A Washington state school district has decided that Asians no longer qualify as persons of color in an equity report discussing opportunity and performance gaps, according to Fox News.
North Thurston Public School, which oversees some 16,000 student, lumped Asians and whites together in its equity report which measured their academic achievements against “students of color,” a category that includes “Black, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Multi-Racial Students” who have experienced “persistent opportunity gaps,” according to Reason.com, a libertarian magazine.
The equity report drew scrutiny Monday night from journalist Zaid Jilani, who called the exclusion of Asian-Americans from “students of color” an example of “racecraft.”
“I guess we are “white” now.”
“Your ‘color’ is defined by the average performance of your group in school?” he tweeted.
Your "color" is defined by the average performance of your group in school?
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) November 16, 2020
The school district, located 55 miles south of Seattle, also drew scrutiny and anger from others. The report was removed less than a day later and replaced with an explanation and apology. The statement explained they intended to highlight the opportunity gap between students of color and the rest of the student body.
“Upon reflection and response by members of the Asian-American community, we will change how we look at achievement data and appreciate the feedback we received,” the district wrote: “We apologize for the negative impact we have caused and removed the monitoring report from our website.”
“We feel it is important to continue the practice of disaggregating data, so we make equity-based decisions. When we reviewed our disaggregated data it showed that our district is systemically meeting the instructional needs of both our Asian and White students and not meeting the instructional needs for our Black, Indigenous, Multi-racial, Pacific Islander and Latinx students. The intent was never to ignore Asian students as “students of color” or ignore any systemic disadvantages they too have faced. We continue to learn and grow in our work with equity as a public-school system and we will ensure that we learn from this and do better in the future.”
These kinds of race-based classifications have come under scrutiny in recent years. California voters recently decided against reinstating affirmative action policies. Proposition 16, endorsed by Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein; former Senator Barbara Boxer would have allowed public employees to consider race as a factor in university admissions, employment, contracting, and other decisions. Race-based admissions have been forbidden in the state since 1996.
The measure was defeated 57% to 43% despite being endorsed by top Democrats.