Americans of Asian Descent —A New Force in Politics
New Korean-American Members of Congress Campaigned Against Racial Preferences
For Immediate Release
November 23, 2020
SAN DIEGO, CA – November 23, 2020- The first Korean Americans just elected to the U.S. Congress, Michelle Steel and Young Kim, were key supporters of the historic campaign against Proposition 16. The nationally-watched statewide ballot measure, which sought to re-establish race preferences in California, was defeated in a record turnout by a 57-to-43 percent, 14-point, 2.4 million vote margin.
“The election of Steel and Kim, as well as the defeat of Proposition 16, represented a political awakening for Asian-Americans,” said Arnold Steinberg, strategist for the No on 16 campaign, funded mainly by 8,000 Chinese Americans of modest means. “Targeted by Prop 16, Americans of Asian descent became catalysts in creating a $1.7 million grassroots campaign that overcame the political, business and labor establishment, and the $27 million raised by the backers of race preferences.”
Proponents of racial preferences spent $11 million on television ads, Steinberg noted, but the No on 16 campaign could only afford digital advertising, which included Steel and Kim.
· Michelle Steel’s No on 16 ad:
· Young Kim’s No on 16 ad:
“What we cannot and should not do, in our ultimate quest for equality,” said Congresswoman-elect Michelle Steel (CD48), “is to reinstate racial discrimination.”
“In America, people deserve to be judged on their own merits, not on their race,” said Congresswoman-elect Young Kim (CD39). “We should be sending a message that hard work and achievements matter.”
In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to amend its constitution by passing Proposition 209 to ban racial discrimination and preferences. Prop 209 requires that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” Proposition 16 sought to, in effect, repeal Proposition 209.
“Because Proposition 16 was a giant divisive step backward, the people of California sent a strong message to the nation in its staggering defeat,” said Frank Xu, who served as finance chairman for No on 16. “We spent 18 cents per winning vote, while the backers of racial preferences spent $3.9 per losing vote.”