Arianna on Proposition 54: "Racial Discrimination Without a Paper Trail"
I strongly oppose Proposition 54, which would prohibit state and local agencies from collecting, analyzing or applying racial and ethnic data.|
Proposition 54 is bad for health care, bad for education, bad for public policy. It is a thinly veiled attempt to allow racial discrimination without leaving a paper trail.
Proponents of this initiative want to toss us into the Dark Ages with a 16th Century approach to problem solving: "Give us less information and it will make us a more just society."
But leadership isn't sticking your head in the sand. Leadership isn't based on ignorance or running away from information. Leadership is taking in as much accurate information as possible and using it to look a problem square in the eye.
We can't solve our problems without accurate information — or by sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that we live in a colorblind society when we clearly don't.
Look at the statistics. They show a playing field that remains far from level.
No Level Playing Field
There's no level playing field in education. Poor students of color are four times more likely than their wealthier white counterparts to experience high teacher turnover, and twice as likely to have old or insufficient textbooks at school. Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to have teachers who lack full certification.
That's not the only way students of color suffer. They are also punished disproportionately to their numbers. In San Francisco, for instance, African American students are suspended or expelled at more than three times their proportion of the general school population.
And Black and Latino students are also less likely to graduate in four years, take advanced courses in math, or take the SAT exam.
It's no coincidence that inequities in education are mirrored in the criminal justice system.
How can we claim to be a colorblind society when California's black population is only 7 percent, but we have a prison population that is 32 percent black?
The numbers are equally bleak on the national level, where a glaring double standard has been a hallmark of our drug policy for decades. That's why African Americans make up only 13 percent of the country's drug users but 55 percent of those convicted of drug crimes and 74 percent of those imprisoned.
And race is a crucial factor in determining who is sentenced to die. In 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, [in other words] those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."
You want more proof the social playing field is still skewed?
Fact: the percentage of uninsured Latinos is more than three times higher than that of whites. Fact: California has one of the nation's widest income gaps between minorities and whites.
Doomed to Ignorance?
Is this information what the backers of Proposition 54 are afraid of? If they are so confident we're living in a colorblind society, they should let us gather the information that proves it — not make it illegal. Instead, they want to doom us to ignorance about some of the most important social problems in California.
Race remains the great divide in American society, and we won't be able to bridge it unless we are able to first document that it exits.
And, under Proposition 54, we won't be able to celebrate our successes in bridging that divide. If we are making gains when it comes to leveling the playing field in education, health care, poverty or criminal justice, shouldn't we be able to measure and record this as well?
The bottom line is: we'll never create a color-blind society by making government blind to racial discrimination.
And those who support and put forth discriminatory measures like Proposition 54 need to be told loud and clear, in no uncertain terms, that discrimination in any form, no matter how disguised, has no place in California. We're better than that.