California Poised to Restore Affirmative Action After Nearly 25 Years

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, left, is congratulated by Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, center, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, after ACA5 passed today. (Photo credit: AP/ Rich Pedroncelli)

Nearly 25 years ago, California voters passed Proposition 209, a state constitutional amendment that barred public institutions (such as public universities and state agencies) from considering race, gender, or ethnicity in admissions, hiring, or contracting. In so doing, California became one of only eight states in the US to ban the use of race- or gender-conscious affirmative action.

The aftermath of Proposition 209 was immediate and stark. A year following passage of Proposition 209, Black, Chicanx, Latinx, and Native admission rates to UC schools fell precipitously — by nearly 30% at some campuses — and remained depressed for the more than two decades that followed. Barriers in government contracting also led to an estimated annual loss of $1 billion in contract dollars by minority- and women-owned small businesses.

In the nearly 25 years since Proposition 209’s passage, the loss of affirmative action has only served to further crystallize the ways in which structural inaccess disproportionately excludes Black and Brown communities. We have seen an erosion of Black and Brown enrollment in California’s public universities, and fewer state contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses. Proposition 209 was clearly decided in error, and it is time for a new generation of California voters to be empowered to correct the persistent exclusion of so many Californians of colour.

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BREAKING: California Legislators Introduce Bill to Reinstate Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity For All

Legislators and activists announce ACA5, a bill to repeal Proposition 209 and to restore affirmative action in the state. (Photo credit: Magali Kincaid / Twitter)

Nearly 25 years after ballot measure Proposition 209 ended race- and gender-conscious affirmative action in the state of California, several California legislators are working in partnership with a broad multiracial coalition of advocacy groups and have introduced a new bill — Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 (ACA5) — to repeal Proposition 209 and to restore equal opportunity for all Californians.

The bill, announced in a press conference at the California State Capitol this morning, cites the damage enacted by two decades under Proposition 209 to women, people of colour and minority-owned businesses, many of whom have become increasingly underrepresented in California state schools and the professional sector.

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