A move to reinstate racial preferences in California

California Proposition 209, enacted by the state’s voters in 1996, amended the California Constitution to prohibit public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. Now, the California legislature is considering legislation to reinstate racial preferences.

That legislation, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA 5), would repeal Prop. 209. The text is here.

The legislation tries to paint a grim picture of educational prospects for blacks and Latinos in California. It alleges that Proposition 209 “reduces the graduation rates of students of color” and has led to a loss of diversity on the state’s college campuses.

However, as Wenyuan Wu points out in an Orange County Register op-ed, these claims are based on cherry-picked facts. Yes, the representation of Latinos and blacks at Berkeley and UCLA has fallen well below the levels progressives and race hustlers consider appropriate.

But the same “underrepresented” groups have experienced improvements in graduation and enrollment since the passage of Proposition 209. According to Wu:

In the University of California system, 4-year graduation rates of underrepresented racial minorities rose from 31.3% during the 1995-97 period, preceding Prop.-209, to 36.6% during 1998-2000, then to 43.3% during 2001-03. In 2014, underrepresented racial minorities’ 4-year graduation rate rose to a record high of 55.1%. The 6-year graduation rate has fared even better: 66.5% in 1998 and 75.1% in 2013. Minority admissions at UC exceeded those of 1996 both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of all admissions.

This beneficial effect is what one would expect the curtailment of racial preferences to produce. Because students are attending the colleges their objective credentials indicate they should be attending, they are succeeding to a greater degree than they were when some attended schools their objective credentials indicated were a “mismatch” for them.

As for enrollment:

Latino admissions went from 15.4% (5,744 students) in 1996 to 23% (14,081) in 2010; Asian-American admissions rose from 28.8% (11,085) to 37.47% (22,877), while black admissions from 4% (1,628) to 4.2% (2,624).

In 1999, underrepresented racial minorities’ enrollment at the UC system stood at a meager 15%, while in 2019 this figure increased to 26%. ACA-5’s claim that “since the passage of Proposition 209, diversity within public educational institutions has been stymied” is simply untrue.

CA-5 is based on a lie — a lie in service of treating Asian-American and white students unfairly by denying them places at their preferred schools because of their race.

The fight against CA-5 is likely to be a knock-down-drag-out one. The battle will be intense from now into June, and probably will extend until November. We expect to have more to say about the matter throughout the course of the struggle. Consider this post a heads-up.