AAMPLIFIED Roundup: Affirmative action, protests in Hawaii, and North Korean travel
Every week, AAMPLIFY brings you the week in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander news.
Asian American complaint ignites affirmative action investigation
This Tuesday, President Trump’s administration announced plans to divert the resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating universities that allegedly discriminate against white prospective students.
The next day, the Justice Department released a statement saying this was in response to a complaint filed on behalf of 64 Asian American coalitions, which the New York Times reports is most likely a lawsuit that accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian Americans, filed in 2014.
The lawsuit cites Harvard’s Asian American enrollment compared to that of the University of California system, as the UC system under state law cannot use race as an admissions qualifier or disqualifier. Harvard had an Asian American enrollment of 18 percent in 2013, versus 34.8 percent at the UC system in 2013; the plaintiffs, among them representatives of Asian Americans who were rejected from Harvard, say that if Harvard did not consider race in its admissions, Asian American enrollment would rise to meet that of the UC system’s.
Still, it’s not all about a meritocracy. For example, studies show that white notions of “deservedness,” shift depending on what factors are considered for college acceptance. When white subjects are told that Asians disproportionately populate colleges, they start arguing to reduce the role of grades in admissions.
Telescope construction proceeds on sacred Native Hawaiian land
Despite protests by Native Hawaiians against its construction, the world’s largest solar telescope remains slated for construction at the top of Haleakalā, the 10,000-foot-tall summit of Māui. This Wednesday, trucks carrying its primary mirror delivered it to the top of the summit.
Named the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) after the late senator from Hawaii, the DKIST is funded by the National Science Foundation. According to the DKIST web site, the telescope is intended to bring more scientists to Hawaii and create a scientific community that can bridge Western science and traditional Native Hawaiian culture.
But Native Hawaiian protesters think differently. In fact, this isn’t the first time construction on the DKIST has been attempted. In 2015, protesters successfully blocked a convoy of vehicles bearing parts for the DKIST, successfully turning them around and delaying the telescope’s construction. On Wednesday, August 2nd, more than 40 police officers forcibly removed Native Hawaiians who attempted to block the parts.
Led by organizer Kaleikoa Kaeo, the protest was peaceful. Protesters chanted and sang, presenting offerings of flowers and garlands to two bamboo altars set up to block the delivery.
Haleakalā, which means “house of the sun,” is considered sacred by Native Hawaiians, whose tradition states it is the home of Māui’s grandmother, who helped Māui lasso the sun.
Korean Americans and humanitarian organizations express concerns about North Korean travel restrictions
On Wednesday, August 2nd, the Trump administration set new restrictions on American citizens who wish to visit North Korea, requiring them to apply to the State Department to acquire a special validation. Furthermore, U.S. citizens will no longer be able to visit aside from journalists, Red Cross representatives, humanitarian works and anyone whose trip is “in the national interest.”
While that may sound like a safety protocol in light of recent North Korean saber-rattling, not to mention the recent death of Otto Warmbier, humanitarian organizations worry that this will interfere with their work, because each visitor to North Korea will be reviewed and approved by the United States itself.
“As soon as you have a licensing system, the immediate question is: Why did you get permission?” said Stephen Linton.
Linton, who heads the EugeneBell Foundation, which treats drug-resistant tuberculosis patients in North Korea, says North Korean officials will view organizations like his with even more suspicion because U.S. governmental approval will compromise humanitarian intent. Furthermore, every citizen will have to be approved individually, which could slow down humanitarian work.
For the 200 to 500 Korean Americans who travel to North Korea every year, this rule hurts even more. Even if they are visiting family, from whom they may have been separated during the Korean War, they will no longer qualify to visit under the Trump administration’s new restrictions.
What to check out this weekend
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The California Board of Equalization sponsored AAMPLIFY’s workshop venue this year, and it’s led by Fiona Ma—a huge community advocate. Follow her at @fionama.
Genevieve Jopanda, an advisor to AAMPLIFY, founded KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress, a leadership and advocacy group for the Filipino American community. You can follow KAYA at @kayagrassroots and its website.