M.G. 11th - Oakland, CA
Since its creation in 1996, Proposition 209 has faced both harsh opposition and great support making it a highly controversial policy. During the nineties, affirmative action which is the practice of favoring individuals belong to previously discriminated against, was a debated topic with many arguing for or against its necessity. Proposition 209 was initiated onto the California ballot in response to this controversy beginning with Joe Gelman, Arnold Steinberg, and Larry Arn. The main goal of Proposition 209 is that it, “prohibits public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity.” (Ballotpedia) Additionally, Proposition 209 works to reverse affirmative action in that it also prohibits public institutions from making preferences towards particular groups. Over the years, this policy has faced opposition through lawsuits, in which groups cite that this policy has led to the decrease of minority enrollment rates and reduced outreach towards marginalized groups within California public universities. However, supporters of Proposition 209 argue that affirmative action policies in the past allowed for the discrimination of minorities in pubic employment and universities. This leads me to believe that Proposition 209 is overall a beneficial policy but serves an impactful role in a public employment but harmful role within California public universities.
Since Proposition 209 eliminates the possibility of discrimination within public employment, contracting, and universities, it is a helpful policy. A supporter of Proposition 209 writes, “Job applicants are turned away because their race. It must not give a job, a university admission, or a contract based on race or sex. Government must judge all people equally.” (Vigarchive). This part of Proposition 209 is why it is known as the “Civil Rights Act”, because it protects minorities and women from being unfairly targeted within public institutions. Under this policy, marginalized groups who apply to universities and jobs can be considered without bias and prejudice. Employers and universities are legally held to the standard that they will not turn away or unfairly judge someone due to their race or gender. In a study conducted by Caitlin Knowles Myers that examined diversity rates indicated that, “...the rates at which people of color were employed in the public sector in California may have increased, rather than decreased, after 1995.” (Myers) After Proposition 209 was passed in 1995, the increasing rate of people of color employed in the public sector proves that the protection of minorities from discrimination has led to higher employment rates. It also disproves the idea that Prop 209 is a harmful policy which opposers believe that the reversal of affirmative action within public sector employment would have led to decreased minority rates.
An aspect of Proposition 209 that makes it a harmful policy is that it reverses affirmative action within California public universities which creates even more racially disproportionate student demographics. The detrimental impacts are shown when Proposition 209 was approved in 1996, and ever since minority enrollment rates in public universities have seen a decrease. Using the black student population as an example, The Sacramento Bee reports, “At UC Berkeley, African Americans have fallen from 6.3 percent of freshmen in 1995 to 2.8 percent this year ” (Editorial Board). Decreased minority rates have also been shown through, the number of Hispanic applicants to UCLA and UC Berkeley which have “[...] increased 350 percent, but the number admitted has remained relatively constant” (Editorial Board). The issue at hand with the lack of affirmative action is that California public universities are not maintaining diversity. Since Prop 209 was put in place, racial diversity has plummeted which is harmful because diversity is an important factor within California universities. This means that the student enrollment at California public universities is not reflective of the racial demographics of the state. Proposition 209 proves harmful to minority students shown through race-neutral admissions into California public universities not resulting in representation of Latino and Black students.
Proposition 209 is a beneficial policy when addressing public employment but harmful when used in California public universities. The stated goal of this policy was to put an end to discrimination or preference in public institutions on the basis of race, sex, and ethnicity. In theory, the outline of Proposition 209 is something that I support because it gives marginalized groups equal treatment within public institutions. However, the idea of giving equal treatment when discussing affirmative action shows the faults of this policy. A supporter of Proposition 209 claims, “... by making sure that all California children are provided with the tools to compete in our society. And then let them succeed on a fair, color-blind, race-blind, gender-blind basis.” (Vigarchive) My issue with Proposition 209 is that inequality of opportunity can not be addressed by suddenly taking away affirmative action which supports marginalized communities. Before letting Californian children succeed on a system that is blind to their identity, it has to ensure that the resources exist in the first place. Proposition 209 can only serve as an effective and helpful policy once the root issue of inequality among underserved communities is addressed.
Students 6th-12th Grades