Facts and Myths About Proposition 16

Myth: Voting no on Prop 16 means no affirmative action

Fact: Voting No on Prop 16 means to disallow considering race into government decisions. Affirmative action has always been legal in California. What’s at stake today is race-based affirmative action. We can help the needy in so many other ways without being divisive. See The Case for Race-Blind Affirmative Action. Programs targeted toward women and minorities are also legal today – but the state just can’t make admissions decisions or exclude on factors like race. With its laws today, California leads the nation in racial and gender equality.

Myth: Race will only be a small factor in admissions if Prop 16 is passed. It will not be the determining factor

Fact: Before Prop 209 passed, race was often the most important, determining factor in admissions. In 1994, Japanese American students were 1/13th as likely to be accepted to UC Davis Medical School as some of other ethnic backgrounds.

Myth: Proposition 209 has prevented equal opportunity in California education, and we must repeal it rectify wrongs

Fact: Proposition 209 is equal opportunity. The students accepted to our public university systems closely represent the pool of students who apply. Adding race as a factor would only divide us

Myth: Prop 209 hurt minority graduation rates in the UC system

Fact: Prop 209 helped minority graduation rates in the UC system: The 4-year graduation rate for under-represented minorities rose from: 31.3% (1996) to 55.1% (2014).

Myth: Since some groups have different starting point from other groups, targeting programs by race is the best way to address inequalities

Fact: There are poor and rich men and women of all ethnic groups and all backgrounds. The richest 10% of Americans earn nine times more money than the poorest 10%. The income gap between the top 10% of any racial group and the bottom 10% of the same racial group is many times larger than the income gap between racial groups.

Myth: Prop 209 caused minority college enrollment to go down in California, and hurt disadvantaged groups

Fact: Diversity in California schools has continued to flourish under Prop 209

Myth: A majority of Americans, support race-based affirmative action. It’s only a small minority who don’t believe so.

Fact: A majority of all Americans oppose the use of race in college admissions.

Fact: Considering race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions, which Prop 16 would do, is one of the least popular policies to address inequality. Even among Democrats, less than 40% approve. Meanwhile, creating more magnet schools, a non-divisive solution, has over 80% popularity.

Myth: Women in California are falling behind those in other states due to today’s policies

Fact: Thanks to the strong legal protections in California, the gender pay gap is in California is the smallest of all 50 states. California also has one of the strongest equal pay laws in the country. Existing law prohibits gender discrimination, and requires equal pay for equal work. 

Myth: Legacy students are the real problem at universities in terms of unfair admissions

Fact: The University of California and California State University does not use legacy admissions. Similarly, the data for Harvard shows what happens even without legacies and recruited athletes.

Myth: Passing Prop 16 is needed to address discrimination against women and minorities in government employment contracting, because Prop 209 prohibits affirmative action.

Fact: California is allowed to engage in good-faith affirmative action to promote minority and women-owned businesses. Discrimination is already illegal in employment and government contracting. By keeping the playing field fair, Proposition 209 has also saved the state over a billion of dollars in contracting since its passage – a study has found 5.4% lower transportation contracting costs.

Myth: We must consider race in order to rectify issues of poverty

Fact: Poverty exists across all ethnic groups in California. Prop 209 allows economic-based affirmative action under to help the poor. There is far more income variation within ethnic groups than within ethnic groups – thus painting one group or another as uniformly privileged is unhelpful.

Myth: Standardized tests are racist and do not reflect student performance.

Fact: The UC task force studying the SATs recommended keeping them because they could help identify black, Latino, and low-income students who may otherwise be overlooked, and that tests were not being used in a racially biased manner. Standardized tests have extremely high predictive value and are not racially discriminatory, unlike admissions officers who often make arbitrary value judgments. Standardized tests help disadvantaged students get into college and are one of the fairest parts about the admissions process, unlike wealthy parents who can bribe their way into schools. Luckily, the UC admissions process does not use factors like legacy status or donations, relying on more objective factors and ensuring a fair playing field.

This is an example of an SAT question:

Myth: Prop 16 will not result in any quotas

Fact: Contracting set-asides target a specific percentage of contracts for certain groups, which is a hard, numerical quota. In college admissions, where quotas have been ruled unconstitutional, Prop 16 will result in soft, hidden, and de facto quotas, due to the behavior of government and authorities trying to achieve their desired targets.

Why do you need to add race as a factor to achieve a target of representation, if you aren’t targeting soft racial quotas? See targets from legislators