Mr. de Blasio’s proposal coincided with new revelations that Harvard University had used intangible measures like personality traits to lower Asian applicants’ ratings, in an effort to limit their numbers at the college.
Lost in the rhetoric, Mr. Kim and other elected leaders said, is the fact that Asian-Americans are hardly monolithic on issues of race and education, as evidenced by their wide range of opinions over affirmative action.
Reshma Saujani, who is of Indian descent, was deputy public advocate under Mr. de Blasio and is the founder of Girls Who Code, which aims to attract girls to tech, including black and Hispanic students. She said she supported the mayor’s initiative. At her own summer programs, “I turn away girls who look like me every single day,” she said.
But Ms. Saujani said that “as a South Asian activist, I know that we as a community have not achieved our political voice in New York, so it doesn’t shock me that people feel that we weren’t considered when they were drafting the policy.”
Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, said, “As much as we understand and applaud the mayor’s efforts to diversify the specialized high schools, there is tremendous anger among parents around the lack of engagement prior to the announcement.”
In their view, rather than making Asian-Americans part of the solution to the racial imbalance at the specialized schools, Mr. de Blasio targeted them as the problem, making the prospect of selling them on the change that much more difficult.
“He ran for office, in part, by saying he would open the pathways for political engagement and community engagement” in a way that former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg did not, said Basil A. Smikle Jr., a former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party. “But sometimes the process is just as important as the outcome, and the process unfortunately tarnished the potential outcome of this policy.”