Race must be a factor because Racism is a factor

I think it’s going to take a long time for me to finally accept that Prop 2 passed in Michigan last night. Generally, I share Blackatmichigan’s sentiments about whole thing, and I invite folks to read his post.

As an Asian American voter, I can only imagine how the usual rhetoric used in affirmative action debates about Asian folks influenced our understanding of the issue. I imagine that many of us, despite the efforts of Frank Wu and the APA Caucus of One United Michigan, were duped into thinking that getting rid of affirmative action was in our best interest. That Asian Americans don’t need affirmative action because we’re “over-represented” on university campuses. And that each of us are the smart and economically well-off “model minorities” everyone should aspire to.

Last night on TV, there was an Asian male standing behind Jennifer Gratz, and together they celebrated the passage of Prop 2. What are you applauding about, guy? Didn’t you know that they used you to validate policies that, in the end, will exclude you too? It seems to me that it was their own version of affirmative action that got you on the stage and on camera, along with our man Ward Connerly.

Three years ago when we started Students Supporting Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan, we were very deliberate about the language and strategy we used in order to gain support for affirmative action. It’s more than just about diversity, it’s about the original purpose of implementing affirmative action as a policy tool, “Race must be a factor because Racism is a factor.”


  1. If I even started to go into how stupidly they framed this aff axn thing, you wouldn’t even want to read it. I think the exit polls provide us with some important information about who didn’t bite the message. Of course, one of the bigger questions is how to get folks, particularly White people, to understand considering race is important. Once the myth of a colorblind world is cracked, then there’s even more work that needs to be done. Issues of privilege and guilt rarely resonate in a sustained and positive way to produce allies. Just FYI, I think I heard the campus polling sites went 70 percent no, 30 yes, which is pretty damn good… now if only the state at large looked like that!

  2. I heard that same statistic about where Prop 2 failed. There is so much to say about how things were framed, i.e. the strategy that DIDN’T work. You and I know that there are ways to show folks how the world is not colorblind, without making them feel that they are racist (whether or not we think they actually are). I’m thinking about posting some thoughts about why we lost to the pro-Prop 2 folks. Still gauging if that would be helpful in the broader picture..

  3. Mo P.

    I think many people don’t understand it. I say post something. Folks in Michigan and abroad can’t address the problem if they don’t know where and what it is. This thing made me so upset and disheartened. I thought about moving back to Detroit. I would be interested in knowing if groups in Michigan, DC or anywhere plan on reversing this decision with a new campaign. If they think its worthwhile and who’s working on it.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Mo. You’ll see that I did decide to publish some of my thoughts in the “Why Prop 2 Passed in Michigan” post. It would be great to hear your feedback on this too.

    And I hear you on the disappointment. I don’t usually tell folks to hold off on Detroit (I’m usually trying to recruit folks over!), but you got great things to continue doing in Philly. Detroit will be here when/if you’re ready to return. 🙂

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