Jewish World Review May 10, 2002 / 28 Iyar, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
LOOK AT a University of California application and
you'll see why UC Regent Ward Connerly wrote the
Racial Privacy Initiative (RPI), which would prohibit
the state from classifying people by their ethnicity.
Expect the measure to be on the November ballot.
The form tells students to check the "appropriate
boxes:" "African American, " "American
Indian/Alaska native," "East Indian/Pakistani,"
"Chinese/Chinese American," "Filipino, Japanese,
Korean, Vietnamese, Pacific Islander," "other Asian
(not including Middle Eastern)", "Mexican
American/Chicano," "other Spanish
American/Latino," "white/Caucasian (including Middle
Eastern)," and simply "other."
This year, 7.3 percent of UC entrants refused to state
their ethnicity. If Connerly has his way, UC will stop
asking all applicants about race.
RPI would end racial questionnaires in public
education, public contracting and public employment
-- unless it's mandated by the federal government.
(Connerly thinks K-12 schools would be exempt.)
The RPI also would allow race data collection (but
not race tracking) by law enforcement, and race data
collection for medical research, or if two-thirds of the
Legislature finds that collecting ethnic data "serves a
compelling state interest."
Connerly championed Proposition 209, the 1996
voter-approved measure that ended gender and
race-based preferences in state hiring and college
He told me that if RPI wins, it would be his last
initiative in California.
Why RPI? Connerly believes "there is something
fundamentally un-American" in grouping people by
race. He wants to do away with "identity politics." He
objects to what he sees as too many African
Americans "living on the left side of that hyphen,
rather than the right side of that hyphen." He wants
to change the culture.
Connerly is part black, Cherokee and white -- his
ethnicity defies one easy category. He looks at his
own family and the growing number of mixed-race
families, and bristles at the practice of typing people
in a race box. If the government stops race-typing, he
believes, "skin color and all of these traits we assign
to race will begin to diminish."
I don't agree. The state can stop asking, but that
won't make race discrimination go away. And not
knowing the facts won't make racial parity a reality.
Kerry Mazzoni, Gov. Gray Davis' education
secretary, worries that RPI could make it hard to
monitor how minority schoolchildren fare. "If we can't
monitor their progress," she said, "there will be some
children left behind." UC spokesman Michael Reese
believes that while some professors may welcome
the measure, others "fear the unintended
consequences." State lawyers are checking for
federal laws that might exempt schools and
Paul Turner of the anti-redlining Greenlining Institute
objected that the RPI would hamper attempts to
eradicate racial profiling. He's right.
Turner then descended into bogus fear-mongering.
He claimed that the RPI would hurt medical research
-- wrong, it exempts medical research. Turner also
said it's "conceivable" that courts would order private
companies with state contracts -- such as, say,
State Farm Insurance -- not to collect racial data.
Yeah, and pigs could fly. Actually, the courts more
likely will try to gut the RPI. Yet, Turner called RPI a
"deceptive and divisive measure."
Divisive? That's liberalese for a license to smear.
During the Prop. 209 campaign, critics called
Connerly a self-loathing black man, a traitor to his
race. Opponents ran an ad linking the KKK with 209
and an ad that claimed 209 would threaten abortion
So, I've decided to let the tenor of the campaigns
determine how I'll vote on the RPI. I don't like what
RPI would do, but I dislike even more how nasty the
opposition is likely to get.
If the RPI opposition sticks to the issues, I'll vote
against the measure. But if the opposition is as
dishonest as the anti-209 camp was, if it gets overly
personal, if it equates the desire for color-blindness
with racism, if it concocts horror scenarios to scare
the public, I'll vote for RPI.
People of goodwill can disagree on this measure. But
people of goodwill should not countenance the smear
Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate