Cecillia Wang, Director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, has written an ACLU blog entry, “Reflections of Another Affirmative Action Baby,” describing the wonders of the new world “diversity” opened up for her as an undergraduate at Berkeley.
I arrived at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 1988. I didn’t have far to travel. I crammed my belongings into my used Honda and drove to the other end of the county. In 40 minutes, I crossed over into a new world.
I came from a large public high school that was 92% white and 6% Asian-American. While I was growing up, Asian-American kids often suffered racist jeers and sometimes physical attacks. I felt hurt and rage about this, but didn’t know what to do about it. I lacked the intellectual and social tools. I don’t recall race being a subject of public conversation, even in our social studies and English classes. It was a good school and we had fun in our suburban way, but I was waiting for better days.
When I got to Berkeley, I experienced – there is no other way to describe it – liberation. In my dorm, in my classes, in student groups, my little world cracked wide open and in came a flood of new people and new ideas. I was thrown in with African-American kids from South Central L.A. and small Central Valley towns, Asian-American kids from majority-Asian schools in Hawaii and southern California, Chicano kids from border towns, my white roommate from a tiny town in the Sierra Foothills, and another roommate who was a rare bird from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. My friends and neighbors were rich, poor, middle-class, gay, straight, disabled, able-bodied, Republican, Democrat, Maoist (I’m not kidding). Sometimes we got along, and sometimes we didn’t.
Ms. Wang may well be a “diversity” baby — or perhaps a bona fide born again ”diversity” baby — but she definitely does not deserve the mantle of “affirmative action baby” in which she wraps herself. On the contrary, she is clearly an affirmative action survivor — a bright, talented Asian who was accepted at Berkeley in spite of affirmative action, which in 1988 (well before the passage of Prop. 209) significantly raised admission standards for Asians and lowered them for blacks and Hispanics. She may well approve of that policy, since she survived it, but I suspect some of her Asian American high school classmates who might well have been accepted to Berkeley in the absence of affirmative action preferences for others might have a different view.