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‘You Have to Give Us Respect’: How Asian Americans Fueled the San Francisco Recall


But she saw in the board’s decisions a deep sense that the aspirations of Asian American residents were being ignored.

The debate over admission to elite public high schools has galvanized Asian parents in other cities, notably New York. In both San Francisco and New York, the issue cleaves liberal voters who are torn between a desire to maintain a system that has traditionally benefited high-achieving students from poorer, often immigrant, backgrounds but at the same time left behind Black and Latino students.

In New York, where Black and Latino students are disproportionately underrepresented in the elite public high schools, the issue of school segregation rose to the fore during New York’s mayoral election last year. Left-leaning candidates called for a fundamental overhaul of the admissions standards while centrist candidates called for its retention. Among those who promised to keep the test was Eric Adams, the current mayor.

Ms. Collins, the board member who was criticized for her tweets, said during the campaign that she had “desegregated” Lowell.

In the wake of the lopsided recall, political analysts are weighing whether the energy and fervor of the campaign will carry over into other elections both in the city and nationally.

Mike Chen, a board member of the Edwin M. Lee Asian Pacific Democratic Club, said the results were remarkable — “nobody in the city can agree 80 percent on anything.” But he said he would “heavily caution” making predictions about other campaigns based off a single election with relatively low turnout. San Francisco had a very particular set of issues that pushed parents over the edge, he said.

“People have been trying to make extrapolations: What does this mean for school board elections in Ohio or Virginia?” he said.

“We had this very particular instance,” he continued. “We had very visible examples of incompetence, bad governance and malfeasance. Most people could objectively observe the decisions that were happening last year and think, ‘This is really messed up.’”

Dana Rubinstein and Dana Goldstein contributed reporting.

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