CA Proposition 16: A Call To Reinstate Affirmative Action

By Noa Prados 

One of the propositions California residents have surely been discussing propositions amid is Proposition 16, which would, as explained on the California General Election Voter Guide website, permit government officials to consider factors such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin and sex in attempt to address diversity standards. 

The proposition would consequently repeal the constitutional provision of the current ban on taking into consideration the previously mentioned categories of personhood.

A YES vote for Proposition 16 would mean that state and local governments would be able to consider factors such as ethnicity and sex in order to extend equal opportunity to all residents of California. 

A NO vote for proposition 16 would mean that the “current ban on the consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin in public education, public employment, and public contracting would remain in effect,” as mentioned on the California Election Voter Guide website.

Arguments in support of this proposition claim this proposition would increase fair wage access, in addition to the quality of school life not just for students, but for teachers as well. This proposition aims to combat wage discrimination in addition to systemic racism. 

A YES vote on Proposition 16 would be beneficial for women and women of color, who are currently discriminated against as frontline workers and essential caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The California State Voter Guide mentions that Proposition 16 would expand access to fair wages, as well as provide good jobs and quality schools for all residents of California, “regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.”

Voters who choose to vote YES on Proposition 16 would essentially be supporting the restoration of affirmative action. As affirmative action involves the policy known to favor individuals who have previously been discriminated against, Proposition 16 would attempt to reinstate affirmative action policies.

Proponents of this proposition argue that this would allow for more opportunities for women and people of color. Notable supporters of this proposition are the League of Women Voters of California, the California Federation of Teachers, the Minority Business Consortium and higher education leaders within the state of California.

Arguments in opposition of this proposition take on the approach that with Proposition 16, politicians seek to strip the constitution of its “prohibition on discrimination and preferential treatment” of individuals based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin and sex.

Opponents of Proposition 16 argue there is a stereotype that claims minorities can not “make it”, or in other words be successful, unless they are given special preferences when it comes to job opportunities. 

Therefore, opponents of the proposition feel that repealing the 1996 notion would be a step backward and feel that politicians seek to pass Proposition 16 in an attempt to give preferential treatment to California residents based on characteristics such as race, sex and other factors.

Proposition 16 would not affect other state or federal laws in terms of laws guaranteeing equal opportunity protection, thus prohibiting illegitimate discrimination. As mentioned by the California State Voter Guide, this proposition would not cause any fiscal impact upon state or local governments and entities, as it would not call for change to currently existing policies and programs.

This proposition has made recent headlines, due to its historical ties. California voters banned the consideration of personal characteristics such as race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin within public employment, education and contracting in 1996. 

This year in 2020, proponents of Proposition 16 seek to repeal this very notion, which would eliminate the ban put in to play in 1996 and cause the consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin to be put into play for the purpose of equal protection for California residents.

In the wake of modern times, the discussion regarding equal opportunity for all is surely at its peak. It is important to understand what exactly a YES vote and a NO vote for Proposition 16 fully entails. For more information regarding Proposition 16 as well as other general information regarding the upcoming election, visit the California General Election Voter Guide website.

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  1. Eric Gelber

    Opponents of Proposition 16 argue there is a stereotype that claims minorities can not “make it”, or in other words be successful, unless they are given special preferences when it comes to job opportunities. 

    We’ve had 400 years of affirmative action for whites, in the form of discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity (as well as gender, national origin, etc.) in employment, wages, housing, policing and criminal justice, and access to quality education and healthcare. And, of course, through white privilege.

    Permitting government officials to consider factors such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin and sex in attempting to address diversity standards does not perpetuate stereotypes, It addresses ongoing societal disparities resulting from past and continuing inequities. Proposition 16 is, to borrow a term, an anti-racist measure to help address 400 years of inequality. Polling results suggest that California voters aren’t ready to take that modest step.

  2. Bill Marshall

    So I understand the context of your post… if I may ask…

    Have you ever been actively discriminated against, because you were ‘white’? (ex., you had best qualifications, but another was chosen, but you were ‘white’, male, and they chose a woman, and/or POC)

    Do you believe you were chosen for employment because you had ‘white’ and/or male “privilege”? (or, just quaifications based)

    Meant as fair questions, as I am prepared to answer both, based on my personal experiences…


    1. Eric Gelber

      Aside from the fact that I lack the information necessary to answer your questions, this is a societal issue. My personal experiences are irrelevant and of no import. That said, I don’t doubt I have benefitted from white privilege in the education I received, the opportunities I had, etc.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Interesting… I do have the factual knowlege of my experiences.

        But, I take your response as a fair answer…

        We appear to be different… I view societal issues, partially based on ‘intellect’, partly based on ‘experiences’… yet, I suspect both are intertwined… I am one organism…

        Fascinating how some (not necessarily you), can hold the concept of implicit bias (or any bias) is a ‘learned’ (experiential) reality… might just be ‘organic’, so the bias is not resolvable… hard-wired…

        Thank you for your fair response.  Have a great evening…

  3. Bill Marshall

    BTW… HR departments, and individual ’employment decision makers’ (public sector) have used preferential, ‘affirmative action’ decisions for decades… and they still do…

    … to consider factors such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin and sex in attempt to address diversity standards. 

    They just didn’t disclose, admit it… subtle… kinda like a “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing… there is “affirmative action”, particularly in public hiring, in most (not all) agencies… but it has “flown under the radar”…

    The main issue is the private sector, that the proposition does NOT address… if it did…

    1. Bill Marshall

      Also note that the Prop is ‘permissive’, not ‘mandatory’… so, just allows public agencies to “come out of the closet” for what they have been subtlely doing (for decades)… under the radar… now they can publicly own it, if the Prop passes…

      It is not a requirement… an inconvinient fact…

    2. Bill Marshall

      The prop will not change anything, in reality… a ‘feel good’ measure… so whether it “wins” or “loses”, pretty much is of no consequence, except as a “statement”…

      1. Eric Gelber

        Prop. 16 won’t change everything, but I disagree that it won’t change anything. In higher education, for example, substantial progress toward equitable representation was being made before Prop. 209. After 209, many of the most talented students who felt unwelcome at UCs chose to go out of state or attend private schools. Black student applications at UCs, particularly Berkeley and UCLA, plummeted. Passage of Prop. 16 will likely have a positive impact by reversing that trend.

        Prop. 16 is a step in the right direction, not a final destination.

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