Two Unpublished Letters To The Editor On Prop. 16

First, to the San Diego Union Tribune:

To The Editor
Your article, “Californians back racial justice but are not rushing to reinstate affirmative action” (Sept. 26), suggests voters must be suffering from “confusion” since, according to two recent polls, they support racial justice but oppose affirmative action. But there is no confusion. These apparently conflicting responses are perfectly consistent.
Recent major national surveys from Gallup, the Pew Foundation, and the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago have all found that majorities of Americans support “diversity” and “affirmative action,” which if undefined are simply feel good terms meaning be nice to minorities. But when they are defined, even larger majorities oppose admissions or hiring that give preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity.
Last year, for example, Pew found that 75% of respondents favored the promotion of diversity, but 74% (including 69% of Hispanics and 54% of Blacks) believed that only qualifications should be considered, not race or ethnicity, “even if it results in less diversity.”
Similarly, four times between 2003 and 2016 Gallup asked whether applicants should be evaluated “solely on the basis of merit, even if that results in few minority students being admitted (or) an applicant’s racial and ethnic background should be considered to help promote diversity on college campuses, even if that means admitting some minority students who otherwise would not be admitted?” Each time 67%-70% chose “solely on merit.”
“For more than 50 years,” your article acknowledges, “Americans have overwhelmingly expressed support in principle for racial equality. In practice? Not so much.” That summary, however, misunderstands these polls and thus maligns the voters.
There is no confusion or conflict between supporting racial equality and opposing affirmative action. If on November 3 voters choose to retain Proposition 209, which prohibited preferential treatment based on race or ethnicity, and thus vote No on Proposition 16, which would bring it back, they will be affirming and not rejecting their commitment to racial equality.

Next, to the Washington Post
To the Editor:

Jay Mathews is confused about California’s Proposition 16 (“Divided Californians will vote again on affirmative action,” Sept. 27).

The decision Californians have to make is not, as he writes, “how to remove racial barriers to getting the most challenging schooling for disadvantaged students,” nor is it whether to remove the ban on “favoring groups that have suffered discrimination.” Also wrong is Mathews’s claim that “It is difficult to explain the issue accurately without complicated arguments and references to case law.”
On the contrary, nothing could be easier: It is whether to repeal  California’s constitutional provision insuring that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
A YES vote on Prop. 16 would repeal that ban. Thus, far from removing “racial barriers” for “disadvantaged students,” it would actually raise barriers for some and lower them for others based on their race — for all students and employees, not just “disadvantaged” ones.
Similarly, a YES vote on Prop. 16 would not remove the ban on “favoring groups that have suffered discrimination” because there is no such ban in current law, which prohibits discrimination against or preferential treatment of any individual based on race or ethnicity. Removing that prohibition would actually promote discrimination against Asian Americans, who have suffered discrimination, since a motivating goal of the Yes on 16 advocates is to reduce the number of Asians in the University of California.
Mathews was right about one thing: his observation that “both sides use the same slogans. The Yes on 16 websites say ‘Fight Discrimination’ and ‘Equal Opportunities for All. The No on 16 websites say ‘Keep Discrimination Illegal’ and ‘Equal Opportunity for All.’”
But he was wrong not to notice that the slogans of the two sides are not equally accurate. Voting No on 16 would in fact “keep discrimination illegal” and provide “equal opportunity for all.” Voting Yes on 16 would in fact not “fight discrimination,” it would legalize it.  And it would not provide “equal opportunity for all,” it would allow the distribution of burdens and benefits based on race.

Say What?