Since the ban on affirmative action put in place by Proposition 209 in 1996, California has restricted equal opportunity programs that consider race and gender. This November voters have the historic opportunity to vote for Prop 16 to repeal the ban and strengthen education equity and workforce opportunity for communities of color and women, many of whom are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lifting the ban will have immediate and widespread impact for millions of Californians. Since the ban took place our universities and colleges have lowered the admission rates of all communities of color — including Asian Americans. In addition, an estimated $1.1 billion in public contracting dollars per year have been lost to minority-owned contractors since the ban’s effect took place. Repealing Prop 209 will help all Californians access new education and economic opportunities and share in our state’s prosperity.
Prop 16’s place on the November ballot is due to the grassroots coalition effort of Opportunity For All, which CAA anchors. Known as ACA5 when it was proposed by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, the measure gained support as more and more recognized the historic implications of the bill. In a time of newfound interest in racial justice for California and America, more attention is being paid to equity programs to contend with our nation’s history of anti-Blackness and structural discrimination. Right before the Senate floor voted on ACA5, we garnered over 500 endorsements from community leaders, public officials, and organizations. We are excited to sustain that momentum into November.
However, we recognize that affirmative action is a wedge issue for many communities, especially Asian Americans. While the majority of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders support affirmative action, we’ve found the most vocal opponents to Prop 16 to be a contingent of Chinese organizations based in Silicon Valley and Orange County. Past efforts to repeal Prop 209 like SCA-5 in 2014 failed due in part to immense pressure on legislators from similar anti-affirmative action Chinese community groups. Anticipating this, CAA has ramped up digital outreach efforts on Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat to offer supportive and nuanced perspectives on equal opportunity and the need for affirmative action in our communities. Despite being one of a few voices in support of affirmative action in these spaces we are heartened to see growing support on Chinese social media.
You can help us sustain this groundswell of momentum by getting directly involved with our campaign to restore affirmative action. Let your friends and family know of this amazing voting opportunity this coming November and stay in touch with CAA and Opportunity For All for information on ways to show your support and take action.