Proposition 16 in California Addresses Equality


Grace Huang, Journalist, Editor

2020 has been a hectic year. Presidential campaigns have been held, COVID-19 has infected people from all around the globe, and protests have risen from the death of George Floyd. The “Black Lives Matter” movement has spurred political and racial matters to be taken into hand while, on the internet, various new videos and articles on discrimination and preferential treatment have been posted and read. To add to the events of the year, Shirley Weber, a politician in the California State Assembly, has introduced Proposition 16 to be put on the ballot by the Legislature. Although it is only one of twelve other propositions to be passed or rejected on November 3rd this year at the General Election, Proposition 16 takes into account many discriminations, including sexual and racial preferential treatment. Whether or not Proposition 16 is passed will have an impact on everyone in California. 

Simply put, a “yes” vote on Proposition 16 will repeal Proposition 209, which was passed in California on November 5th, 1996, with a “yes” from 55% of voters. As stated on the official ballot summary of 1996, Proposition 209 “…prohibits the state, local governments, districts, public universities, colleges, and schools, and other government instrumentalities from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any individual or group in public employment, public education, or public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” In short, Proposition 209 demands that everything on a basis of education and employment is based on merit only, and renders most preferential treatment as illegal. A repeal of Proposition 209 means preferential treatment can be allowed within companies and schools, placing the terms of any discrimination and the extent of discriminatory boundaries into the hands of the government, politicians, and other government officials. For example, if a specific race were the minority at a university, it would be legal if a student with a lower test score was accepted instead of another with a higher score, as long as diversity and an increase in the racial or sexual minority was a factor in said acceptance. The same would apply to areas in hiring and contracting.

If Proposition 16 was passed, it would affect all citizens of California, whether it be for the better or worse. As the situation is, African Americans, Latin Americans, and women seem to fall into a category of “minority” to many people, while Asian Americans and people of the White racial classification are often viewed as advantaged. An official rebuttal to an argument against Proposition 16 states: “Businesses owned by women and people of color lose $1.1 billion each year because lucrative contracts are given to a wealthy few… The only way to move California forward is to pass Proposition 16—extending equal opportunity for all and actively combating systemic racism.” However, the opposing side makes a compelling argument as well. Tom Campbell argues, printed as an official rebuttal to an argument for Proposition 16, “This proposition will allow California’s public universities to keep students out because of their race, in order to help students of another race get in. That’s currently illegal… That’s how it should stay.”

Proposition 16 has caused much controversy around city neighborhoods as well, and people of different races stand somewhat divided on the matter. Some question whether Proposition 16 will really provide an equal solution, while others argue that in order to diversify public areas, preferential treatment among race and sexuality is inevitable. Recently, there have been car rallies and small protests against Proposition 16, while an extensive amount of funding has been put into campaigning and ads for a “yes” vote. Some smaller arguments have also broken out on social media.

Debates aside, it is relieving that the state seems to be working toward a more effective solution to discrimination. Many are grateful for the chance at fairness, while others reason that it’s just leveling the “playing field” in regards to race and discrimination, a temporary solution at best. At least whatever the outcome, there is no denying that people of power are working for a more equal world, even if attempts could be proved futile in the future.