Calif. protesters suspicious of data use
Hundreds of Californians gathered in front of the governor’s mansion on Wednesday to protest Assembly Bill 1726, which would allow the state government to collect disaggregated health and education data on Asian Pacific Islander groups.
The majority of the protesters were first-generation Chinese Americans, who argue that the bill would divide the Asian community and promote racial discrimination.
“Disaggregation” goes beyond the description of Asian, and would allow the Department of Public Health, the California State University and the University of California to go beyond “Asian” when collecting demographic data.
For instance, the groups would be put in more specific categories, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Hmong, Fijian, etc.
Some Chinese argue the data disaggregation could be used, for instance, to limit enrollment of specific groups at the California’s universities.
Guo Wennan of the Silicon Valley Chinese Association is one of the activists who organized the demonstration. Guo began challenging the bill in March and called or more Asian Americans to participate in the political process.
According to the US Census Bureau, only 47 percent of Asian Americans voted in the 2012 presidential election, the lowest participation rate among all ethnic groups.
“It’s not a one-man job,” Guo said. “We shouldn’t rely on any single individual for our interests. It should be a joint effort.”
“I think the bill would hurt the Asian community tremendously,” Guo said. “It reinforces the stereotypes, and it is fundamentally racist.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that the bill has many supporters, including Chinese-American groups from around the state, “but opponents see a more nefarious effort to roll back California’s affirmative action ban. The rhetoric has turned dark, with critics of the bill warning ominously of data collection that preceded the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment.”
Guo said the battle over the bill was crucial, and he sees it as an attempt to revive affirmative action in college admissions in California.
Guo was referring to the Senate’s constitutional amendment No. 5 (SCA-5), which was shelved in 2014 due to a lack of consensus mostly along racial lines.
SCA-5 would have allowed schools to use race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin as criteria for accepting students or hiring employees. The use of such criteria was banned by Proposition 209, which voters passed in 1996.
State Assemblyman Rob Bonta introduced AB-1726 in January and it passed almost unanimously in March. It is now being reviewed by the state Senate. Bonta said the concern about the revival of SCA-5 was “misguided and unfortunate”. “The bill is dead,” he said. “AB 1726 has no reference or any relation to it.”
Annette Wong, director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, said it is important for the bill to pass in order to help subgroups within the Asian community more efficiently.
The Silicon Valley Chinese Association recently circulated a petition calling for the governor to veto AB 1726.
If the bill passes the state Senate, Governor Jerry Brown would have it on his desk to either sign or veto in October.
Hundreds of Californians protest in front of the governor’s mansion in Sacramento, California on Wednesday.