Time and again, Chinese-American students consistently delivered top academic scores, only to be denied admission to their dream school. Parents bemoaned what they saw as an unfair racial advantage given to black and Latino children while their own children were overlooked.
“Every year hundreds of Chinese-American parents would be in anguish,” said Lee Cheng, a 46-year-old intellectual property attorney, who sought to end the practice. “I remember the disappointment in some of my friends who were the kids of immigrants, of very, very poor people who worked in Chinatown.”
This may sound like the fights going on today over testing in elite public schools in New York City or lawsuits against prestigious universities such as Harvard over affirmative action.
But the scenario played out more than three decades ago on the other side of the country over a public high school, demonstrating the enduring nature of a controversy in which Asian-Americans have played a key role despite some feeling shut out of the broader conversation.