I had the wonderful privilege to speak to the UCLA community about Proposition 209 yesterday. I would like to share with you all my speech. My hope is that somewhere, this will make sense to somebody. And we stand in solidarity with you.
I am ashamed that it has taken over ten years for us to get to the point where the ban on Proposition 209 is now back in the hands of the courts. Over ten years – long enough for a generation of youth of color to grow up without mentors and without seeing figures who look like them in institutions of higher education. In one fell swoop, a golden legacy borne out of the assertion of millions of transformed minds and decades of empowered work cut shamefully short.
However, I am even more ashamed that we live in a time where the public blinds itself to the systemic injustices that Proposition 209 has actively addressed and sought to correct. This was not the California which I was raised to believe in.
What kind of place do are we in today where a public education sought is a public education denied? What kind of place are we in today where the overwhelming majority of our public high schools are more effective as a mechanism to marginalize and criminalize youth rather than serve as a mechanism to liberate, empower, and reaffirm a human life and experience? What kind of place are we in today where so-called ‘merits’ and ‘indolence’ are wrongfully conflated with the underlying issue of inequitable distribution of resources and access as navigated through race, national origin, gender, sexuality?
The fight for affirmative action is not about quotas, merits, or unfair preferences as you might have been wrongfully told. Rather, the fight for affirmative action is a fight for a more just and equitable America that recognizes why it was a pursued solution in the first place: in order to liberate education from its cages in the hands of the few and privileged in this country and allow those who are most separated
from it the chance to pursue it.
At the cusp of a great social upheaval as we are today where teachers join hands with freedom fighters in order to rise up to critique our economic structures, now is the time to act as those who do not act are just as culpable as those who actively resist change.
So today, I stand here in solidarity to repeal Proposition 209 not because of statistics, facts, or any other quantitative reason. Rather, I stand here in solidarity because repealing Proposition 209 is simply the right thing to do and I urge you all to exercise your right to democracy and ensure the future is bright for our generations to come.
-Trung Nguyen, UCLA Asian American Studies, Asian Pacific Coalition Director