Racial discrimination. This issue has been around for as long as history stretches back. Throughout most of human history, the concept of having certain races be superior has always existed. Genocides occured all throughout the world and the most popularized one, the Holocaust that happened under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, have targetted races that are deemed “inferior.” While such actions are happening all over the world even in the modern day, Americans revisited the horrors of the imbalance once more in 2020.
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor rekindled the fire for the Black Lives Matter movement, involving millions of people united under one cause: racial inequality. Police brutality towards certain races were distributed all over the media as fear swept through the hearts of many Americans. It was clear that something must be done to prevent issues such as this, especially in the legal sense. Racial discrimination and social inequality as a whole was something that America has been needing to address but something that hadn’t been worked on yet. Around the same time, as the protests and debates were raging on, the general media started to circulate what seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel: California Proposition 16.
II. Origins of Proposition 16 and its Controversy
To understand where Proposition 16 came from, we must first understand Proposition 209 that happened in 1996. This is because Proposition 16, according to BallotPedia “is a constitutional amendment that would repeal Proposition 209, passed in 1996, from the California Constitution. Proposition 209 stated that discrimination and preferential treatment were prohibited in public employment, public education, and public contracting on account of a person's or group's race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” California Proposition 209, or the Affirmative Action Initiative, essentially prevented that there be no discrimination based on race.
On the surface, Proposition 16 seems to only have benefits. It would give more opportunities to underprivileged minority ethnicities and races; however, there is more to the effects of this proposition that isn’t entirely good. If Proposition 16 did pass in the 2020 November election, it would give more opportunities to underrepresented races but many people believe it would take opportunities away from more-deserved people. However, since 1996, the demand for post-high school education has grown unprecedented, setting new records. As a result, universities and colleges, namely the schools under the University of California (UC) system, have recently reconsidered Proposition 209. Although this problem has been around for decades, the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed colleges to think of ways to give underrepresented ethnicities, namely the African-American communities, more admission chances. According to vote guide, Proposition 16 would ultimately
“Permit[s] 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. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state and local entities. The effects of the measure depend on the future choices of state and local government entities and are highly uncertain” (Voterguide).
Colleges try to maintain a certain ratio of each ethnicity or race by putting that into consideration each admission year, but the general college admission process for most students is based around one thing: merit. It has been found through numerous research studies done on this subject that poorer, underrepresented ethnic groups have been lacking “merit” compared to more widely represented groups. Hence, viewing this from a certain perspective, if Proposition 16 does pass, students with less merit may be accepted just because they come from a minority group while students with more merit may be rejected. While it’s more complex in depth, the newly proposed proposition would allow governments, universities, and other public facilities to have preferences on race, sex, and ethnicity when picking people for a position. This main function of this law is to promote more diversity and support minorities by giving them more opportunities but at the same time, it may also take away opportunities from students who need it.
III. Potential Effects of the Proposition 16
Part of the reason why this proposition was proposed was to solve the underlying issue of social inequality, as mentioned before. If Proposition 16 passes, it would indeed help underrepresented groups prosper. While it has been put into question these days, having a college degree does seem to correlate with higher income in general and by giving more minority students access to college education, it would greatly help those communities grow.
At the same time though, had his proposition passed, it would indeed become a controversy resulting in fierce debates. Many students, mainly the students from Asian backgrounds, would be penalized for something they cannot control: race. Although critics of this stance argue that there is no such penalization, the writing on the wall is clear: this proposition is made to benefit the African-American communities and not the Asian communities, although both are minority races. According to an article by InsideHigherED:
“Fighting for the Asian American vote was a key part of the campaign against Prop 16. While there were prominent Asian American backers of the measure, Zhao noted that many Asian Americans feel that affirmative action in effect legalizes discrimination against them. At Berkeley this year, 42 percent of freshmen are Asian, 21 percent are Latinx, 17 percent are white and 4 percent are Black” (InsideHigherED)
Conclusively, the potential effects of Proposition 16 was that it would benefit certain groups while penalizing others for race/ethnicity. Although critics and supporters for both sides argue against such a stance, it is clear that inequality exists whether this proposition passes or does not.
In the end, Proposition 16 did not pass during the November 2020 election. Although it did not succeed in the end, this proposal is a sign of a growing concern that’s happening in California: a move towards the far-left. According to an article by edsource following the rejection of Proposition 16 at the 2020 election:
“We have successfully defeated a far-left measure in America’s bluest state,” Wenyuan Wu, executive director of Californians for Equal Rights, and head of the No on 16 campaign, said in a statement issued early Wednesday. “We won and the principle of equality has prevailed again, against a powerful opponent backed by the political establishment, corporate billionaires, and special interest groups.”
Although people generally tend to prefer liberalism of conservatism, history has shown us that a balance of the two opposing political views are needed in order to prosper. While the idea itself - giving minority group students more opportunities - was good paper, it lacked the means to do so as it could accomplish its goal without facing controversy.
In conclusion, Proposition 16 was a fitting result for the general direction that both the American and global society have been progressing towards. It tried to address a key issue our society faces today: racial discrimination and ineqaulity. However, while the plan seemed to be good from one perspective, it was clear that many students would be penalized for things they cannot fully control and in the end, it did not pass in California. This proposal idea, despite not working out, does signify the direction that our world is moving towards: equality for all. Although it will take decades or perhaps centuries, it can be derived from this proposition that our world, despite all the hardships and unfairness it holds, still has goodness embedded deep inside that pushes human society towards equality.
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