SVCA Statement on Bill CA AB 176
In early October, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill AB-176, which was authored by State Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Silicon Valley Chinese Association applauds the Governor’s action on this bill. AB-176 is divisive, unfair, unscientific, and infeasible. If signed into law, it would have been a backward step for equal protection of the law in California.
While claiming to help address the diverse needs of the Asian Americans, AB-176 intends to advance a hidden political agenda by singling out Asian Americans as well as unfairly and unscientifically putting them into sub-racial groups. These sub-racial groups include Bangladeshi, Cambodian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Indian, Korean, Samoan, Thai, Tongan, Vietnamese, etc. This stratification is based on ethnicities and/or national origins. This bill would have forced California institutions of higher education -- the state universities and community colleges -- to collect and publish such information. Such stratified data could be easily manipulated by some politicians to advance race-based public policies that are unlawful under the California Constitution.
AB-176 is divisive and unfair on its face. It does not stipulate the collection of similar racial data from any group other than the Asian Americans Pacific Islanders. The bill, for example, does not require Cuban Americans, Chilean Americans, or Mexican Americans to report their ethnicities other than the generic “Hispanic.” Similarly, it does not require Russian Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans or Scandinavian Americans to report ethnicities other than the generic “White.” It is indisputable that those sub-groups within the Hispanics and Whites are ethnically and culturally diverse. So why Asian Americans and Asian Americans only?
AB-176 is unscientific. For millenniums, hundreds of ethnic groups throughout Asia have been racially mixed in complicated ways. And serious DNA-based researches have suggested that at least some Native Americans have come from Asia. So how would an “Asian American” of multiple ethnicities report under this bill? Should everyone go for a DNA screening before reporting? Can an “Asian American” claim to be a Native American based on some of the DNA findings?
The bill also confuses ethnicities with national origins. For instance, China as a country officially recognizes 56 ethnic groups among its citizens, including, for example, Korean, Hmong, and Mongolian. So identifying oneself as “Chinese” doesn’t disclose that person’s true ethnic and possibly cultural background. Furthermore, the impact of the citizenship of one’s ancestry -- and in many cases multiple citizenships within the family tree -- is not necessarily a deciding factor of that person’s socioeconomic or educational status. Therefore, such stratification tactic encoded by AB-176 wouldn’t have been a useful factor in allocating educational resources of California.
In addition to all the problems above, this bill cannot be realistically implemented—how to monitor and verify the accuracy and integrity of the self-identified data generated under this bill? And who will pay for the undoubtedly huge costs?
As we all know, America is a country made up of immigrants from every corner of the world. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said some 50 years ago, each person should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” As an organization that fought and helped defeat SCA-5 last year, we wholeheartedly believe in Dr. King’s principle and are fighting tirelessly any attempt to bring back race-based policies. (www.no2sca5.org).
We denounce the ulterior motive behind AB-176 to unfairly collect unscientific racial data to pave the way for the comeback of SCA-5 and similar legislation. We urge Californian lawmakers to put interests of all Californians first, and not to make divisive laws to stir up racial tensions. A color-blind society without racial discrimination of any kind or in any form is what this great state should see.