Voters in California are expected to cast a ballot on affirmative action this November, potentially repealing a proposition that bans preferential treatment based on sex, race or ethnicity in state institutions.
Background: The California State Legislature first addressed affirmative action in 2014 after the Senate proposed a constitutional amendment to ban the consideration of sex, race and ethnicity in college admissions. However, the measure was set aside in the Assembly after Asian Americans argued that it could limit their children’s chances of admission in the state’s most selective public universities, where the group has a larger share of students than in the overall population, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Progress: Last week, another constitutional amendment was back on the table in response to the protests against police brutality and systemic racism — this time from the Assembly.
- California lawmakers passed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5) by a vote of 58-9 last Wednesday.
- ACA 5 seeks to overturn Proposition 209, a ballot proposition approved in 1996 to prohibit state institutions from considering sex, race or ethnicity in areas such as education, employment and contracting.
- A ballot proposition is a referendum or an initiative measure that can alter certain laws in California when passed.
- If approved in the Senate by a two-thirds vote on June 25, ACA 5 will appear on the November ballot.
- California voters will then be able to decide by a simple majority whether or not to repeal Proposition 209.
HUGE: The California State Assembly just *PASSED* #ACA5, the first step to restore affirmative action in California, 24 years after Prop. 209 passed.
Repealing Prop. 209 will expand access to opportunities for women and communities of color across California. So long overdue. pic.twitter.com/5OxmZc6ngX
— alton wang (@altonwang) June 11, 2020
Why this matters: ACA 5 is not only a response to the ongoing protests but a solution to problems that have lingered in the state for years, proponents say.
- Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat, argued that California was making consistent progress in the early 1990s — until Proposition 209 happened.
- “After 25 years of quantitative and qualitative data, we see that race-neutral solutions cannot fix problems steeped in race,” Weber told the floor on Wednesday.
- On Monday, the University of California Board of Regents unanimously endorsed ACA 5 and the repeal of Proposition 209.
- “There is amazing momentum for righting the wrongs caused by centuries of systemic racism in our country. The UC Board of Regents’ votes to endorse ACA 5 and to repeal Proposition 209 plays a part in that effort,” Board Chair John A. Pérez said in a statement.
- He added: “As we continue to explore all the University’s opportunities for action, I am proud UC endorsed giving California voters the chance to erase a stain, support opportunity and equality, and repeal Proposition 209.”
ICYMI: Earlier today, UC Pres. Janet Napolitano, the ten UC Chancellors, the systemwide Academic Council, the UC Student Association, & the UC Graduate and Professional Council all publicly expressed their support for ACA 5 & the repeal of Proposition 209. https://t.co/Dh9dykKvv7
— UC (@UofCalifornia) June 15, 2020
Opposition: Some who oppose ACA 5 are Asian Americans who believe solely in meritocracy, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) told NextShark.
- Low said that opposition is fierce from his own Chinese community, with some members telling him to resign and asking why he “betrayed” them.
- “If you side with the Hispanics and Blacks to pass ACA 5, we will remember it and boot you out of office,” a Facebook user told Low.
- The measure has few dissenting voices in the Assembly, including Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine).
- Choi argued that “giving special or preferential treatment to someone based on their race is racism itself, or on their sex is sexism.”
- Assemblyman Kansen Chu, one of the three Democrats who voted to abstain, said that many Hispanic and African ethnic groups are “unable to compete or have the ability to continue their studies” due to structural problems, which cannot be solved by ‘entrance tickets,'” the San Jose Spotlight noted.
Feature Image via Getty