Are Black Critics of California’s Proposition 16 Racist?

In 1996, the University of California regent Ward Connerly backed the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, which eliminated racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. Voters approved the measure, now state law, which Proposition 16 on the November 3 ballot aims to reverse. That would restore preferences for “Latinos,” which the African American Connerly finds troubling.

“When we say Latino, I can find any number of Latinos who are as white as anyone on the planet,” Connerly told EdSource. “They may have more vowels in their last name than others. If there are a lot of those, do they count as white or Latino?” Mexican American Legal Defense Fund boss Thomas Saenz called Connerly “blatantly racist” and “quite jaded and quite uninformed and uses racial stereotypes.”

As Gene Demby of National Public Radio notes, people can be “Latino and be white,” a reality easily confirmed by the ruling class of South American countries and a survey of American Hispanics. Ward Connerly was entirely correct that many Latinos are “white as anybody on the planet,” but there’s more to it.

“I just don’t think in terms of black, white, Latino,” he said. “And therein probably lies the fact that I’m swimming upstream with a lot of people, especially black people. I just believe that once you start classifying the human race into various subdivisions and you start meting out benefits on the basis of that, you’re going to screw up.”

Before Proposition 209, the University of California rejected many highly qualified Asians and whites strictly on the basis of race. After Proposition 209 passed, the UC system could still cast the widest possible net and help students on economic grounds, so the measure did not eliminate affirmative action.

Proposition 16 is not about restoring affirmative action. Proposition 16 is about turning back the clock to the days of blatant systemic racism in California.

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