Opinion: Proposition 16 establishes necessary first step in combatting racial inequality

Sydney Alper, Editor-in-Chief

Art by Grace Tseng

Affirmative Action is once again on the ballot in California in the form of Prop 16. A vote yes on Prop 16 would legalize Affirmative Action once more in California, making it legal for race, gender or ethnicity to be considered in matters of public education, contracts and employment. A vote no on the proposition would continue California’s “anti-discrimination” policy stated in Prop 209 and it will continue to be illegal to consider those factors when making decisions. As of now, California is just one of nine states to not have Affirmative Action policies.

This measure has raised much controversy in the state so far, with 26% of voters still undecided, according to a poll by the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. 

Those for the proposition argue that Prop 16 will increase opportunities for women and racial minorities, helping to close the wage gap and diversify schools and businesses. 

On the other hand, a primary argument against Prop 16 is that it will create more division and will essentially legalize discrimation.

For me, therein lies the problem. The idea that Prop 16 is discriminatory or that it will create discrimination is contradictory to the purpose of the proposition. 

Prop 16 is a necessary and effective step for helping to combat racial injustice and inequality in our state. For this reason, the proposition deserves a vote yes.

The United States has a long history of racism, from slavery to segregation to the continued police brutality of today (to name only a few examples). Now, more than ever, there is a pressing need for change to end the inequality and discrimination facing racial minorities in California. 

While Prop 16 may not be the perfect solution to this problem, it certainly is a start. Prop 16 is the only race-related piece of legislation on the California ballot this year, and in this critical state of our country, there is a need for immediate action to help minority groups, which Prop 16 provides.

Take, for example, the racial demographic of the University of California schools. According to their demographic data, in 1999, three years after the passing of Prop 209 in 1996, 3% of the students who enrolled were African American, while in 2019 that number had only risen to 4%. For Hispanic or Latino students, their percentage has doubled in the past 10 years from 11% to 22%, and for Asians and Pacific Islanders, the percentage has remained fairly consistent at around 30%. 

While I can appreciate that the University of California has enrolled more Hispanic or Latino students, it troubles me that there has been little change with regards to the enrollment of African American students. There is a discrepancy between the whole of California and those numbers. According to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau Black or African Americans make up 6.5% of California’s population, Hispanic or Latinos are 39.4%, and Asians are 15.5% of the population.

If colleges were once again permitted to consider race in their acceptance process as permitted by Prop 16, more Black and African American students would be accepted and be able to reap the benefits of a higher education. This does not mean that quotas will be added to ensure diversity, as quotas have been ruled unconstitutional, but the door will be opened for underrepresented groups to be more likely to be considered for acceptance.

A higher education is often considered to be essential for higher paying jobs and greater work opportunities, with a four year degree increasing the median income earned by 30%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The PPIC also stated that Black and Latino people are much more likely to have a lower income than white or Asian people, creating a wealth gap. Increased access to higher education provided by Prop 16 could help to close this wealth gap and increase the quality of living for racial minorities.

Additionally, in the same poll from the University of California, Berkeley, 40% of Latino voters and 51% of Black voters said they support Prop 16. As the people that will most benefit from Prop 16, their voice on this decision matters most. As a white person, I will never experience racial discrimination, so I want to trust their judgement on what they think will help them as it impacts them directly. 

While Prop 16 won’t end racism or solve all problems of racial inequality, it is a start. I want to see an end to the racial inequality that is plaguing the nonwhite people of our country, and I believe that Prop 16 will be the first step for that in California.

Race has been, and will continue to be, a factor in the hiring and decision-making process, and voting yes on Prop 16 would guarantee that racial minorities would be given equal opportunity to education and employment.