The LA Times published a brief article yesterday that was surprising on two levels. First, California of all states passed a constitutional amendment in 1996 (prop 209) that banned the use of affirmative action in public college admissions decisions. Second, a group known as–this is a mouthful–the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, is suing the University on California on the basis that California’s constitutional amendment violates the 14th amendment’s of the Constitution. You read that right. BAMN is claiming the California constitution is Unconstitutional because UC doesn’t provide preferential treatment to minority students, and because the university places too much emphasis on high school grades and test scores. Whatever happened to the idea of merit in this country?
Don’t get me wrong, the original purpose of “affirmative action” was both limited and sensible. Prop 209 restored Kennedy’s intent in executive order 10925 which ordered the elimination of the consideration of race in determining employment for government contracts. The policy was later perverted by Johnson to give preference to “protected classes” under the false premise of correcting “the effects of past and present racism.” It was the creation of “protected classes” that truly violated, and continues to violate, the equal protection clause, because members of the “protected classes” are granted additional rights and privileges under the law.
While I can understand the need for policies to advance the interests of Blacks in the 60’s when our nation was just beginning to recognize racial equality, times have changed, and policies intended to force an end to segregation are no longer necessary. Of course, BAMN would disagree, but not because they think we are living in an institutionally segregated society. BAMN would disagree over the definition of equality. To them, it’s not about opportunity; it’s about results. BAMN would rather force the university to accept under-qualified students than correct the underlying problems that cause those student to be under-qualified. Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the results of prop 209.
BAMN would like you to only focus on the decrease in Black and Hispanic enrollment–notice they wouldn’t say minority because enrollment among Asian students has increased significantly. However, they completely ignore another critical indicator, the graduation rate. While it is true that more Black students were admitted to UC system schools before prop 209, significantly more failed to graduate. After prop 209 passed, the graduation rate among Blacks at UC, San Diego doubled from 26% to 52%, because the University was no longer required to accept under-qualified students. Furthermore, the new rules make it very clear to high-school prospects college entry is entirely dependent upon their scholastic performance, which may help provide motivation.
BAMN would like to return California to a time when racial discrimination was both a sanctioned and mandated consideration in the UC system admissions process. Not only would revocation of prop 209 be a step backwards on our path to a truly color-blind society, it would be a glaring rebuke of the equal protection clause for all those Americans not privileged enough to belong to a “protected class.”