Proposition 209 - The Messenger
Walter E. Williams, June 5, 1997

California voters passed the California Civil Rights Initiative of 1996, more popularly known as Proposition 209 that says, "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." The spirit of Proposition 209 is identical to the Civil Rights Act of 1964: "No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Through logical contortionism, liberals and the civil rights establishment praise the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and condemn Proposition 209 as racist and unconstitutional. Let's look at some of Proposition 209's initial results.

Recently released acceptance figures, by UCLA's School of Law, show that only 21 black applicants were accepted, down 80 percent from the 104 accepted the previous year. At UC Berkeley's Law School, of the 792 students accepted this year, there were only 14 blacks compared to 75 last year. There were also declines in the number of Mexican-American students accepted. At each school, the number of white and Asian students accepted rose.

How should people concerned with the upward mobility of blacks and Mexican-Americans respond? One strategy is to try to overturn Proposition 209. The first attempt to do so failed where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower court's preliminary injunction. Another strategy is to support President Clinton's legal manipulation to "mend not end" affirmative action. A far superior strategy emerges if we ask why blacks need preferential treatment in the first place. We darn sure don't need preferential treatment to be in, and in fact dominate, the NBA or the NFL.

It all has to do with excellence. If blacks graduated from college with the same grade point averages and LSAT scores there'd be no question, they'd be admitted to law schools at the same rate as whites and Asians. Nobody has claimed that law schools are turning away blacks with academic credentials equal to and higher than whites and Asians. The truth of the matter is that too many blacks receive twelve years of fraudulent primary and secondary education that cannot be overcome by four years of college. Unfortunately, liberals and civil rights organizations add to that disaster by giving unquestioned support to a corrupt education establishment that produces the fraud. Any kind of effective education reform, including educational vouchers, tuition tax credits and even private voucher programs, are fought tooth and nail.

I reject the notion that blacks need preferential treatment. What's needed is more of what my friend Mr. Alfred Jenkins, a retired Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney, is doing. Al is concerned about the problems blacks have passing the bar examination, but he doesn't charge the exam as racist or culturally biased. He conducts a free intensive tutorial program. To give you a flavor of his approach, he asks students, "How many hours can you study for the bar each day?" Students might respond with 6 hours, 10 hours and so forth. Then Al asks, "If I had an Uzi pointed at your head, how long could you study?" Then he says, "Tell your friends and family goodbye, eliminate any other distractions and pretend there's an Uzi pointed at your head." Jenkins has chalked up a phenomenal success record. Unlike white liberals and the civil rights establishment, Al and I have confidence in black abilities.

Walter E. Williams

June 5, 1997