Leon Worden

State should favor one race: Human

Leon Worden · October 9, 1996

It's never over until the last vote is counted, but things look pretty darned good for the California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209 on your November ballot.

Polls conducted by the San Francisco Examiner and other California newspapers in the last three weeks show voters favor the anti-discrimination initiative by margins of almost 2 to 1. The lead may narrow when the negative ads start hitting, but for now, a sizeable majority of Californians believe our state government should eliminate race- and gender-based preferences in public education, hiring and contracting.

"Whenever we ask voters if race and gender preferences should end, we get a 'yes' majority from all political and ethnic groups," says Ward Connerly, chairman of the Yes-on-209 campaign.

In these times of seemingly heightened moral ambivalence, it is heartening to know that a basic question of right and wrong can elicit such a response. For that is exactly what Prop. 209 is: a classic question of right and wrong.

Prop. 209 has its roots in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which taught us to value individuals not by the color of their skin or by any other physical attributes, but by their qualifications and abilities to perform the tasks at hand.

The alternative approach is rooted in segregation and bigotry. The alternative to Prop. 209 is to perpetuate the morally repugnant practice of giving special treatment to groups of people who were born with the "right" skin pigmentation or the "right" reproductive organs.

Thus it was saddening but not surprising to see the opponents of Prop. 209 invite ex-Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to join them for a debate on the initiative at Cal State Northridge last month. The architects of the No-on-209 campaign have much in common with the racist from Louisiana. Both endorse, or have endorsed, discrimination. Both believe in giving unfair advantages to certain -- if different -- classes of people at the expense of others.

If our goal as a nation is to evolve to a point where racism and sexism are archaic concepts, then we have no excuse to wait any longer to eradicate all forms of discrimination from our governmental institutions. As long as our government sanctions discrimination, which it does when it categorizes individuals by race and sex and awards or denies them an education or a job or a contract on those bases, then we will always have a society where race and sex are dividing lines that stop us from treating each other as equals.

We pay a great deal of attention to ethnic strife in far-off Bosnia, yet we often turn a blind eye to the racial friction that is boiling over in America. Hate groups of all stripes command bigger followings today than they have in years. The fact that David Duke can draw overflow crowds on our university campuses, and that "a million men" (women weren't invited) would march on Washington for a Louis Farrakhan rally, demonstrate that we are sitting on a racial powder keg that will surely explode if institutional racism continues to go unchecked.

The most common excuse I hear for the current practices of race and gender preferences -- some call them quotas -- is that they are supposed to compensate for racism and sexism in the past. Well, I'm sorry. Racism and sexism are no less wrong today than they were 30 years ago! The only way to justify the current governmental racism and sexism is to believe that two wrongs make a right, and I was brought up to believe they don't.

They say recovery starts at home. It is time to get our own house in order. It is time to make our state government stop discriminating against, or granting 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 and public contracting. It is time for 209.

Proposition 209 needs your help through the home stretch. Contributions should be mailed to CCRI, P.O. Box 67278, Los Angeles, CA 90067. The coming negative ad campaign can be defeated if you urge all your friends and colleagues to vote YES ON 209!

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Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident. His commentary appears on Wednesdays.

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