Prop. 16 repeals public hiring barriers, allows affirmative action

By Raymond Nava

Proposition 16 would be a step forward for equality in California and voters should vote yes on it. Prop.16 would repeal Proposition 209, which prohibited preferential treatment and discrimination as a factor in public employment. This essentially barred the use of affirmative action in California.

The result of the 2000 California Supreme Court case “Hi-Voltage Wire Works v. San Jose” gave a new concrete definition to discrimination and preferential, as it relates to Prop. 209. The court held that discrimination meant “to make distinctions in treatment; show partiality (in favor of) or prejudice (against).” For preferential, the court defined it as “a giving of priority or advantage to one person … over others.”

Prop. 16 would repeal the ban on affirmative action from the California state constitution. This would allow public entities, universities and local governments, to name a few, would be allowed to use develop affirmative action programs to grant preference on account of a person’s sexual orientation, race, sex or national origin. Federal law would define the affirmative action’s parameters.

Support and opposition for Prop. 16 has gone down a mainly partisan line, with Democratic officials mostly supporting it while Republican officials oppose it. The proposition has been endorsed by the state Democratic party, Governor Gavin Newsom, and California Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Republicans who have voiced their opposition to Prop. 16 include the state Republican party, Republican state senator Ling Ling Chang, and former representative and current congressional candidate Darrell Issa. Issa was also the co-chairperson behind the original campaign for Prop. 209.

One organization voiced its opposition in an eye-catching way. Cops Voter Guide, which describes itself as a non-partisan, public advocacy organization, sent out a mailer which listed its priority propositions and a small description for them, and their positions. On Prop. 16, it recommends voting no and the description for the proposition simply reads “For Racial Equality.” While the organization claims to not represent any public safety personnel, given the current race relations between police and citizens this year, the mailer does not help the current situation.

East Los Angeles College Professor David K. Song said he supports Prop. 16. Song said that affirmative action as a whole has been consistently supported among the Asian American community as shown in various polls. This is despite vocal opposition from some Asian American groups as well as people who use experiences from Asian Americans in their opposition to affirmative action. Song said, “It’s important to understand that affirmative action seeks to adjust issues of equity when it comes to education, hiring, etc., and that even among Asian Americans not every group has equitable access to resources.” Song hopes that these issues are addressed by propositions like Prop. 16. 

Prop. 16 should be passed as it would be a big step forward for California. Prop. 209 was passed at a time where equality was not treated as a high priority, with the controversial Proposition 187, which attacked undocumented immigrants, passing two years earlier. California is one of the most progressive states with a diverse population, and Prop 16. would help solidify the state’s progressive status.

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