California voters will decide on November 3 whether to bring back affirmative action, allowing the state to consider factors like race, national origin, and gender when making decisions about public employment, public education, and public contracts. The statewide ballot measure, known as Proposition 16, would repeal an anti-discrimination law approved by the electorate nearly a quarter-century ago.
Sold as a way to “level the playing field,” the Yes on 16 campaign claims its passage would “help dismantle systemic racism and gender discrimination,” and be a “strong and effective response to the racist policies and rhetoric of the Trump White House.” However, opponents say the proposal would result in reverse discrimination.
We can help dismantle systemic racism and gender discrimination by passing #Prop16 in November, but we can’t get there without you!
— Yes on Prop 16 (@yesprop16) July 29, 2020
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) authored the bill that put Prop 16 on the ballot. Her proposal passed the Assembly and Senate in June. She had said riots and protests related to the death of George Floyd represented “an urgent cry for systemic change.” Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer while handcuffed, lying face down in the street.
“The ongoing pandemic, as well as recent tragedies of police violence, is forcing Californians to acknowledge the deep-seated inequality and far-reaching institutional failures that show that your race and gender still matters,” Weber said, adding, the Prop 16 referendum “would allow Californians to revisit and express their views.”
Here are six things you need to know about Proposition 16 and the anti-discrimination law repeals:
1. Prop 16 repeals Prop 209, an anti-discrimination law approved by California voters in 1996.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, which added a new section to the state constitution. Section 31 of Article 1 reads, in part:
(a) 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.
Today I rose in strong support of #ACA5, to send a constitutional amendment to the voters to repeal Prop 209 & legalize affirmative action. Prop 209 – like Prop 187, Prop 8 & Article 34 – is a scar on the CA Constitution. It perpetuates structural racism. It needs to be repealed. pic.twitter.com/UO0WK6wRqd
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) June 24, 2020
The measure passed with 55% support. But progressives and Democratic lawmakers argue that Prop 209 has served as a blockade for equal opportunity, causing the state to pass over women and people of color for college admissions and government jobs.
The New York Times recently reported:
In California, the effect of Proposition 209 on the state’s elite universities was immediate. Black and Hispanic enrollment at the flagship Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses fell steeply. Legal challenges to the policy were beaten back. A generation of students has since come and gone.
The article cited a study that concluded Prop 209 harmed Black and Hispanic students, finding “college admissions preferences could be a valuable tool for improving racial opportunity gaps that have continued to widen over time,” the paper reported.
“After 25 years of quantitative and qualitative data we can see that race-neutral solutions cannot fix problems steeped in race,” Assemblywoman Weber has said.
In a historic shift, Latinos are now the largest group of prospective freshmen accepted into the University of California for fall 2020, part of the most diverse first-year UC class ever admitted. https://t.co/8M1KFbogKS
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) July 16, 2020
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times recently reported that “Latinos are the leading group of prospective freshmen accepted into the University of California for fall 2020, part of the system’s largest and most diverse first-year class ever admitted, according to preliminary data.”
2. Opponents of Prop 16 say the ballot label is misleading.
The No on 16 campaign describes the ballot label as “false, misleading” and “plainly designed to create prejudice in favor of the measure, using euphemisms and feel-good language.”
The draft November ballot title for Proposition 16 from the Secretary of State?
— Steve Miller (@SteveMillerOC) July 23, 2020
The ballot label is a condensed version of the ballot title and summary. It is usually the last piece of information most voters see before casting their ballot, and the language used can often make or break an initiative’s chances for approval.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this month, “campaigns in four of the 12 initiative measures in California’s November election have sued state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, charging that his office wasn’t fair and neutral when it prepared the titles and summaries that will appear on the ballot,” and:
In the Prop 16 affirmative action battle, opponents complain that by saying in the title that the measure “allows diversity as a factor,” Becerra tilts the argument. Diversity is already allowed as a factor in school admissions and other decisions, the suit argues, and the title and summary “improperly takes sides in the election by…leaning on the high-polling buzzword ‘diversity.’”
The Attorney General’s ballot label for Prop 16’s reads as follows:
Allows diversity as a factor in public employment, education, and contracting decisions. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in order to address diversity by repealing constitutional provision prohibiting such policies.
The No on 16 campaign pointed out that the label does not explain to voters “the measure’s sole purpose is to repeal the prohibition against race and gender-based preferences.”
On August 7, the Superior Court denied the challenge.
Opponents of the measure filed an emergency petition three days later requesting the Court of Appeal review the matter, direct the trial court to vacate its order, and command the Secretary of State to amend the ballot label for Prop 16.
“Unfortunately the court refused to even look at our petition,” said Kenny Xu, a spokesman for No on 16. “Deference is always granted to the (Attorney General), even when the terms are misleading.”
3. “Yes On 16” campaign is funded by philanthropic women from the Bay Area.
Yes On 16, the Opportunity for All Coalition, is a political action committee primarily funded by two liberal philanthropic women from the Bay Area.
— Jeremy B. White (@JeremyBWhite) July 28, 2020
Quinn Delaney is its top donor. She is the wife of Wayne Jordan, who founded Jordan Real Estate Investments in Oakland. According to campaign finance information, Delany has contributed at least $1.5 million to the drive to repeal Prop 209. She is the founder and board chair of the Akonadi Foundation. According to its website, “Quinn’s strategy is to bridge the work of nonprofit community organizing and political campaigning.”
#AffirmativeAction money keeps rolling in:
$300,000 from California Nurses Assoc @CalNurses
And a cool $1 million from Patty Quillin, spouse of Netflix head Reed Hastings:https://t.co/mOtXpIf0gU
— Jeremy B. White (@JeremyBWhite) August 4, 2020
Patty Quillin, the spouse of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, has donated at least $1 million to the effort to bring back affirmative action goals. In 2012, the billionaire couple pledged to give half of their fortune to philanthropy or charitable causes – a trend started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to “collectively set a new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.”
4. Critics say Prop 16 would unfairly discriminate against Asians.
The No on 16 campaign is led by a committee called Californians for Equal Rights. It is made up of a coalition that includes several organizations that empower Asian communities.
In a statement to The Daily Wire, the alliance said reinstituting racial preferences “would exacerbate” discrimination toward Asian-Americans. It referenced recent affirmative action controversies at two Ivy League schools and said Prop 16 would require the state “to enforce a racial quota.”
The US Department of Justice recently accused Yale University of discriminating against white and Asian Americans in its admissions process. But last year, a federal judge upheld Harvard University’s policy, which, according to National Public Radio, “forces Asian Americans to clear a higher bar to get in.”
“As the cases of anti-Asian discrimination at Yale and Harvard (who gladly practice racial preferences) show, elite colleges frequently exploit stereotypes of Asians being ‘nerdy’ or ‘lacking leadership’ to discriminate against Asian students in the admissions process,” the statement from the No on 16 campaign read. “For example, Asian students uniformly get significantly lower ‘personality’ scores on elite college admissions documents compared to White, Black, and Hispanic applicants, and given that personality scores are highly subjective, it is widely suspected that these scores are proxies for race.”
According to the Sacramento Bee, the debate about whether to put Prop 16 on the ballot “largely centered on California’s internationally recognized higher education systems, which several senators said have historically disadvantaged low-income Californians of color.”
“We understand that by the time you get to the college application process, structural racism ensured that people are not at the same starting point, no matter what your talent is,” said state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
.@SteveBradford THANK YOU for challenging your white colleagues think of a time when they've been the only person who looks like them in spaces of privilege. This is why we need #ACA5. CA needs to ensure we all have a seat at the table. @OppForAllCA pic.twitter.com/UJkbVMMUMC
— Natalie Wheatfall-Lum (@nataliewheatlum) June 24, 2020
The Bee recently reported:
Latinos make up nearly 40 percent of the state’s 40 million residents, but represent less than 25 percent of the University of California’s 2019 fall enrollment. About 6 percent of Californians are African American, but at both UC and California State University, 4 percent of students are black.
Currently, Asian-Americans represent 15 percent of California’s population, but 16 percent and 33 percent at CSU and UC, respectively.
Ward Connerly is the president of Californians for Equal Rights/No on 16. He said the Latino Caucus, which he described as “the dominant political force in the Legislature,” has been pressuring state education officials to admit more black and brown students in UC’s ten-campus system.
“The tool of affirmative action is their primary method of doing that,” Connerly said on a recent episode of the Ben Shapiro Show.
In June, the University of California’s Board of Regents announced its support for repealing Prop 209.
Connerly said the progressive “vision of diversity” was “just code for ‘we need more black people and brown people.’”
In 1996, he headed the campaign behind Prop 209.
Prop 16 backers insist the measure would not restore racial quotas, noting that they have been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.
5. Seven professional sports teams in the Bay Area jointly back the measure.
Last week, seven professional sports franchises in the Bay Area announced they had come together to support Prop 16. The organizations included the Golden State Warriors (NBA); San Francisco 49ers (NFL); San Francisco Giants (MLB); Oakland A’s (MLB); San Jose Sharks (NHL), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS); and the Oakland Roots Sports Club (NISA).
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) August 19, 2020
The San Francisco Chronicle called the joint endorsement “an unprecedented move,” reporting:
The potent sports lineup is aimed at drawing attention to a campaign that finds itself competing for attention with everything for the COVID-19 pandemic to the presidential election…
Resistance is especially strong in Southern California and Silicon Valley, a big reason why an earlier attempt to put an affirmative action measure before voters failed in the state Assembly in 2014.
But then came the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the national call for social justice, prompting state lawmakers in June to put the measure before voters.
“The 49ers are proud to support Proposition 16, a necessary step to break down systemic racial barriers and level the playing field for all Californians,” tweeted 49ers President Al Guido. “A more inclusive California can and will be a stronger California for all.”
The 49ers are proud to support Proposition 16, a necessary step to break down systemic racial barriers and level the playing field for all Californians. A more inclusive California can and will be a stronger California for all. #YesonProp16 #BayAreaUnite https://t.co/fB7m71dNv0
— Al Guido (@AlGuido) August 19, 2020
6. Two co-founders of Black Lives Matter endorse Prop 16.
Two of the co-founders of what would become the Black Lives Matter Global Network have endorsed Prop 16.
Patrisse Cullors still serves as BLM’s spokesperson, senior advisor, and key strategist. She headlined the Yes on Prop 16 Campaign Kickoff Rally on August 4.
In case you missed it, dismantling structural racism in California is ON THE BALLOT this November. Don’t miss our campaign launch tonight to get the download: https://t.co/pDe4dWS2f4 pic.twitter.com/pa65sAWZGF
— Yes on Prop 16 (@yesprop16) August 4, 2020
Fellow Californians: I have two action items for you:
1) Learn about the @YesProp16 campaign to dismantle systemic racism & gender discrimination
2) Join me on August 4th for the official kickoff to learn how we'll pass #Prop16! https://t.co/KOohVxCGug pic.twitter.com/8DycW3RnFR
— fund the us postal service – defund the police (@OsopePatrisse) August 3, 2020
Alicia Garza, another BLM co-founder, also backs the referendum. She discontinued her work with BLM in 2018 to focus on other projects. Currently, Garza is Principal at the Black Futures Lab and the Black to the Future Action Fund. Deadline reported that she recently signed with ICM Partners for representation.
Y’all. Please don’t be basic. This is MY twitter account. I speak for MYSELF. If and when BLM wants to speak for itself, it does so through its accounts. Love you be well stay safe and vote. K thanks. #2020
— Alicia Garza (@aliciagarza) August 21, 2020
A spokesperson for Yes On Prop 16 told The Daily Wire that its website has been under construction, and the group is in the process of adding activist supporters to its endorsement page.
“Our campaign is incredibly proud to have the support of Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors, two powerful women leaders who are shining a light on systemic discrimination and the need for bold solutions like Prop 16,” said Amelia Matier, the campaign’s press secretary.