May 3, 2002

Commentary

A Challenge to California’s Equal Opportunity

By George Stevens,
Councilmember City of San Diego

The Racial Privacy Initiative, crafted by Ward Connerly, chair of the deceptively named American Civil Rights Coalition, is being touted as a proposal to protect our racial identity by eliminating box checking. Connerly argues that the initiative has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with destroying the progress that has been made in equal opportunity. It would prevent state and local government agencies from collecting information on race, ethnicity, color, or national origin with few exceptions. Of course, the concept of living in a color-blind world would be ideal, however we are far from there. We can see this with the discrimination and anti-diversity that still exists after more than 40 years of attempts to level the playing field. Although, we are becoming an increasingly multi-racial of attempts to level the playing field. Although, we are becoming an increasingly multi-racial society and may not always enjoy box checking, it is so very important to continue collecting society and may not always enjoy box checking, it is so very important to continue collecting data as it furthers equal opportunity. If box checking were eliminated we would completely change the path our state is taking to assure equal opportunity and effectively eliminate diversity.

According to data collected by the National Fair Housing Alliance’s 2002 Trends Report, race was the most commonly reported reason for housing discrimination complaints. If this initiative were implemented, government agencies would no longer be able to investigate claims of discrimination. Without thorough investigations, it would be impossible to prove discrimination and may increase its occurrence. People of color continue to be underrepresented in City of San Diego contracts, over represented in traffic stops by police, and disproportionately assigned to special education. And, more likely to earn less for the same work and have more difficulty getting hired in the first place.

The Racial Privary Initiative is another divisive measure, like the others we have seen many times in California in the past 10 years, that would prevent the needs of underserved communities from being addressed and charging higher premiums based on race or if banks are discriminating in their lending practices. No one would be able to monitor the ethnic background of 8 million students attending public schools or state colleges and universities. There would be no data available regarding their achievement or drop out rates. There would be no way of knowing whether our taxpayer-funded schools would be serving all students equally.

The Racial Privacy Initiative is anti-diversity and would eliminate corrective measures necessary to level the playing field. If approved, it would prevent statistical information from being collected. This type of information is necessary to identify discrimination and in quality. This initiative would mean the end of equal opportunity in California. I look forward to a time when individuals, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Until then, I urge you to oppose the Racial Privacy Initiative and oppose giving racists the freedom to discriminate.

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