Is State-Sponsored Racism Staging a Comeback?

“Is now the time to bring back affirmative action in California?” wonders Ben Christopher of CalMatters, in a piece about Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, which could allow voters to repeal Proposition 209 in November. The 1996 ballot measure, the Sacramento Bee editorial board contends, “banned affirmative action in all state institutions.” In reality, the measure, officially titled the California Civil Rights Initiative, banned only state-sponsored racial, ethnic and gender discrimination. As CCRI states:

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.” 

State educators could still take action to help students on an economic basis and by beefing up standards and preparatory courses. What they could not do was discriminate against students on the basis of race. California voters approved Proposition 209 by 54 to 46 percent, and the disaster the preference forces predicted never came about. 

As Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, declines in minority enrollment at UCLA and UC Berkeley have been offset by increases at other UC campuses. More important, the number of African-American and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system went up, including a 55 percent increase in those graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. 

What fuels state-sponsored racism is the dogma that all institutions must represent the ethnic breakdown of the population. If they do not, the dogma contends, the cause is always deliberate discrimination, and the only remedy is government action in the form of racial and ethnic preferences. 

Those who deploy the proportionality dogma, particularly college administrators, ignore personal differences, effort, and choice, along with the reality that statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception. Politically correct administrators believe that some groups are “overrepresented,” that is, there are “too many” of them, even though they may have achieved top-drawer academic credentials.

Constitutional Amendment 5, by San Diego Democrat Shirley Weber, runs more than 1,300 words. It would be simpler to drop the word “not” from the original language of Proposition 209, so it reads: “The state of California shall discriminate . . . on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Put that on the ballot and let California voters express their preference, just as they did in 1996.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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