A post-affirmative action baby

Ward Connerly is going to be on campus for a debate on affirmative action and the impact of Proposition 209 sponsored by KPCC.

Connerly was the main man behind, SP-1 and SP-2, policies that banned the consideration of race, ethnicity and gender at the University of California in 1995. He was strongly supported by ex-Governor Pete Wilson he wanted to make a highly political move on the Board of Regents and gain national prominence in an expected bid for the Republican nomination for president.

In 1996, Connerly’s California Civil Rights Initiative (or Proposition 209) was passed by a majority of California voters and banned affirmative action in other state agencies.

Connerly killed affirmative action in California. And then he took his show on the road to Washington and other states. Most recently, he supported an initiative that was passed by the Michigan electorate. He’s also going to another half dozen states.

Connerly’s actions have strongly shaped my own experience and political development. If he would have never backed 209 and SP-1, I would not have been part of the first class admitted in the University of California without the consideration of race. In the spring of 1998, I’d read the newspaper every morning and was well aware that eliminating affirmative action would mean that my class at UCLA or UC Berkeley would have much fewer Chicanos/Latinos, African American and Native Americans. I also wasn’t admitted to UCSD, a place I surely woud have been admitted to prior to the elimination of affirmative action. (By the way, I cried a lot when I got that letter because I felt that it would mean I wouldn’t be admitted to the much more competitive campuses, Berkeley and UCLA.)

To make a long story short (and ’cause I need to leave so I can get to the debate on time), without Connerly and 209, I’m not sure I would have ever come to this point where I’m at now. I work a lot on college access issues and have read a lot of the research literature on the importance of structural diversity at colleges and universities. I do research on what keeps underrepresented minority students in college at a place where they might feel like they don’t belong. And I wholeheartedly agree with Roy’s t-shirt (above). 209 is f***ed, and needs to be overturned.

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