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Thread: Prop. 16: Why Is Affirmative Action Measure Struggling in Woke California?

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    Prop. 16: Why Is Affirmative Action Measure Struggling in Woke California?



    The wave of public support for a racial justice movement after the killing of George Floyd in May isn’t translating to the ballot box in California, as a proposition that was intended to address racial inequities is on shaky ground.

    Supporters initially thought Proposition 16, which would reinstate affirmative action in public university admissions and government hiring and contracting, would appeal to Californians who were more open after Floyd’s death to the argument that systemic racism has held down Black and brown people in the U.S.

    But the measure, which would overturn the ban on granting preferences by race and sex that California voters approved in 1996, is trailing. Half of likely voters oppose Prop. 16, while 37% support it and 12% remain undecided, according to a poll released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California.

    Prop. 16 campaign pollster David Binder is more optimistic, citing an internal poll that he said found the race in a dead heat.

    But even a close race wasn’t what state legislators envisioned in June when they voted overwhelmingly to ask Californians whether to strip language from the state Constitution prohibiting programs that were designed to admit more Black and brown students to the University of California and California State University, and to help non-white businesses get government contracts.

    Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, who had introduced the proposal in March, said video of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling for nearly nine minutes on Floyd’s neck would help make the case that Black people are the victims of embedded racism. Polls indicated that Californians agreed — a survey in July by the public policy institute found that nearly 70% of respondents supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

    “I was so grateful I didn’t have to convince you racism is real because George Floyd did that,” Weber told Assembly members in May as she asked them to put Prop. 16 on the ballot. “We have to admit it is real, and it is there and it is present and it impacts the lives of everyone in this country.”

    It is not the only measure on the ballot with a racial justice focus that is in a tough fight. Another is Proposition 25, which asks voters whether to uphold a 2018 state law eliminating cash bail. Advocates say cash bail is part of a system that keeps a disproportionate number of poorer, non-white defendants in jail for long periods awaiting trial. While there has been little public polling on Prop. 25, campaign insiders say the race is close.

    Sam Lewis, executive director of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and a supporter of Prop. 25, is concerned that the racial justice movement around Floyd’s death “just becomes a moment.”

    “There’s a time when a moment becomes a movement,” Lewis said. “Here we are again. This can be a moment. Or it can become a movement with tangible results.”

    Prop. 16 is facing a tougher climb even though it is supported not only by Democratic leaders including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Kamala Harris, but also by the California Chamber of Commerce — which tends to take conservative positions on ballot measures.

    Part of the challenge is that voters find Prop. 16’s language confusing, said Anäis López, an analyst at the polling firm Latino Decisions.

    In a poll of Latino registered voters that the firm did in August, only 39% of respondents understood that Prop. 16 would reinstate affirmative action, while 32% thought it would block race from being used and 29% said they didn’t know what it would do.

    “The title, once you read the ballot, it’s not clear,” López said. “Many think (affirmative action) is already in place — because it is in place in 42 other states.”

    In focus groups, Lopez said, younger Latinos who grew up without affirmative action “would ask, ‘What is the catch?’ They’re afraid that it will be used against them.”

    Prop. 16 supporters acknowledge that they need to educate many younger voters on what affirmative action is. Nearly 80% of current registered voters didn’t vote on the 1996 measure that banned it, according to the campaign.

    “Baby Boomers and Generation X lived with the official policy of affirmative action until it was stricken off the books in 1996,” said former state Senate leader Kevin de León, who campaigned for affirmative action as a young activist 25 years ago. “Now the challenge is, how do you connect this highly technical government term — affirmative action — to everyday folks in California, especially in a political environment that demands equity and justice?

    “At the moment,” said de León, now a member of the Los Angeles City Council, “there is a huge disconnect, to the frustration of many.”

    As she sat in the audience at a recent pro-Prop. 16 rally near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, 19-year-old Kaylyn Goode cited another generational conflict.

    “There’s a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality among many people in the older generation,” said Goode, who is Black. “There’s definitely a generational disconnect on this. If you’re in your 50s or 60s, you’re going to think this isn’t going to affect you very much.”

    The campaign’s supporters say they are trying to educate younger voters on what affirmative action is, but they’re operating in a tight time window. Many initiative campaigns get started a year or more in advance to build support. Prop. 16 backers have had just four months.

    “We have had the upwards challenge of needing to communicate quickly,” Nicole Derse, one of the campaign’s consultants, said Wednesday. “There is a lot of education that we have had to do. But it’s starting to penetrate. It’s going to be a mad rush to the finish.”

    SFChronicle

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    Most Asians and Hispanics (in California mainly Mexican) view Prop 16 as being a special entitlement for Negroes so they are going to be against it except for their woke leaders.

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