Abigail Sanchez
Opinions Editor

On Nov. 3, twelve propositions will be on the California ballot, one of which is Proposition 16, which plans to repeal Proposition 209 from the California Constitution. Prop 209, passed in 1996, states that “discrimination and preferential treatment [are] prohibited in public employment, public education, and public contracting” based on a person’s sex, race, ethnicity, skin color, or national origin. While the wording seems to clearly show that Prop 209 prohibits discrimination, what Prop 209 actually did was ban affirmative action in California. According to the Hi-Voltage Wire Works v. San Jose (2000) case, the California Supreme Court defined discrimination in the context of Prop 209 as showing prejudice or partiality, while preferential is defined as giving priority or advantage to someone over others. With that in mind, affirmative action would be technically seen as preferential treatment, allowing Prop 209 the right to ban it.

Affirmative action is a set of policies that takes into consideration underrepresented groups when it comes to employment and college admission in order to increase opportunities for groups of people who have been previously discriminated against. Voting ‘yes’ on Prop 16 this November would repeal the ban on affirmative action that was put in place by Prop 209. This means greater diversity in the workplace and in schools. Some people, though, argue that affirmative action is basically considered discrimination since it favors underrepresented groups more than others who may be considered more qualified. When I first learned about affirmative action, those were my thoughts as well. As I learned more, however, I realized that the point of affirmative action isn’t to increase discrimination, but to dismantle it.

For the past hundreds of years, racial minorities and women have been fighting to have the equal rights that they deserve. Some may even go as far as to say that they have succeeded, especially with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. However, it only takes one second to break a vase and hours to put it back together again. Hundreds of years of discrimination and prejudice will not go away overnight with the passing of one or two laws. All those years of discrimination has taken deep roots in our country and it is time for it to be weeded out.

Redlining — an illegal discriminatory practice in which insurance services and loans are restricted in certain communities characterized by racial minorities — still has an effect on our country today in that people in communities that have been redlined find it hard to get out. Between the years 2007 – 11, about 14.3 percent of the U.S. population had income below the poverty line and yet somehow, of the 14.3 percent of the general population, 25.8 percent of those below the poverty line were Black. Similarly, the Hispanic people ranged from as low as 16.2 percent for Cubans to as high as 26.3 percent for Dominicans that were below the poverty line. Let us not even get started on the gender pay gap in which, according to CNBC, women earn just about 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.

So yes, affirmative action is about discrimination, specifically getting rid of the discrimination that has haunted the U.S. from its early days. It is about increasing diversity in academia and in the workplace, and making sure small businesses owned by women and people of color in California have a shot to succeed in their businesses. Those against Prop 16 argue that there have been an increase in University of California admissions of Black and Latino students since Prop 209, but what they do not understand is that because Prop 209 banned affirmative action, UC admissions had to adopt a more holistic approach and take into consideration socioeconomic status. Of course there will be an increase in Black and Latino students in this case; as discussed in the previous paragraph, they make up most of the low-income class. According to the Los Angeles Times, three percent of the UC faculty in 2019 were Black, while only seven percent were Latino. Additionally, the organization Yes on 16 stated on their website, “Latinos make up over half of [California’s] public schools but just 25 percent of [UC] undergraduate students.” Prop 209 hasn’t done anything to increase diversity and consider those from underrepresented groups for school and the workplace.

The organization, Californians for Equal Rights, which oppose Prop 16 stated on their website that Prop 209 is meant to model the Civil Rights Act of 1965, promoting a “race-neutral society. One where the government could not treat people differently on race.” As much as I wish this could happen, it isn’t possible right now. The government, led by President Trump, is not stopping itself from treating others differently based on race.

Systemic racism has been prevalent in our country from day one, especially after the Civil War when the Jim Crow Laws were put in place. If it took hundreds of years for the women and racial minorities to get their rights, then how many more years will it take until systemic racism and discrimination is rooted out for good? The dream of living in a race-neutral society is one that cannot happen currently — not when the effects of racism, sexism, and discrimination are still present in our society. Prop 16 is needed to counter those effects and give the underrepresented groups the opportunities to succeed that were unjustly denied to them in the past.

I understand that the wording of Prop 16 may throw people off. I know it threw me off at first. I’m sure nobody is keen on voting ‘yes’ to repeal Prop 206, which clearly prohibits discrimination. If Prop 16 is passed, does this mean discrimination will be made legal in California? No, it doesn’t. That is where the Equal Employment Opportunity Act comes into play. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, sex, race, color, and national origin.

What Prop 16 will do, though, is make affirmative action legal again, giving a leg up to people from underrepresented groups who have the potential, but perhaps not the means or resources to succeed in life. It does not even require, only allow, employers and universities to consider race and gender when hiring or admitting students. According to the California State trustees, who support Prop 16, lifting the ban on affirmative action would also allow them to put in place programs to “increase the number of partnerships or contract with women- and minority-owned businesses.” California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis even stated, “If we can see this proposition passed and remove this roadblock, it will give us back the tools to continue to fight for more inclusivity in education and hiring.”

The American Dream is that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. Perhaps this is true for the lucky few, but I have seen it with my parents and family members that hard work can only get you so far. There will always be outside factors preventing people, especially those from underrepresented groups, that will bar them from truly achieving this seemingly unattainable American Dream. When the color of your skin is darker than others, or when you are female rather than male, or when you are stuck in a poor community with little to no resources, working hard and achieving things on your own merit seems easier said than done. How far can you truly go when the system is against you? Affirmative action gives those with the potential to succeed an advantage that they probably would not have gotten before. Prop 16 is a step towards dismantling discrimination and finally giving the advantage to those who have so often been denied opportunities in the past.

Feature Image: Courtesy of @yesprop16 / Twitter


  • Abigail Sanchez has been writing for the Quaker Campus since fall 2019 and is currently the Opinions Editor of the Quaker Campus. She is also a freelance writer and has written for two feminist media platforms. She enjoys writing about political and social issues that affect the country and her community. In her spare time, Abigail likes to listen to music, read books, and write fictional stories.

Abigail Sanchez has been writing for the Quaker Campus since fall 2019 and is currently the Opinions Editor of the Quaker Campus. She is also a freelance writer and has written for two feminist media platforms. She enjoys writing about political and social issues that affect the country and her community. In her spare time, Abigail likes to listen to music, read books, and write fictional stories.

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