Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Proposition 16 and the repeal of Proposition 209 is a hot button topic for this year’s election.
The Back Story In 1996, voters chose to end all affirmative action by government and other public entities via Prop 209. Prop 209 has exacerbated inequities. It has impeded state contracting and hiring as well as legislative policies addressing economic and social disparities experienced by women and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). In addition, schools in California are facing a critical teacher shortage, particularly the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in various teaching fields such as math and science.
Y'all know this: The disparities between Black and Latino residents and their white counterparts is readily apparent when it comes to income, health, education and the criminal justice system. Prop 209 removed a critical tool for addressing some of those disparities. The law is clear that race cannot be used to set quotas but in states that still utilize affirmative action, race can be used as a factor in making determinations about what state and local government contracts get awarded, where public school investments go, and how public colleges and universities determine the makeup of their student body. Small businesses owned by women and people of color have seen a loss of roughly $1 billion annually since the passage of Prop 209.
What would Prop 16 Do?
Reducing those disparities will require a major effort on multiple fronts. Proposition 16 would give the state’s universities and government a valuable tool they need to fight existing structural inequities and allow the consideration of race, gender, and ethnicity when hiring and for college admissions. The UC system saw a dramatic decrease in the number of Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander and Native American students just after the passage of Prop 209. They have seen some success in raising the proportion of BIPOC students more recently through programs that take a more holistic approach to admission, but passing Prop 16 would allow race, ethnicity and gender to be specifically considered along with a range of other factors in admission decisions. It would also allow for policies to increase the hiring of UC faculty of color. According to the LA Times, in 2019 less than 3% of the faculty was Black and only about 7% were Latino. Read more here.
In the two decades that followed the passing of Prop 209, our world has changed. We continue to be part of a historic moment in the fight for social justice. Voters in California are now being asked to approve affirmative action in the state. Confronting systemic racism requires the tools to help dismantle the processes that perpetuate it.
Voting “Yes” on Prop 16 is acknowledging that our different communities face different and unique challenges. Take a step toward social justice by voting Yes on 16.