Stock in 2006
Prop 209 at 10...
[Sally C. Pipes] 1/19/06
have been getting shot down like skeet lately in California,
but that hasn't always been the case. This year marks the tenth
anniversary of one that passed handily but needs to be revisited.
1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, the California
Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). The measure states: "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."
reasonable, language derives from the civil-rights struggles
of the 1960s. But it sparked a furious reaction from the politically
correct, particularly militant feminists, who saw Proposition
209 as a threat to "women and minorities." Never
mind that, together, those groups constitute a majority, and
that the measure did not threaten them.
It did constitute
a threat to politicians and administrators who used state power
to discriminate against groups they saw as "overrepresented" on
behalf of accredited victim groups they saw as "underrepresented." The
assumption, as we have often noted in this column, is that
every institution must reflect the ethnic proportions of society.
It is an impossible idea not found in the Constitution, and
certainly not followed at any U.S. Post Office.
209, the primary offender in racial and gender preferences
was the University of California, which passed its own anti-discrimination
measure. At one of the hearings, at which I testified, there
was a bomb scare, and a procession of speakers warned of disaster
if the anti-quota measure were to pass (which it did, along
with Proposition 209). California voters, including "women
and minorities," approved it by a solid 54-46 margin.
been no reversion to segregation, as opponents predicted. UC
campuses still reflect "diversity." Women and minorities,
it turns out, do not need special preferences to get into Berkeley
or UCLA. One would never gather that from new UC Berkeley chancellor
Robert Birgeneau, who hails from my native land, Canada, where
the government classifies some groups as "visible minorities."
is on record that "inclusion is greatly threatened" in
the UC system, and feels a moral obligation to address it.
That likely means he is disturbed that Proposition 209 prevents
him from implementing the quota system he wants. Instead of
racially profiling the campus, he should check the finances.
The University of California has been hiking student fees even
as it distributes $871 million in raises and benefits to administrators.
Fabian Nunez, Speaker of the Assembly, wants an investigation.
It has also
recently emerged, from a federal study conducted by the National
Center for Education Statistics, that only 31 percent of college
graduates, down from 40 percent in 1992, can read a complicated
book and extrapolate from it. The study also showed that only
41 percent of graduate students, down from 51 percent in 1992,
could be classified as proficient in reading short texts such
as prescription labels.
vaunted University of California needs to perform better at
basic tasks and stop trying to skirt Proposition 209. State
officials, for their part, need to do a better job of enforcing
that measure. The best performer has been Janice Rogers Brown,
the African-American state Supreme Court justice who in 2000
used Proposition 209 to strike down a government program in
San Jose based on race and gender preferences.
California doesn't need another ballot initiative to eliminate
government discrimination. We need to enforce the measure we
already have, and the tenth anniversary of Proposition 209
is a good time to find out how many discriminatory programs
still exist, and to what degree inclusion is threatened. Any
assessment should take note of one significant reality.
there has been no majority ethnic group in this state, as even
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante recognized. We're all Californians
now, more reason why the state should not discriminate against,
nor give preference to, any Californian on the basis of race
or gender. CRO
Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute