Back in 1996, California passed Proposition 209 which added a new section to the California constitution. That core of it was this sentence: “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.” When it was passed 54%-46%, it put an end to affirmative action in the state.
This fall there is a new measure on the ballot, Prop 16, which would simply remove the section of the state constitution that was added by Prop 209. This would once again make affirmative action and discrimination by race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin legal in California, at least to the degree that it doesn’t interfere with existing federal law. The lead author is an assemblywoman from San Diego:
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat and chairwoman of the California Legislative Black Caucus, is the lead author of the legislation that put the question to voters, which required two-thirds support in both houses of the state Legislature.
“I think the death of George Floyd made racism very real for people; they could see it. And now what I was asking them to do was to act on it, stop telling me how horrible it is, stop telling me that you really didn’t know that, stop telling me that this is such a revelation for you,” Weber said.
She added: “Now the question becomes, what are you going to do about it?”
But not everyone agrees this is a good idea. Some even suggest it’s insulting:
Kali Fontanilla teaches English as a second language in Salinas, California and before that, tutored African American students. She identifies as Black and biracial, and said students of color don’t need their standards lowered.
“That’s insulting to me to say that there’s certain groups that because of the color of your skin you’re not meeting the standard, you can’t meet the standard (so) we’re going to help you, we’re going to give you this crutch to get in,” she said.
Prop 16 is supported by a whole host of California democrats including Gov. Newsom, Sen Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Kamala Harris, plus the founders of Black Lives Matter. Despite this, it’s far from guaranteed to pass.
The poll of over 1,700 likely California voters found 47% of respondents would vote no on Proposition 16, while 31% would vote yes and 22% said they were undecided.
The poll shows 46% of likely Democratic voters support Proposition 16, while 9% of Republicans and 26% of Independents support it. The highest percentage of supporters were located in the San Francisco Bay Area, 40%, and Los Angeles, 37%.
By the way, the Bay Area has 40% support but 41% of respondents were against it. If this is running behind in San Francisco then it’s probably not going to pass. And a story from ABC 7 helps explain why:
Overturning a law that prevents discrimination — that sounds bad, right? That’s the part that’s confusing even supporters of affirmative action.
“Watching a focus group with Black voters from Los Angeles, they all said no we won’t vote for this as it was read to them,” said Eva Patterson, who co-chairs the Yes on 16 campaign. “Then we explained that it was in favor of affirmative action and equal opportunity, and they all said, ‘Of course we’ll vote for this.'”
There’s an admission buried in that story above. When you say Prop. 16 repeals a law against discrimination, people are against it. When you say it creates “equal opportunity” via affirmative action, the same people suddenly support it. But it’s exactly the same thing because affirmative action is racial discrimination. That’s why it’s necessary to repeal the protection against racial discrimination that exists in current law to move forward with this.
If this does pass and affirmative action measures are adopted in the state, there are consequences as well as benefits. For every business or individual who gains something from this racial discrimination, someone else pays a price. That person is not a generic white person, a generic Asian person, etc. but a real individual who will experience a loss solely because of their race (or sex or national origin).