Opinion

Californians Reject Ballot Proposition Mandating Racial Discrimination

Californians soundly rejected Proposition 16 on Tuesday, a measure that would have re-instituted affirmative active in the Golden State.

Proposition 16 would have allowed discrimination-based race and gender hiring in public employment and public education.

In 1996, Californians amended their constitution through the adoption of Proposition 209, which provides that 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.”

Proposition 16 sought to repeal that language.

However, voters rejected it by a 56.4 to 42.6 percent margin, which translated to over 1.7 million votes.

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That’s a pretty resounding defeat for a measure that had some of California’s most prominent Democratic Party political figures behind it, including Sen. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, as well as the majority of the state’s congressional delegation.

KCRA-TV’s political reporter Mike Luery related that a wide variety of ethnic groups opposed the measure.

Were they right to reject Prop. 16?

“It would have set aside racial preferences for admission to the University of California and other public schools, and also for some state government contract work, as well,” Luery said. “So there was a lot of push-back to Prop. 16 as you can imagine.”

“They viewed it as a form of reverse discrimination,” he added.

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Ward Connerly, who launched the original ban on affirmative action in 1996 and helped lead the fight against Proposition 16, was pleased to see it go down.

The former regent of the University of California and current supporter of President Donald Trump tweeted, “One of the happiest moments of my 81-year life happened tonight.”

“Strangers were we all, ancestors from around the globe, bonded in defense of an ideal. The power of Equality is a unifying force for a nation gripped in partisanship and confused about its future. I thank you all!” he added.

Kali Fontanilla, a school teacher and a daughter of a Jamaican immigrant, explained her opposition to KCRA-TV.

“I want to get into the UCs [the University of California system] based on merit. Based on my own hard work, and not on the color of my skin,” she said.

“Personally, look, I’ve seen many times when standards are lowered, that it really actually hurts minorities rather than helps,” Fontanilla added.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board lamented Proposition 16’s defeat, writing, “Despite a summer of racial reckoning, when Californians marched in the streets to demand justice and equality, voters decided Tuesday not to help dismantle the racism baked into our state institutions.”

“Americans like to believe that this country is a meritocracy, where anyone can excel with sufficient grit and tenacity,” the editorial board added. “But that ignores the institutional racism baked into our society that disadvantages people of color.”

The Californians who rejected Proposition 16 actually lived up to the highest ideals of the Declaration of Independence, which calls for all to be treated equally, with no preferences.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, America should be a place where people are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

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