November 5 marked 20 years since California voters approved Proposition 209 — also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative — by a margin of 54 to 46 percent. This measure ended racial, ethnic and gender preferences in state-college admissions, state employment and state contracting. Opponents claimed that Prop. 209 would bring on the end of affirmative action, but state colleges and universities could still cast the widest possible net for admissions and extend a hand to minority students on an economic basis.
The disaster that opponents predicted would result from Proposition 209 never occurred. As Thomas Sowell noted in his 2013 book Intellectuals and Race, declines in minority enrollment at UCLA and Berkeley were offset by increases at other University of California campuses. More important, the number of African American and Hispanic students graduating from the UC system went up, including a 55 percent increase in those graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Still, critics maintain that Proposition 209 harmed “diversity.” In bureaucratic parlance, “diversity” means that all institutions should precisely reflect the racial or ethnic proportions of the population. If they don’t, the reason must be deliberate discrimination, and the only remedy is government action — namely, racial and ethnic preferences of the type that the University of California imposed before Proposition 209.
The proportionality dogma isn’t law, yet politically correct administrators believe that some groups are “overrepresented,” that is, there are “too many” of some kinds of people on campus. This usually means Asians, targets of much discrimination in California history. In recent years, UC campuses have bulked up on high-salaried diversity bureaucrats. In similar style, the city of Sacramento has created a new position for a “diversity manager.” Politicians have also deployed measures such as the 2012 Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, sponsored by West Covina Democrat Ed Hernandez, who claimed it would ensure that universities would “reflect the diversity of the state.” Asian groups cried foul, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, returned SCA 5 to the Senate without a vote.
The 30th anniversary of another historic California ballot measure passed without notice in November. On November 4, 1986, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Official Language of California Amendment. This measure directs the state legislature to “preserve the role of English as the state’s common language” and refrain from “passing laws which diminish or ignore the role of English as the state’s common language.” Seventy-three percent of California voters approved the measure, a landslide by any definition, and it’s still on the books. So what has the government of California done over the last 30 years to ensure that the democratic will of the people was respected? Nothing; they ignored it. “In short, state legislators and public officials acted as if Prop. 63 never existed,” wrote Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow in 2006. As this writer, an immigrant, can testify, some level of proficiency in English is a requirement for American citizenship, which, in turn, is a requirement for voting. Yet, in 2016, the California voter guide came in English and, count ‘em, six other languages: Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. With 17 propositions to translate into seven languages, the voter guide packed the heft of a phone book.
A raft of stories accompanied October’s tenth anniversary of the passage of California’s “historic climate law,” yet not a single one commemorated the passage of successful propositions to end racial quotas and establish English as the official state language. Sadly, the Golden State’s political class and old-line establishment media remain out of touch with the people.
Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation.