A tricky proposition
When Proposition 209 passed, many voters thought they were approving a new civil-rights measure. That’s because Ward Connerly, the man behind Proposition 209, cleverly named it the “California Civil Rights Initiative.” After the election, many voters were shocked to learn they had helped California become the first and still the only state to outlaw affirmative action.
Connerly is up to his old tricks again with Proposition 54, the so-called Racial Privacy Initiative.
Proposition 209 wreaked havoc on diversity in the state. The University of California system, for example, experienced sharp decreases in minority enrollment. In a state rapidly becoming more diverse, this trend can only lead to problems in the future.
However, Proposition 209 also wrought unforeseen disaster for the Republican Party, which backed Connerly’s efforts. Between that initiative and the anti-immigrant Proposition 187, the Republicans managed to both alienate and mobilize California’s “minority” majority.
Since then, the Democrats have taken full control of the state Legislature, state executive offices and the two U.S. Senate seats.
Claiming that check boxes for ethnicity “inflame” racial passions and invade our privacy, Connerly is again trying to fool the public. As with Propositions 209 and 187, this measure faces a possible low voter turnout. Low turnout tends to favor the conservatives, who are more consistent in exercising their voting rights. Opponents of Proposition 54 must work quickly to educate the public about the harm this initiative will cause.
First of all, we must make clear that Proposition 54 has little to do with privacy. The type of data involved is mostly collected voluntarily and anonymously. Also, one must perform extreme acrobatics of reasoning to believe that these check boxes can inflame racial feelings or that removing them will change people’s attitudes.
The potential harm comes from banning the collection of information vital to solving real problems based on race, ethnicity or nation of origin.
With an uncertain amount of time left before the election, it is incumbent on each of us to educate others about Connerly’s latest sneak attack on the voting public.