The Time All San Francisco Fought Over School Fairness and Equality

Abstract views: 979 / PDF downloads: 381




Affirmative action, Asian American, Chinese American, NAACP, school assignments.


Asian Americans have become a major factor in the debate over affirmative action and college/school admission policies. Yet most often their role is relegated to one side or the other of the argument - either grouped with other oppressed minorities, or else grouped with privileged white students. However, Asian Americans have their own agency and self-determination that requires attention. Beginning in the 1990s, San Francisco’s Asian American community resisted mainstream hegemony and charted their own course forward.  This study uses a comparative approach towards these early Asian American activists, comparing and contrasting their motivations and actions with Black activists of the time, and also with a respected federal judge, scion of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest and traditional legal dynasties. News articles, notes and newsletters of Chinese American activist groups, internal school district reports, and 24 interviews are used to express how early generations of Asian Americans stood up to fight when they felt their version of the American dream was under attack, and how they focused on present-day tactical actions instead of future-looking strategies or past historical experiences. This study also reveals practical principles that these specifically Chinese American activists employed which may have applications for all groups resisting domination and/or assimilation. The methods and tactics employed by these second-generation Asian Americans that grew up in a community remade by the 1965 Immigration Act, helps us understand how the Asian American community has developed since then, and how it is continuing to move forward.  


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Teddy Yee Fang, AsianWeek Foundation

AsianWeek Foundation Director


Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, (1995).

Allen, J. (2020, October 14). Barrett reveals formula for reversing landmark rulings. NBC News.


An, S. (2016). Asian Americans in American History: An AsianCrit perspective on Asian

American inclusion in state U.S. history curriculum standards. Theory & Research in Social Education, 44(2), 244–276. DOI:

Ancheta, A. (1997). Race, rights, and the Asian American experience. Rutgers University Press.

Arcidiacono, P., Kinsler, J., & Ransom, T. (2020, April). Asian American discrimination in Harvard admissions. National Bureau of Economic Research. DOI:

Arkes, H., & Dent, G. W. (2020). Holistic review in race-conscious university admissions [Faculty publication]. School of Law Case Western Reserve University: Scholarly Commons.

Asian American Legal Foundation. (2018, July 9). Asian American legal foundation.

ASIAN, Inc. (2020, January 24). Statements by Board Chair Frank Fung and outgoing President Michael Chan. ASIAN, Inc. 美亞輔鄰社.

AsianWeek. (1988, August 19). Ben Tom 8 minutes behind deadline, kicked off ballot: Friday hearing to decide electoral fate of S.F. school board official. AsianWeek.

Asimov, N. (1992, June 27). S. F. Schools criticized on teaching of minorities. San Francisco Chronicle. p.A1

Asimov, N. (1996a, August 28). Lowell freshmen reflect new entry rules. San Francisco Chronicle. p. A1

Asimov, N. (1996b, November 3). Guardian at the school gate.

Bay City News. (2021, February 10). SF school board votes to change admissions process for Lowell High School. NBC Bay Area News.

Bergson, H. (1999). Duration and simultaneity. Amsterdam University Press.

Bergson, H. (2001). Time and free will: An essay on the immediate data of consciousness (1st Ed.). Dover Publications.

Berkeley Historical Plaque Project. (2018). Berkeley Historical Plaque Project – Asian American movement birthplace.

Bickle, Alex. (December 3, 2013). [Photograph]. Geni, My Heritage, Ltd.

Bickle, Alex. (October 10, 2016). [Photograph]. Geni, MyHeritage, Ltd.

Black, S. E., Cortes, K. E., & Lincove, J. A. (2020). Apply yourself: Racial and ethnic differences in college application. Education Finance & Policy, 15(2), 209–240. DOI:

Bowser, B. P. (1988). Bayview-Hunter’s Point: San Francisco’s Black ghetto revisited. Urban Anthropology & Studies of Cultural Systems & World Economic Development, 17(4), 383.

Broussard, A. (1993). Black San Francisco: The struggle for racial equality in the west. University of Kansas.

Brunner, B., & Rowen, B. (2021, January 26). Timeline of affirmative action milestones. InfoPlease.

Budiman, A., & Ruiz, N. G. (2021, April 29). Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population. Pew Research Center.

Bunting, G. (1993, March 8) Senators reverse styles to match new roles: Politics: Dianne Feinstein’s jump into the limelight is designed to boost bid in 1994. Barbara Boxer’s low-key approach is a ‘thank you’ to her colleague. Los Angeles Times.

Bush, D. V. (1984, July 16-19). Official proceedings of the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Democratic National Convention, San Francisco, California.

Cabading, C. (1983, January 20). Asians are the majority at Lowell High School: 64% of student body at top-ranked institution. AsianWeek.

CADC Special Events Cmte. (1993, February). CADC 35th anniversary banquet program booklet. Chinese American Democratic Club.

Calandra, T., & Matier, P. (1989, August 21). The new city: Asian influence comes of age. SF Examiner. DOI:

Carlsson, C. (1994). WWII in-migration & rising of bigotry.

Chang, A. (1993, March). SF school district’s consent decree (p. 1). Chinese American Democratic Club Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Chang, B. (2017, May). Asian Americans and education (ED577104). ERIC.

Chang, R. S. (1993). Toward an Asian American legal scholarship: Critical race theory, post-structuralism, and narrative space. California Law Review, 81(5), 1241. DOI:

Chao, E. (n.d.). Elaine Chao biography. Www.Elainchao.Com. Retrieved March 13, 2021, from

Chen, G. A., & Buell, J. Y. (2018). Of models and myths: Asian(Americans) in STEM and the neoliberal racial project. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 21(5), 607–625. DOI:

Chinese American Democratic Club. (1987, March). Keynote speech by Supervisor John L. Molinari at annual dinner (p. 1). Chinese American Democratic Club Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Chinese American Democratic Club. (1993a, March). Committee chairs (p. 8). Chinese American Democratic Club Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Chinese American Democratic Club. (1993b, May). CADC and the consent decree (p. 1). CADC Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Chinese American Democratic Club, Brief of Objections, San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School District (N.D. Cal. filed April 22, 1993) (No. C-78-1445-WHO).

Chow, H. (2018, August 1). Amy Paayfen Chang (1964 - 2018). LastingMemories.Com.

Chow, H. (n.d.). Amy Chang and family [Photograph]. Harrison Chow.

Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. (2021, March). Educational opportunities cases. United States Department of Justice.

Curtis, D. (1986, June 11). Top-rated Lowell a pressure cooker. San Francisco Chronicle.

Defendants’ 1998-1999 Annual Report. SFNAACP v. SFUSD (DF1035, 8/4/99).

Deleuze, G. (1991). Bergsonism. MIT Press.

Deleuze, G. (1995). Difference and repetition (Revised ed.). Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia (2nd ed.). University of Minnesota Press.

Der, H. (1994). Clash between race-conscious remedies and merit: School desegregation and the San Francisco Chinese American community. Asian American Policy Review, 4, 65.

Der, H. (2004). Resegregation and achievement gap: Challenges in San Francisco school desegregation. Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, 15, 308.

Desegregation and Education Change in San Francisco: Findings and Recommendation on

Consent Decree Implementation, San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School District (N.D. Cal. filed July 1992) (No. C-78-1445-WHO).

Dong, S. (1995). “Too many Asians”: The challenge of fighting discrimination against Asian-Americans and preserving affirmative action. Stanford Law Review, 47(5), 1027. DOI:

Dougan, M. (1998, August 10). Fearless ‘NAACP Chief Lulann McGriff dies. SFGate.

Downey, Duke. (June 5, 1958). [Photograph]. SF Chronicle.

Edsall, T., & Johnson, H. (1984, June, 2). Asian Americans torn between two parties. The Washington Post.

Espiritu, Y. (1993). Asian American panethnicity: Bridging institutions and identities (1st ed.). Temple University Press.

Fernandez, E., & Walsh, D. (1989, December 17). SF schools bickering continues, San Francisco’s battling Board of Education. San Francisco Examiner.

Fitzgerald, L. S. (1996). The constitutional amendment by Missouri v. Jenkins. Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice, 2(1), 39.

Frum, D. (2000). How we got here: The ‘70s. New York Basic Books.

Fuchs, C. (2016, December 1). Elaine Chao’s cabinet nomination brings ‘pride for some in U.S., overseas. NBC News.

Fulbright, L. (2009, February 16). Some S.F. African American history landmarks. San Francisco Chronicle.

Gatson, Clarence. (1985). [Photograph]. Geni, MyHeritage, Ltd.

Goldstein, J. (1998, April). Reconstitution in theory and practice: The experience of San Francisco (ED427991). Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, California.

Graubard, N., King N., Oliver L., & Thomas, M. (1975, December 31). Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: A review of program operations. RAND Corporation.

Greene, L. (1989, October 2). Busing plan in peril as Chinese Students tilt balance in S.F. San Francisco Chronicle, A1.

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003).

Guattari, F. (2015). Lines of flight: For another world of possibilities (Impacts). Bloomsbury Academic.

Han, W. (2020, August 17). For Asian-Americans, the Trump administration’s attack on affirmative action presents a Faustian bargain. South China Morning Post.

Hero, R., Sidney, M., Clarke, S., Fraga, L. R., & Erlichson, B. A. (2006). Multiethnic moments: The politics of urban education reform (Illustrated ed.). Temple University Press.

Hing, B. O. (1994). Making and remaking Asian America through immigration policy, 1850-1990 (1st ed.). Stanford University Press. DOI:

Ho by Ho v. San Francisco Unified School District, 965 F. Supp. 1316 (N.D. Cal. 1997).

Ho ex rel. Ho v. San Francisco Unified School District, 147 F.3d 854 (9th Cir. 1998).

Ho v. San Francisco Unified School District, 59 F.Supp. 2d 1021 (N.D.Cal. 1999).

Ho v. United States, (9th Cir. filed Dec. 14, 1998) (No. 98-7415).

Holding, R. (2012, January 18). William Orrick - U.S. district judge. SFGATE.

Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F. 3d 932 (1996). Johnson v. San Francisco Unified School District, 393 F. Supp. 1315 (N.D. Cal. 1971). Johnson v. San Francisco Unified School District, 500 F.2d 349 (9th Cir. 1974).

Jones, T., & Nichols, A. H. (Eds.). (2020, January). Hard truths (ED603265). ERIC. The Education Trust.

Kee, H (n.d.), [Picture from a typical Chinatown banquet with up to 700 people eating and

talking politics, circa 1990s to 2000s.] [Photograph]. SF Hep B Free.

Kopp, Q. L. (2001). Oral history interview with Quentin L. Kopp [Interview by Donald B. Seney]. California State University, Sacramento, California State Archives; State Government Oral History Program.

Kuo, J. (1998). Excluded, segregated and forgotten: A historical view of the discrimination of Chinese Americans in public schools. Asian American Law Journal, 5(1), 181.

Laird, H. (1988a, August 26). Schools chief raps busing. AsianWeek.

Laird, H. (1988b, August 5). Der raps schools chief over Asian administrators. AsianWeek.

Lau, D. (1993, March 12). CADC protests consent decree at school board meeting. AsianWeek. (n.d.). Orrick. Retrieved Nov. 14, 2020, from

Lee, J. (2021). Asian Americans, affirmative action & the rise in Anti-Asian hate Jennifer Lee. Daedelus, 150(2), 180–198. DOI:

Lee, M. J., Collins, J. D., & Harwood, S. A. (2020). If you aren’t White, Asian or Indian, you aren’t an engineer”: Racial microaggressions in STEM education. STEM Education Journal, 7(48). DOI:

Levine, D. (2000). The Chinese American challenge to court-mandated quotas in San Francisco's public schools: Notes from a (partisan) participant-observer. Harvard Black Letter Law Journal, 16, 39-145.

Levine, D. (2003). Public school assignment methods after Grutter and Gratz: The view from San Francisco. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, 30(4), 511.

Lew, G. A. (1995). Perspectives on affirmative action and its impact on Asian Pacific Americans. Diane Pub Co.

Lim, G. (1994, August 19). Lawsuit over Chinese American HS enrollment: Class warfare by the Bay? AsianWeek.

Linsey, R. (1982, May 9). The new Asian immigrants. New York Times.

Liu, C. M. (1998). Beyond Black and White: Chinese Americans challenge San Francisco’s desegregation plan. Asian Law Journal, 5, 341.

Lum, P. A. (1975). The Chinese Freedom Schools of San Francisco: A case study of the social limits of political system support (ED124646) (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). ERIC.

May, M. (2012, January 31). The fix-it guy / Henry Der’s job is to rebuild bankrupt Emery school district. SFGATE.

McGurn, W., & Rothenberg, S. (1989, September 15). The invisible success story; Asian Americans and politics (p. 17). National Review.

Mercury News. (2013, September 11). Community anticipates Main Street Cupertino groundbreaking Sept. 15. The Mercury News.

Mercury News. (2018, December 22). Amy Paayfen Chang 1964 - 2018. Legacy.Com.

Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 (1995), DOI:

Nelson, E. S., Pitner, R., & Pratt, C. D. (2017). Assessing the viability of race-neutral alternatives in law school admissions. Iowa Law Review, 102(5), 2187. DOI:

Nguyen, M. H., Chang, C. Y., & Kim, V. (2020). Asian Americans, admissions, and college choice: An empirical test of claims of harm used in federal investigations. Educational Researcher, 49(8), 579–594. DOI:

Okihiro, G. (2005). The Columbia guide to Asian American history (Columbia guides to American history and cultures) (Complete numbers starting with 1, 1st ed.). Columbia University Press. DOI:

Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (Critical social thought) (2nd ed.). Routledge.

Order appointing special master, San Francisco Unified School District, (N.D. Cal. Sept. 23, 1998) (No. C-94-2419-WH).

Orfield, G., & Glass, D. (1994, October). Asian students and multiethnic desegregation. The Harvard Project on school desegregation.

Orfield, Gary, Report on the Proposed Settlement, Ho v. San Francisco Unified School District, , 59 F.Supp. 2d 1021 (N.D.Cal. 1999).

Orrick, W. H., III. (2016, October 10). [Photograph]. Geni.Com.

Orrick, W. H., Jr. (1989). William H. Orrick: A life in public service: California politics, the Kennedy administration, and the federal bench [Interview by Robert Van Nest in 1987 and 1988]. The Bancroft Library, University of California; Berkeley Oral History Center.

Orrick, W. H., Sr. (2016, October 10). [Photograph]. Geni.Com.

Parker, W. (2000). The future of school desegregation. SSRN Electronic Journal, 1–92. DOI:

Pepin, E., & Watts, L. (2006) Harlem of the west: The San Francisco Fillmore jazz era. Chronicle Books.

Pew Center. (2019, December 31). Pew social trends chapter 1: Portrait of Asian Americans.

Platt, W. J., & Harker, R. A. (1967, March). Improving racial balance in the San Francisco public schools. Summary report. Stanford Research Institute.

Quinn, R. (2020). Class action: Desegregation and diversity in San Francisco schools. University of Minnesota Press. DOI:

Research, Planning and Accountability Department. (2012, November 10). SFUSD enrollment 1967-2012F.

Richardson, J. (1999, December 5). The emperor inside the clothes. San Francisco Chronicle.

Robson, M., & Riley, S. (2019). A Deleuzian rethinking of time in healthy lifestyle advice and change. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 13(4), e12448. DOI:

Rohrlich, M. (1998, July 19). Feeling isolated at the top, seeking roots. New York Times.

San Francisco Board of Education. (2020, October 20). Agenda Oct 20, 2020 - Regular Meeting. San Francisco Unified School District.

San Francisco Examiner Editorial Board. (1970, January 7). School plan friends, foes air their views. San Francisco Examiner.

San Francisco Examiner Editorial Board. (1986, November 11). Chinese Americans at the polls. San Francisco Examiner.

San Francisco Examiner Editorial Board. (1988, August 11). S.F. schools rethink ethnic mix. San Francisco Examiner.

San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School District, 484 F. Supp. 657 (N.D. Cal. 1979).

San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School District, 576 F. Supp. 34 (N.D. Cal. 1983).

San Francisco NAACP v. San Francisco Unified School, 59 F. Supp. 2d 1021 (N.D. Cal. 1999).

Shioya, T. (1995, June 19) White student feels pride --and guilt -- profile Naomi Strom. San Francisco Chronicle, A8.

Sing Tao Staff, Sing Tao. (1994, May 27). 三藩市華裔家長反對設族裔上限的混合教育政策,本來是有節有理. 學校應打開大門招生,不分種族,按客觀公平的原則取錄. Sing Tao Daily.

Stone, C. N., Henig, J. R., Jones, B. D., & Pierannunzi, C. (2001). Building civic capacity: The politics of reforming urban schools. Studies in government and public policy. University Press of Kansas.

Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, 397 F. Supp. 3d 126 (D. Mass. 2019) (No. 19-2005).

Students of Sociology of Asian America/ns, Fall 2019., & Shaw, V. (2019). The Harvard syllabus: A guide to the affirmative action debate at Harvard. Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

Superior Court of San Francisco. (2015). Judge Lillian K. Sing announces retirement after more than 30 years as a San Francisco jurist. SF Superior Court.

Takagi, D. Y. (1990). From discrimination to affirmative action: Facts in the Asian American admissions controversy. Social Problems, 37(4), 578–592. DOI:

Takagi, D. Y. (1993). The retreat from race: Asian-American admissions and racial politics. Rutgers University Press.

Takaki, R. (1998). Strangers from a different shore: A history of Asian Americans (Revised & updated ed.). Little, Brown and Company.

Takaki, R. (2008). Different mirror: A history of multicultural America (1st ed.). Back Bay Books.

Thompson, V. (1978, October 5). Jack and Jill chapters: The top of the hill for Black professionals. Washington Post.


Torres, G. B. (2020). Affirmative action in higher education: Relevance for today’s racial justice battlegrounds. Human Rights Magazine, 44(4).

Tucker, J., & Knight, H. (2016, February 1). Living together, learning apart. San Francisco Chronicle.,system%20that%20emphasizes%20parental%20choice.

U.S. Department of Justice., & Durham, J. (2020, October 7). United States of America vs Yale University [Press release].

US News and World Report. (2020). US news rankings - Best high schools in America. US News and World Report.

Walker, R. L. (2014). The living present as a materialist feminist temporality. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 46–61. DOI:

Walsh, D. (1989, July 20). Shifting programs may violate desegregation plan. San Francisco Examiner.

Walsh, J. (1993, November 7). S.F. schools at crossroads. San Francisco Examiner.

Wells, V. (2016, July 13). How do you feel about Jack and Jill. Madame Noire.

Wermund, B. (2018, October 14). GOP courts Asian-Americans with drive to end affirmative action. POLITICO.

Wong, S. (1993, March). CADC president’s remarks 35th annual banquet (pp. 3-4). Chinese American Democratic Club Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Wong, S. (1994, January). 1993 annual report part II: Putting Chinese Americans first (p. 1). Chinese American Democratic Club Fiery Dragon Newsletter.

Wood, J. (1970, January 28). Alioto will aid busing opponents. San Francisco Examiner.

Wu, F. H. (1995). Neither Black nor White: Asian Americans and affirmative action. Boston College Third World Law Journal, 15, 225.

Wu, F. H. (2003). Yellow: Race in America beyond Black and White (Reprint ed.). Basic Books.

Yau, A. (2018, August 26). Amy’s memorial - Part 2. lastingmemories.

Yee, N. (1987, April 27). Letter to Diane Feinstein. Wu Yee Resource and Referral Center. DOI:

Zia, H. (2001). Asian American dreams: The emergence of an American people (1st ed.). Farrar, Straus & Giroux.




How to Cite

Fang, T. Y. (2021). The Time All San Francisco Fought Over School Fairness and Equality. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 8(4), 55–90.



Original Manuscript
Received 2021-03-16
Accepted 2021-08-03
Published 2021-08-06