throw away a lot of Asian American votes. Stay tuned.