With all of the craziness going on with the gubernatorial recall election in California, an important proposition also on the ballot is not gaining as much national attention as it should. Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who gained national fame as an anti-affirmative action crusader, is not only trying to ban the use of racial preference in the state of Michigan, but he is now campaigning for the passage of California Proposition 54, a proposed change in policy that would bar the state from collecting racial data from its citizens. While its supporters are trying to pass the proposition off as a solution to the state’s racial strife, in reality, it will only make it more difficult for California officials to tackle racial issues in a meaningful way.
Racial data are valuable in order to gather information on the racial discrepancies still facing this country. These questions enable researchers to know if discrimination still exists in parts of society. Without being able to gather racial statistics, it will be difficult to tell if colleges are accepting diverse student bodies and if minority students are scoring below white students on standardized tests. The lack of racial data would severely hinder any attempts to combat both racial discrepancies and racial discrimination.
Race is still an extremely controversial and powerful issue in U.S. society. Connerly’s Proposition 54, formally known as the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color or National Origin Initiative, would make enforcing anti-discrimination laws more difficult, as authorities would not have data available to them enabling them to view examples of racial discrimination, such as hate crimes. In many respects, Connerly is right that the proposition will make California colorblind, and that is precisely the problem. Californians will be without the ability to see race and without the ability to see injustices correlated with it.
Collecting data on race is not racial discrimination; however, that misconception is probably fueling the supporters of Proposition 54, as well as leading many California voters to support Connerly. The information gathered from questions on race is used to enable officials to enact policies that will result in equality. Connerly’s opponents need to make it clear to the voters that these data are important in order to combat discrimination and to create a society with equality along racial lines.
The task of educating the public on this issue and allowing the people of California to have a debate on the issue is complicated by the fact that Proposition 54 will likely be on the ballot the same day as the gubernatorial recall. By moving the voting date forward with the recall election, the proposition’s supporters will be unfairly taking advantage of an uneducated public. The proposition will take a backseat to the hoopla surrounding the recall, leaving the voters bombarded by only the one issue. Voters need to know the truth behind the consequences of passing this proposition, but without enough time to fully consider the issue, voters may create a new law that they will later come to regret. The people of California should reject the proposition based on the lack of time to consider it alone.
Connerly’s fight against racial identity has gone too far with this most recent proposition. If this proposition passes, it will harm any future attempts to correct discrimination and end racial discrepancies.