LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As Proposition 16 was making its way through the California State Legislature, the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked massive protests and demonstrations across the nation.
“We had no idea any of this would happen,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said.
Weber was the one who introduced Proposition 16, an amendment that would allow public universities and government agencies to consider an applicant’s race and gender in admissions and hiring.
“George Floyd did that for me,” Weber said. “He let you see up front the impact of 400 years of racism and what is happening in this country and that equal opportunity is not readily available for everybody.”
The support for Proposition 16 poured in, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signing a directive for racial equity within city departments.
“We know that Black Americans have not had the same opportunities to build up family wealth, and today the statistics don’t lie,” Garcetti said.
But not everyone supports the proposition. Ward Connerly, a former University of California regent, is a longtime opponent of affirmative action.
“As a brown skin guy, I can tell you that I’ve had — in the last 50 years of my life — I’ve had every chance to succeed — and I have — as anybody else in this country,” he said.
Connerly helped lead a campaign to ban affirmative action in California 24 years ago.
“We have firmly established in this state that everyone, regardless of their race or color or sex, will get an equal chance to compete,” he said.
The amount of money spent by those who support the proposition is already well into the millions — far outpacing money spent by those opposed.
“Asian Americans who tend to do quite well in acceptance to UCs and CalStates are worried that this may negatively impact them, but even amongst them, there’s not really well-organized opposition,” Fernando Guerra, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, said.
One of the biggest debates over affirmative action has centered around college admissions.
“I am not in favor at all of tearing down our values and ripping asunder our ideals just so we can get a handful of more Black and Latino kids into our select universities,” Connerly said.
“We still have a pocket at the very bottom that we’re not able to get to that’s really race and culture based,” Weber said. “And so, as a result, we are hindered from helping these kids get a leg up.”
A debate that appeared to have been quieted at the ballot box years ago continues to simmer and will get another chance to be decided in November.