California Ballot Initiative Promotes Racist Agenda

It has become popular among some Blacks to turn their noses up at participation in the electoral arena. “That’s being part of the system,” they claim. “That’s playing the Man’s game.” But the Oct. 7 recall election should give them pause to reconsider.


On that date, not only will Californians be asked whether to dump Governor Davis, and if so, who should rule in his place. But, Proposition 54 – the so-called Racial Privacy Act – one of the most racist propositions that we have seen in a long time will also be on the ballot. To ignore this election is to provide right wing ideologues with a dream come true. A chance to overturn a legal election by taking advantage of an extremely unpopular governor and to sneak into the California Constitution, an amendment that would ban the state from “classifying” or collecting information on a person’s race, ethnicity, color, or national origin for the purposes of public education, public contracting, public employment, and other government operations.


Ward Connerly, the politician who brought us Prop 209, which for all intents and purposes, outlawed affirmative action in California, is the instigator of this new scheme. As the Black darling of rightwing pundits, Connerly has promoted the Bush Administration’s agenda of establishing a “race-blind” society by denying that racial discrimination still plagues this state and this nation. In order to buttress this absurd proclamation, which any look at the statistics will refute, Connerly wants the State of California to erase all statistics that would prove the continuation of discrimination from the books.


State and local governments in California now collect data on race, color, ethnicity, or national origin for various purposes. In many cases, federal laws and regulations require this info to ensure compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws, particularly equal employment opportunity laws, and as a condition of receiving various federal funds. It also collects race-related data on students applying to state universities for admission. Prop 209 already bars state and local governments from providing affirmative action based on race, color, ethnicity or national origin in the absence of federal regulations. Connerly has made a few exemptions to comply with federal law and to allow law enforcement agencies to use racial profiling, and in certain medical research projects.


But, California state and local agencies will no longer be able to collect race-related data from companies doing business with the state, from public school students participating in some education programs and tests, or in state university outreach programs, and students taking state teacher credentialing exams.


Progressive organizations are not taking this sitting down, although some African Americans have expressed concern about the lower turnout expected on Oct. 7th, which would favor the Prop 54 proponents. Much of the No on 54 campaign is being coordinated by the Coalition for an Informed California (CIC), a group that embraces hundreds of civil rights, civil liberties, health groups and professionals, teacher and parent groups, labor activists, and religious and political organizations.


The CIC says that Prop 54 is dangerous, deceptive, and irresponsible. “From healthcare, to education, to basic civil rights protections, banning demographic information – basic vital statistics – about race and ethnicity is a bad idea.


It undermines accountability.


It blinds us to real differences between racial and ethnic groups in healthcare, disease patterns, educational opportunities, and academic achievement.


It takes away from doctors, educators, scientists, and advocates powerful tools to identify and measure how well we’re doing to treat, educate, and protect all Californians.


It handicaps community groups, local governments, and the state as they develop solutions to healthcare, education, and other disparities in our diverse state.”


It will take a couple of million dollars to defeat the right on this issue. To counter a statewide initiative, one must use television ads and that takes lots of money. One creative tactic the CIC has developed is the launching of a house and dorm party campaign. CIC wants to have 1000 house parties around the country on September 3rd and 4th and throughout the month of September. The goal is for each person to have 40 people at their party give $25 each. 1000 parties @ $1000 per party = One million dollars. Others will ask for less at their house party due to less money available from their friends and families.


Behind the mask of the war against terrorism, Bush and cronies have relentlessly been implementing their reactionary domestic agenda: tax breaks for the rich, defunding social programs, the militarization of Black communities, a war economy, and erosion of civil liberties, civil rights and deregulation of environmental oversight of our natural resources and a faltering economic system that brings stressful uncertainties and a bleak future for most people.


Connerly has already taken steps to take this racist proposition to other states and people across the country are keeping their eyes on what happens in Sacramento. On October 7, 2003, Californians have the opportunity to push back one piece of the Connerly/Bush juggernaut by defeating Proposition 54 at the polls. A low turnout will help the racists, which is likely since the recall effort each day brings a more zoo-like atmosphere. Black Americans cannot afford to stay at home and let the reactionaries prevail.


Frances M. Beal is a political columnist for the San Francisco Bayview and a contributing editor to Black Scholar magazine. ©Frances M. Beal, Copyright, August 17, 2003. Contact

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