Response to the Economist

Dec 20 2015
By: Evelyn Yeung
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog, Blog, Advocacy, In The News
No Comments">No Comments

Written by Shengxi Li in response to this article


Controversy has surrounded affirmative action ever since it was institutionalized in 1954 through Brown v. Board of Education. In the late 20th century, the hot button phrase was “reverse affirmative action.” Today, the point of contention seems to be around Asian Americans being against affirmative action because we think that other minority groups are stealing our opportunities.

On October 3rd, the Economist published an article titled, “The model minority is losing patience,” arguing, in essence, that affirmative action is blocking Asian Americans from fulfilling the American dream and overcoming years of historical discrimination in the United States.

I rarely see acknowledgement of the history of discrimination experienced by Asian Americans in this country so I appreciated the brief overview with which the article set the stage after its opening anecdote. Key facts the author highlighted include the fact that the largest mass lynching in American history, in 1871, was not of blacks but of 17 Chinese, and that in 1942, 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned, compared to negligible numbers of German or Italian-Americans. I add to that reality the facts that the first Asian Americans were brought to the US as indentured servants to work on plantations in an antebellum attempt to solve the “slavery problem” and that anywhere from 150 to 1,200 underpaid or unpaid Chinese laborers, working under terrible conditions, died building the transcontinental railroad.

I also agreed with the article’s subsequent description of the work ethic and cultural factors that have led Asian Americans to become what the article calls “unusually well educated, prosperous, married, satisfied with their lot and willing to believe in the American dream.”  

From here, though, the article does a little bait and switch. The articles argues that even though there has been an astonishing level of Asian American academic success, it is not nearly as much as the amount of hard work, the level of familial pressure, and the generally outstanding grades and accolades “would seem to merit.” And the reason the article provides is because of affirmative action:

“Racial prejudice of the sort that Jews faced may or may not be part of the problem, but affirmative action certainly is. Top universities tend to admit blacks and Hispanics with lower scores because of their history of disadvantage; and once the legacies, the sports stars, the politically well-connected and the rich people likely to donate new buildings (few of whom tend to be Asian) have been allotted their places, the number for people who are just high achievers is limited. Since the Ivies will not stop giving places to the privileged, because their finances depend on the generosity of the rich, the argument homes in on affirmative action.”

By framing this entire article through the lens of the lawsuit that is currently being levied by 64 Asian organizations against Harvard for discrimination in the admission process, the Economist seems to suggest that this is not simply an argument it puts forth, but rather, an argument being made by the majority of the Asian American community – that we are tired of their spots being taken by other, underqualified people of color as recompense for their history of disadvantage when we too have a history of disadvantage and are more qualified.

Yet, where the Economist sees a complaint against affirmative action, against other racial minorities in the United States, I see a complaint against the solution that the American institutions and government have offered to the problem of racism.

As the article pointed out, the Asian American community was not spared the discrimination so commonly experienced by groups of color. No compensation or even formal apology has ever been issued, however, as redress for those decades of deprivation, discrimination, and violation.

After the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, we received no apology from Congress. After Brown v. Board of Education, there was no judicial decision aimed at integrating Asians into the white school systems despite Yick Wo v. Hopkins, decided in 1886, designating Asians as “colored” and barring Asian Americans from attending white schools as expressly as blacks were barred in Plessy v. Ferguson from riding in white train cars. After Korematsu v. United States stripped Japanese Americans of their guaranteed rights as citizens and ordered all ethnic Japanese in the United States into internment camps regardless of citizenship, we received no compensation for our losses of property and deprivation of liberty.

What limited redress and compensation that has been provided by the American institutions over the years has been on stark black and white terms.

I do not and cannot speak for all Asian Americans – as the Economist acknowledges, the Asian American population is extremely diverse. It is possible that those filing the lawsuit against Harvard truly are bitter against black, Latino, and other underrepresented minority students, as the article suggests. However, I personally do not begrudge any group of color receiving compensation for the wrongs that the American government has done to it over the years. What I begrudge is the government and other institutions providing an institutional remedy in exclusive terms of black and white, when for centuries, they propagated wrongs under a system of white and colored, with the latter encompassing all those unfortunate enough to have a drop of blood other than Caucasian. What I begrudge are these institutions trying to sweep under the rug years of wrongs that it has inflicted upon certain groups instead of giving them their due compensation. What I begrudge are the continuation of excuses like “Ivies will not stop giving places to the privileged [i.e. white] because their finances depend on the generosity of the rich,” and the insistence that hence, the only way to make spots for those who have been deprived is to take from others who have also been deprived.

That is not a solution; it is a compromise. And after decades of being compromised, you can bet I am “losing patience.”



Read more

ECAASU Statement on Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Nov 30 2014
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog, Blog, Official Statements
No Comments">No Comments

Following the announcement from the the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) issues the following statement:

As a social justice organization, ECAASU is extremely disappointed that no indictment was brought against Officer Darren Wilson for his shooting and killing of Michael Brown. We believe that this decision brings no justice, no peace, and no accountability for Michael Brown and his family. We urge that a further investigation be done by the Department of Justice. We believe that police violence and racial profiling have no place in today’s society. The unarmed shootings and violent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other individuals by those who have been responsible for our protection and safety are unfortunate reminders of the daily injustices faced by People of Color. The system of justice has once again failed us and we are calling for change.

Until change comes, we will continue to serve as allies and stand against racial injustice, and stand in solidarity with our fellow Americans for whom racial injustice is an everyday reality. We urge people to continue to protest the decision peacefully. We want to continue to honor what The Brown family said, “Let’s not make noise, let’s make change.”  We urge the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to come together and work with other communities to make a difference in preventing these tragedies from happening again.

Read more

ECAASU Commends the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s Decision to Reaffirm the University of Texas at Austin’s Undergraduate Admissions Policy

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) commends the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision to reaffirm the University of Texas at Austin’s he U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision to reaffirm the University of Texas at Austin’s undergraduate admissions policy that uses race as a factor. This decision ensures diversity, which is integral for the learning experience on college campuses.

In June 2008, a Texas student named Abigail Fisher, a white student, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin and filed suit against the university. She filed suit because she felt that she had been a victim of racial discrimination due to students of color with less impressive credentials than hers had been admitted. Last summer, the Supreme Court voided the lower appellate court’s ruling in favor of the university and remanded the case, holding that the lower could did not apply the proper standard of strict scrutiny.

Since ECAASU was founded, we have stood in solidarity with traditionally underrepresented communities. In 2013, ECAASU signed on as amici to an amicus brief submitted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice in support of diversity and utilizing race as a factor in college admissions. A fitting explanation of why ECAASU is in favor of this ruling is best explained by the President of UT-Austin, Bill Powers. “This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life.

We hope to see continued strides in the direction of diversity and inclusion throughout all institutions of academia.

Read more

APIAs and the Affordable Care Act

Mar 23 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog
No Comments">No Comments

From the Department of Health and Human Services comes this nifty graphic on how the APIA community is affected by health care and the Affordable Care Act.

APIAs and Healthcare

As you can see, the data shows the dangers many members of the APIA community face due to a lack of health care.

The stats are astounding and unfortunate. However, open enrollment for insurance through the Affordable Care Act is available through March 31.

Want to help get the word out? Share:

1.       infographics on AAPIs and the Affordable Care Act (click here and see attached)

2.       a photo using hashtag #GetCovered (click here for instructions)

3.       20 Reasons to Get Covered (click here)

Join many other famous APIA figures in spreading the message to our communities!

Mindy Kaling and the ACAGeorge Takei and the ACA

Enhanced by Zemanta
Read more

ECAASU NYPD Police Brutality Statement

On January 19, 2013, Mr. Kang Chun Wong, an 84-year-old man, was viscously beaten in a case of police brutality in broad daylight in New York City. Mr. Wong had lived a block away and crossed the same intersection at 96th and Broadway many times before. In this particular incident, a police officer stopped Mr. Wong for jaywalking, held him against a wall, and issued a $250 citation. Although signs demonstrated that Mr. Wong did not understand the officer because of a language barrier, the officer used force to constrain Mr. Wong as he was thrown to the ground and beaten for struggling. Mr. Wong was dazed, bloodied, and suffered cuts and bruises. He was surrounded by officers, handcuffed, and taken to the hospital for four stitches for his head wounds.

Police brutality and sheer misconduct are far from being unprecedented. We can recall Peter Yew who, in 1975, was beaten and arrested by the police during a minor traffic altercation in New York’s Chinatown. Thousands of protesters marched the mile from Chinatown to City Hall to protest against police brutality and called for change. In 2008, police threw an Asian student on the ground at Columbia University in addition to yelling racist insults at him for holding an open beer can. The incident led to racial sensitivity training classes at the local NYPD precinct. New York City has had its own run with “stop-and-frisk” policies and harassment that have discriminated against minorities, particularly the AAPI community. The incident with Mr. Wong stands as a reminder that the need for reform has been long overdue. No other person should have to endure the pain that Mr. Wong faced that day.

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is committed in demanding greater accountability by the NYPD for this case of police brutality. We firmly stand against acts of unnecessary degree of violence, discriminatory stop-and-frisk laws, and senseless abuses of authoritative power. Moving forward, we must ensure officers are able to work with those who are limited-English proficient or faced with a language barrier. Lastly, we call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to hold the officers responsible for their actions against Mr. Wong to deliver him the justice he deserves. Our allies at 18 Million Rising have created a petition demanding accountability from Mayor de Blasio. Please sign and share the petition:

Read more

Advocacy Update: Mental Health Summit

Dec 14 2013
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog
No Comments">No Comments

From Advocacy Coordinator, Daniel Hoddinott: An update on a future opportunity.

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) in collaboration with the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) will be hosting a Mental Health Summit in the spring to bring together 100-250 students to discuss mental health issues in the AAPI community. The goals for this one-day summit will be to spread awareness regarding mental health issues and to create a safe space for participants to learn more about resources available by those who work in the mental health profession through interactive workshops and plenary sessions. Workshops will focus on education of mental health issues, immigration and health, health care access, and different methods in dealing with mental health issues.

ECAASU is currently forming the planning committee for the AAPI Mental Health Summit. This event will be in late March-early April in Boston, Massachusetts. We are looking for people to join our planning committee. The planning committee will have a public relations team, volunteer & registration team, programming team, logistics team, and finance team. Planning committee members will be expected to participate on conference calls (TBA) and to help out the day of the summit. By joining the planning committee you will be able to work on a professional team, gain resume experience, and network with ECAASU and health professionals.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email Daniel Hoddinott at

Enhanced by Zemanta
Read more

ECAASU Statement on “Kill All the Chinese” comment on Jimmy Kimmel

Nov 03 2013
By: diane.wong
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog, Blog, Official Statements
No Comments">No Comments

ECAASU Statement on “Kill All the Chinese” comment on Jimmy Kimmel

ECAASU commends ABC News for issuing a formal apology following the “Kill all the Chinese” comment aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live during its “Kid’s Table” skit on October 16th, 2013. The unscripted jab from a 6-year-old suggested that in the face of the recent government shutdown, we should “kill all the Chinese” to avoid paying our debt to China. The comment was repeated by Kimmel, and reiterated in a group discussion with other children parodying US politicians. This distasteful, offensive rhetoric has outraged numerous Asian-Americans, as well as Chinese communities around the world.

“We would never purposefully broadcast anything to upset the Chinese community, Asian community, anyone of Chinese descent or any community at large,” read a statement signed by ABC Entertainment executive vice-president Lisa Berger. Tim McNeal who is in charge of ABC’s talent and diversity branch made note that ABC has removed the particular section of the segment from all social media platforms and that the comment has been edited out for all future airings of the episode.

While publicly apologizing to 80/20 protestors in person and during his show on October 28th, Jimmy Kimmel made it clear that he did not intend to appear in agreement with the “Kill all the Chinese” comment. He apologized for any hurt feelings that were caused by the remark and expressed deep remorse for the incident. Although Kimmel and ABC Network apologized, we hope that going forward, the show will provide culturally sensitive material and take heed many of the sound suggestions that have been made from fellow organizations and individuals.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Read more

Justice for Trayvon Martin

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) stands in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, his family, and the many others who have called for his killer to be brought to justice. George Zimmerman’s acquittal is reflective of a system that, time and time again, has failed to protect the rights of individuals targeted as a result of discrimination. It is a reminder that we need to continue to work harder to ensure that prejudice has no place in our legal system and society.

While some have claimed that this case has nothing to do with race, we do not live in a post-racial society. Trayvon’s story plays into a larger narrative of discrimination and racial imbalance across the country today, as racial profiling is institutionalized through biased application of “stand your ground” and other laws. Trayvon’s death and the failure of the legal system to bring him justice are not isolated incidents, but symptoms of a pervasive problem in our society.

As advocates for the AAPI community, we are responsible for challenging prejudice and racial profiling within our society regardless of whom it is leveled against. We will not forget Trayvon Martin, and will do our best to ensure that his fight for justice is not over.

For the petition calling for prosecution of George Zimmerman by the Department of Justice, follow this link:

For the NAACP petition for the Department of Justice to file charges against George Zimmerman, follow the link below (Currently crashed due to heavy traffic, will update if it is back up)


Read more

Voting Rights Act Decisions

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is deeply saddened by the Supreme Court Decision to strike down key a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In a 5-to-4 vote on Tuesday, the Supreme Court effectively invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which now allows states and local governments to pass voting laws without federal approval.


As evidenced from the recent election cycles, a number of state and local governments have introduced restrictive voting laws that include mandatory photo identification procedures, massive voter purges, shortened early voting periods, proof of citizenship mandates, and other preventative measures veiled in an attempt to prevent voter fraud. It is undeniable that these restrictive voting laws disproportionately impact the elderly, minority, low-income, disabled, and other traditionally underrepresented groups. We encourage our advocates to continue to educate our communities to ensure that all voters are protected.

Read more

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Decisions

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) applauds the Supreme Court’s historic decision on June 26, 2013 to strike down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples who are legally married in states they reside. We also applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. Both of these decisions reverberates the dreams and promises of justice, civil rights, and equal treatment for all people to be treated the same–regardless of whom they choose to spend their lives with. ECAASU hopes that these decisions stand firm as a landmark precedent for continued support and recognition of same-sex marriage and couples and LGBTQ rights. Now is the time to stand in solidarity for marriage equality and to continue pushing forward this critical movement.

Read more
ECAASU - East Asian American Student Union 501(c)3 Nonprofit Copyright 2013 Back to top