FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 6, 2014
In January of this year, the California Senate passed SCA 5, a Senate Constitutional Amendment introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez that seeks to repeal Proposition 209 as it applies to public higher education. Proposition 209 is a ballot initiative passed in 1996, which has been applied to bar the consideration of race or sex in education, employment, and government contracting. The initiative passed despite the vote of the majority of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans against it.
We at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus support the full repeal of Prop 209. Affirmative action, diversity and anti-discrimination programs in higher education and other sectors of public life have been critical to securing equal opportunities for racial minorities and women, and have been crucial to building a more just and equitable society. Prop 209’s ban on such constitutionally permissible programs has been a huge step backwards for all Californians.
Without such programs, we have seen the resegregation of public higher education in California. Prop 209 has relegated many African American, Latino, Pacific Islander and other Asian American students, including Filipinos and Southeast Asians, to campuses with fewer resources and opportunities or out of higher education entirely. Minority students, including many East Asians who are left on the flagship campuses have faced increased bigotry and hostility of all kinds.
We still need affirmative action. The reality is that race continues to unfairly limit educational opportunities for all students of color. Our K-12 schools are more separate and unequal today than they were 40 years ago. Cold numerical indicators like grade point averages and standardized test scores capture and magnify those inequalities and cannot be fairly evaluated without considering the real-life impact of race and racism. Nor are standardized test scores accurate predictors of academic success. Our full life experience, including race, is also part of what we bring to the table.
The Supreme Court has ruled that race-conscious admissions programs that undertake a flexible, individualized review of applicants where race is just one of many factors is consistent with the 14th Amendment. Race-conscious programs should not be conflated with racial quotas or other unacceptable, unlawful forms of discrimination.
The United States Supreme Court is currently considering a case called Schuette v. BAMN, which has challenged the constitutionality of a Prop 209 copycat proposition in Michigan. Advancing Justice - ALC is co-counsel to one of the plaintiff groups in the case. The Court’s ruling is expected by the end of this term and may affect the validity of Prop 209 here in California. As such, any action to impact affirmative action in California should be measured in light of the impending decision.
No matter what the Court’s ruling is, we are committed to supporting affirmative action. We strongly support the spirit of SCA 5 and its stated goal of repealing Prop 209 in the context of education. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with other civil rights groups to restore affirmative action in California. We also support efforts like those of our affiliate Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, which is working with legislators and advocates to address the broader issue of expanding educational opportunities for all Californians.