A part of the series, Affirmative Action at a Crossroads.
This November, the citizens of California will vote on a proposition to remove the following words from their state constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” These words, taken almost verbatim from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were originally added in 1996 as part of Proposition 209—a successful effort to end racial preferences at state-funded institutions.
Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Prop. 209 share similar language, the public attitude towards them could not be more different. The former is universally praised, while the latter has provoked bitter debate, falling along partisan lines, since its inception. To its supporters, Prop. 209 is an antiracist document in the same vein as the Civil Rights Act. To its critics, it is a reactionary document that has cut off the path to opportunity for millions of Blacks and Hispanics—in other words, it represents the forces that opposed the civil-rights movement.
Coleman Hughes is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal, where his writing focuses on race, public policy, and applied ethics. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Quillette, The City Journal, and The Spectator. Hughes has appeared on many podcasts—including The Rubin Report, Making Sense with Sam Harris, and The Glenn Show—and also hosts his own, Conversations with Coleman. In June 2019, he testified before the U.S. Congress about slavery reparations.
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