Last year, Washington State voters rejected a deceitful effort by the state legislature to reintroduce racial preferences in public employment, education, and contracting. The legislature had claimed that preferences would be implemented “without the use of quotas or preferential treatment (as defined),” but voters who consulted the fine print learned that preferential treatment had been “defined” in a way that made the assurance meaningless.
By contrast, this year’s Proposition 16 in California is refreshingly honest. “Allow Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions,” reads the ballot title. The official summary is also straightforward:
- Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity by repealing article I, section 31, of the California Constitution, which was added by Proposition 209 in 1996.
- Proposition 209 generally prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, individuals or groups on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, education, or contracting.
California voters will at least know what they are voting on, but that doesn’t make the substance of the proposal any better. Particularly worrisome is Prop 16’s justification for preferences. The word diversity appears in both the title and the summary, but there is no mention of the traditional, time-limited argument for affirmative action, which is to remedy past discrimination. Indeed, the summary is clear that the point of preferences is “to address diversity,” with no further qualifications.