Chavez, Lydia. The Color Bind, California's Battle to End Affirmative Action. (University of California Press, 1998)
|Joseph John Jezewski||The Color Bind (Joe Jezewski)|
|Gary Klass||comment on: The Color Bind (Joe Jezewski)|
|Laurie Hartzell||Laurie Beth's review of Color Bind|
|Adam Kinzinger||Adam Kinzinger's review of THE COLOR BIND|
|Mary Nash <1portia@GTE.NET>||Response to Adam's review of The Color Bind by Mary Nash|
|Paul Herrick Peterson||Re: Response to Adam's review of The Color Bind by Mary Nash|
|Adam Kinzinger||Re: Mary Nash's response to Kinzinger, and some other thoughts.|
|Laurie Hartzell||Laurie Beth's two cents on the COLOR BIND saga|
|"Stephanie.Budzina||Color Bind (Budzina)|
|Melanie Mcgowan||Color Bild Review|
|Amanda Moore||The Color Bind (Amanda Moore)|
|Jessica Claire Pearch||The Color Bind (Jessica Pearch)|
|Matthew Bice||The Color Bind (Matt Bice)|
|Melissa Ann Lynott||The Color Bind (Melissa Lynott)|
|Kimberly Ann Ida||The Color Blind (Kim Ida)|
|Amy Weseloh||Chavez Review|
|Christine Kilday||Comments on Kim Ida's review of The Color Bind|
|Date:||Tue, 2 Mar 1999 20:00:35 -0600|
|From:||Joseph John Jezewski
|Subject:||The Color Bind (Joe Jezewski)|
Have you ever wondered what it would be like without affirmative action? Would we be going back to the pre-civil rights movement? It looks to me as if California has come full circle by eliminating affirmative action. The decision in California to get rid of affirmative action is a landmark election and will shape the future of many minorities in this country. More minorities are goingto have to work harder if they want to get anywhere in life. Proposition 209 set the tone for minorities for the years to come and how we are going to deal with equal employment opportunities in this country.
The Color Bind deals with the passing of Proposition 209 in California. It was first brought up in 1994 as the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). It promised to end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education. The book basically gives a detailed outline of how it came about and the road that it took. It reads like a history book and covers the three to four year “trial” that this proposition went through. It starts with Proposition 187, which deals with immigration and whether, or not children born in this country illegally should receive certain benefits. This prompted Ward Connerly, an African American, who chaired the campaign, and Governor Pete Wilson of California to initiate the drive to end affirmative action in California. Lydia Chavez shows how both sides went about trying to convince people that they are right. The CCRI went through provisions and changes to make it more people friendly and changed the name to Proposition 209 but the ideas were still the same. Later in the campaign it began to get ugly. Commercials were going on the air a couple months previous to the election depicting certain high standing people in the community who were either for or against it and most of the ads weren’t even true. While I was reading the book it seemed that this election to the shape of a presidential election because of all of the dirt that was being brought up by both sides of the campaign.
Proposition 209 passed and she proceeded to show why it passed. She showed how the campaign to stop the proposition didn’t do a persuasive enough job in the eyes of the voters.
One of the main points that Lydia Chavez shows as a reason to why the opposition didn’t meet its goal of stopping Proposition 209, was the split between northern and southern California. The northern opposition, led by Eva Jefferson Patterson, who is the executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Began to pursue an alternative initiative strategy towards the proposition. Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority led the other group from the south, and their plan was to go at it head on and try and defeat it. I believe that the south had the right idea if they wanted to get rid of the proposition but they just didn’t have the firepower or the political clout to get the job done. Unlike Proposition 187, they began early enough to try and fight it, but they simply went about getting the wrong people to back them or to have any people with some political statute in their corner. By early 1995, the opposition to Proposition 209 was broken down into three main groups. First there were the civil rights leaders who wanted to save affirmative action, then the Democratic Party trying to find a way to win the next election, and the women’s rights leaders who were trying to test their political power. All of these people were in it for something else other than trying to stop Proposition 209. They focused on what was in it for them and how they could build their political power and influence. The concept that she points out of the split opposition throughout the state is a huge factor in determining why the proposition was passed in the first place. I think she hit the nail right on the head. There was no joint effort to try and stop the proposition, they all had good ideas, just nobody followed through with them. This lack of communication and distance between the people who actually agreed on some things led to a campaign of confusion and misdirection.
I honestly don’t remember hearing too much of Proposition 209 back in 1996 when the election took place, but I wish I would have been there for all of the commercial ads that were being placed on television to try and persuade voters. This was the other area of the book that just jumped out at me and made me read it twice when she began talking about it. There is one commercial ad that I have to mention from the book and it goes like this, Female Narrator: We should be judged on merit, not by gender or the color of our skin. - a white woman comes into the background. Female Narrator: Job quotas and preferences are wrong. Proposition 209 ends quotas and special treatment. But Bill Clinton opposes Proposition 209, just like he opposed Proposition 187. - the commercial then cuts to a picture of Martin Luther King’s famous speech. Martin Luther King Jr.: … where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! - it goes back to the picture of the woman. Female Narrator: Martin Luther King was right. Bill Clinton is wrong to oppose Proposition 209. Let’s get rid of all preferences. This is obviously a twist on Martin Luther King’s words. This is just an example of how low the people who are trying to pass this proposition actually are. It turned into a grudge match and Proposition 209 was winning. These ads were a key factor in the outcome of the passing of Proposition 209. It seemed to me that whoever had the best commercials, no matter what the real issue was,was going to win the election.
The Feminist Majority and NOW also stepped into the limelight with their ads to try and stop the proposition. According to Lydia Chavez, women had the most to lose with the passing of Proposition 209. She says that they are the ones that gained the most from affirmative action. I tend to agree with her because they are the largest minority overall and they have made huge strides in recent years towards certain professions and equality in this country. This is the essential reason why the Feminist Majority took the stance of attacking the proposition instead of trying to find some sort of alternative plan. They came out with an ad that kind of slapped you right in the face. It depicted a stripper wearing different types of professional costumes and said, “Don’t strip away our future, vote no on Proposition 209.” This was clearly a desperate move on the opposition part due to the lack of funding for their cause. I believe these ads could’ve persuaded some of the voters to vote the way they did.
Both of these concepts that I mentioned basically jell together. If it weren’t for the lack of cooperation among the different groups of opposition, then the tactics used by the ads would have never been necessary. The problem with the fight against Proposition 187 was that the opposition didn’t get their act together on time to stop it. People saw their mistakes and rectified them, but in the process forgot about cooperation and teamwork to try and stop Proposition 209.
I think this book was very good from a historical standpoint. She gave you a good description of what actually went down with Proposition 209. She clearly stated the opposition’s side and what they did or didn’t do to win the election and I believe this was the key to her book, was what the opposition did. She also showed how the people for the proposition manipulated the minds of the voters to thinking that it was all right to get rid of affirmative action. She gets the message across clearly but she really doesn’t give her view on what she thinks should be done about affirmative action. She merely states the facts of the case and tells you the outcome. This was a landmark election in the state of California and in the country. I can’t wait to see what is going to happen to the future of affirmative action. ·
|Date:||Wed, 3 Mar 1999 10:38:30 -0600|
|Subject:||comment on: The Color Bind (Joe Jezewski)|
Comment on review by:
Joseph John Jezewski wrote:
(University of California Press, 1998) Reviewed by: Joe Jezewski
According to Lydia Chavez, women had the most to
Chavez, Lydia. The Color Bind, California's Battle to End Affirmative Action.
Joseph John Jezewski wrote:
(University of California Press, 1998) Reviewed by: Joe Jezewski
According to Lydia Chavez, women had the most tolose with the passing of Proposition 209. She says that they are the onesthat gained the most from affirmative action. I tend to agree with her because they are the largest minority overall and they have made huge strides in recent years towards certain professions and equality in this country.
The assumption that women are the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action was, I think, the fundamental strategic mistake made by the anti-209 campaign.
While it is true that women have made significant strides in recent years and over the years when Affirmative Action was in place, it is not necessarily the case that this was due to Affirmative Action or that much of the gain would not have happened without Affirmative Action, at least not the kind of Affirmative Action that 209 prohibits.
In the case of College admissions, what 209 calls "preferences" are really given to women. They score only slightly lower on standardized tests than men, and generally score higher on grade point average. 209 would not even prohibit Affirmative Action programs such as Title IX, sense these programs correct preferences given to males.
In the case of government contracting, firms owned be women sometimes gain bidding preferences similar to minority and disadvantaged firms. But it is not at all clear that women benefit from this more than minorities. When minorities benefit from these programs, the minority community as whole gains benefits to far greater extent than women as a group benefit.
Women do benefit from Affirmative Action hiring programs more than they do in college admissions or contracting, but it is not at all clear how much of the gains women have made would have happened under strict gender-neutral hiring practices, and the kinds of affirmative action that proposition would still permit.
By stressing that impact of the proposition on women the anti-209 committee often ignored the real issues and their case was less convincing as a result, I think.
|Date:||Mon, 03 Apr 2000 21:16:00 -0700|
|Subject:||Laurie Beth's review of Color Bind|
Lydia Chavez’s The Color Bind leads the reader through the turbulent path of California’s proposition 209. Carefully introducing each character and step made to end affirmative action,
Chavez tells a story which focuses on our political process by narrating the battle begun by the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). She reveals the many motives and strategies involved in this battle, including the strongest proponents, adamant opposition, and other players such as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, who did their best to dance around the subject. The reader is introduced to the founding fathers of the CCRI, Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood early on in the narration. Custred, a suburban family man who was upset by the new strategies of multiculturalism at his university, met up with Wood who saw affirmative action as an enemy due to his inability to obtain a permanent teaching position in the area. After a bit of discussion, the two proposed the CCRI, which in 1994 promised to end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education. Interestingly enough, this proposal was first introduced to the political arena as a non-partisan issue. The basic assumption was that affirmative action was harmful to white males, and therefore white voters and white males especially would support the new measure. Quickly the debate was turning into a tool to pull white males from the Democratic Party by focusing on their own needs, thus weakening any opposition from the democrats. It was not long before the issue soon became a republican issue, supported by better funding and a larger audience. The recent proposition 187, which outlawed non-emergency treatment for illegal immigrants had paved the way in California for controversial issues which had the ability to lure democratic white males onto the side of the republican party. By early 1995 state and national polls indicated that voters wanted to ban “preferential treatment”, while simultaneously showing that the same voters actually favored “affirmative action”. These polls may have indicated the true complexities of the general understandings and opinion of Americans on this issue, but more likely, these polls indicated the power of semantics in the coming battle. Chavez is careful to lead the reader through the backstage route to proposition 209, demonstrating the power of the polls, ambivalent voters, and well-funded campaigns. Pete Wilson, Governor of California had actually supported affirmative action as a U.S. Senator and state legislator. Wilson seemed to change his mind as quickly as the polls changed their phrasing. Playing on the fact that voters were strictly opposed to quotas, Wilson ran a commercial during his campaign for Governor which not only took advantage of semantics, clearly negated his previous support of affirmative action, but also participated in that truly American tactic of mudslinging by stating “Diane Feinstein promised as governor to fill state jobs on the basis of strict numerical quotas. Not experience. Not qualifications. But quotas. It’s unfair, it’s extreme, and it’s wrong.” According to Chavez, Wilson’s lead in the election jumped from two to eleven percentage points. The African American regent of the University of California and chair of the campaign for proposition 209, Ward Connerly was certainly a key factor in the success of the proposition. Wilson announced an end to s state affirmative action committee just before Connerly began questioning the affirmative action practices on U.C. campuses. Connerly was an articulate and persuasive speaker, whom Chavez feels swayed many voters with his opposition to affirmative action as a clearly successful black man.
Clearly though, this issue did not go unchallenged. There were many men and women in California who saw CCRI as a direct threat to civil rights. The National Organization for Women, and the Feminist Majority were among the leaders of the opposition. The women believed that affirmative action was as powerful an issue as abortion rights. They also saw this issue as a potential wedge they could use to split white women away from the Republican Party. So civil rights leaders, women’s rights leaders, and the Democratic Party came together to oppose CRRI. Their toughest obstacle would be to educate voters about the reality of the CCRI since polls had actually shown that there was support for affirmative action, but the proposition did not even mention the phrase. A serious problem with the campaign, the proposition, the attempted defeat, even Chavez’s narration of this battle is that no one has managed to directly define and contrast quotas, preferential treatment, civil rights, and affirmative action. This is a dialogue that still does not seem to have occurred.
A failure to raise enough money to compete with the CCRI, who was paying $1 per signature in support of the measure, was just another obstacle for the opposition. The republicans were also standing by CCRI much more closely even funding commercials on the issue. Meanwhile President Bill Clinton and Al Gore seemed happier to discuss the issue quietly, if even at all. The state and national Democratic Party refused to take up the challenge, offering little support to the opposition. The opposition simply did not muster up the money, cohesion, and support to successfully defeat the proposition. By focusing on the gendered nature of the issue so intensely, they may have let more successful strategies pass them by.
Chavez tells a story of a political process which revolves more around money, polls, and power than the actual people who comprise the democracy that allowed this to happen. Chavez ends with the following statement: “Both proponents and opponents of Proposition 209 declared their commitment to overcoming the pernicious effects of discrimination. In the days and years to come, they will have ample opportunity to prove their sincerity.” It becomes clear that The Color Bind was intended to be a cautionary tale of what can happen when central issues of social policy are left up to a popular vote. Her objectivism is somewhat lacking when the reader recognizes that Chavez clearly tells the story from perspective of a supporter of affirmative action. While I appreciated her detailed account of the battle, injecting statements such as “Having Ward Connerly as a spokesperson was icing on the cake. Even if the great majority of African Americans opposed proposition 209, Connerly’s black face blunted charges that the initiative was inspired and driven by white males. He gave whites looking for solace the embrace of a successful black American.” clearly told a story which was tainted with her own opinions and agendas.
|Date:||Tue, 04 Apr 2000 12:52:46 -0500|
|Subject:||Adam Kinzinger's review of THE COLOR BIND|
Chavez, Lydia. THE COLOR BIND University of California-Berkeley Press. 1997.
Throughout recent American history, racial dynamics have determined the success and failure of candidates, shaped the platform of political parties, and provided emotional fodder for many debates among Americans. Questions ranging from voting rights, to affirmative action programs have played themselves into the debate. Today is no exception: questions exist as to the validity and usefulness of programs initially set up to benefit those who society was perceived to have left behind. Throughout the last thirty years, American's have accepted affirmative action as a facet of inclusion, aimed at involving all people in the workings of government, education, and other public programs. It is essential to ask, however, what happens when the goals are reached and justice is served? Within our structure of government, the will of the people is supposed to prevail through their legislature. However, this presents another valid question: what can an ordinary citizen do when he/she feels that his/her elected representatives are unresponsive to the desires of the citizens? Both questions are addressed in Lydia Chavez's THE COLOR BIND.
In 1994, two ordinary citizens, Glynn Custred, and Thomas Wood, began the drive to end California's affirmative action programs. Custred, a professor at Hayward State, witnessed the changing racial dynamics firsthand from his lecture stand, and Wood believed affirmative action was largely responsible for his inability to secure an academic job. After meeting in 1991, both men became interested in the affirmative action issue. Custred, inspired by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, believed that the spirit of that law was violated by affirmative action (17). A promise to not discriminate on the basis of race, and gender, carried over to protect those in the perceived majority, according to these men, and it was high time California followed the federal laws.
What emerged from the brains of these two men was to ultimately become public law: the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). Bypassing the legislature (after a failed attempt), these two men decided to implement their state right to do so, so they implemented the popular referendum. The Progressive Party would have been proud, two educated non-partisan men wanted to change law at the grassroots level. Custred and Wood both hoped that this initiative would receive BI-partisan support and would stay clear of the divisive nature of politics. However with the presidential election ready to take flight, the dynamics would clearly shift from that goal.
Governor Pete Wilson, tossing around the idea of a presidential bid, saw the success of a previous proposition and decided to hitch his star to the trend. Proposition 187 saw a large number of white men's support, and added new importance to the voting power of this group. Wilson realize his need for political support, so he decided that in reversing his previous support for affirmative action, he would please the white males by calling affirmative action unfair. Governor Wilson brought his vast financial network to the table, and called on his supporters within the Republican Party to take notice: affirmative action would no longer be tolerated, and Pete Wilson was the man to tackle this problem. His support jumped nine points, and his support of CCRI began the trend of partisan involvement.
A powerful ally (and later director) of the CCRI movement was Ward Connerly, a well-spoken black male. His support (both verbal and fundraising) combined with Wilson's fundraising abilities helped propel this movement past strong opposition. Yet on the other side, some powerful opposition arose. Women's groups attempted to make the issue one of gender to rally the female opposition, while racial groups believed that this presented a direct threat to the security of minorities. While meeting to assess the best strategy to defeat the CCRI (herein called Proposition 209), a deep division arose, ultimately having a large role in the failed campaign of opposition. The Northern groups, led by Eva Paterson (executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights) believed that the best way to defeat this initiative was to offer an alternative Affirmative Action without Quotas initiative, which soundly defeated Proposition 209 in focus group research. The Southern group, led by Katherine Spillar (National Director, Feminist Majority), believed the best way to defeat Proposition 209 was with a direct, head-on approach. Besides, a review of the alternative proposition pointed out that if adopted-some affirmative action programs may be in jeopardy. While Chavez does not seem to support or oppose either group's strategy, it appears as if the she blames this split on the eventual passing of the Proposition. While a house divided cannot stand, it is doubtful that the sole blame lies on this split.
While the remainder of Chavez's work reads as a historical overview of Proposition 209, it may appear to the reader that Chavez is presenting an unbiased, event-by-event analysis. However, a strong bias presents itself if the content is taken at the macro scale. At the end of the book, it appears as if Chavez blames strategic failures, dishonesty by the Proposition 209 support campaign, and political parties for the end results. Yet it must be understood that in the work, Chavez fails to strongly discuss the pro's and con's of affirmative action, and in failing to provide for and against analysis, leaves the reader with a biased ending. It may be that 209 passed because 54% of Californians actually agreed with the wording. Remember: all the proposition did was reinforce that the government cannot discriminate based on the usual list of diversities. Perhaps the majority of Californians agreed that discrimination based on race is wrong, black or white. When the reader finishes however, he or she is left with the feeling that merits were not the basis whereby the voter decided, and that the voters were uneducated. The reader must remember, though, that all of the commercials for 209 stressed that this proposition in fact ended discrimination against whites and males. To assume that the voter simply misunderstood the implications of a yes vote, when they were in fact clearly stated, is irresponsible. Chavez does a great job of framing the argument to meet her opinions, yet one must think clearly on his/her own instead of simply accepting what was given.
In any political campaign, the workings of the campaign can be analyzed and blamed for the eventual loss or success of the person or item. In many aspects of life where campaigning is involved (possibly in a business venture when presenting a business plan) one could place the burden of success on the campaign, despite the idea's attractiveness. However in most cases, people make decisions based on personal interest and merit, not smoke in mirrors. The split within the opposition was a theme that rang throughout the pages, yet splits and divisions occurred within the support campaign, but that chapter was notably absent.
The author writes 238 pages to convince the reader that the initiative process is laden with special interest, corrupt self-serving politicians, and money money money. The reader should remember however, that while interest groups, parties, and money men did eventually steer the campaign, it was two disconnected, politically unpolished, ordinary academics that began this process. This represents the grassroots of the Progressive movement and the founders would be proud. The Republican's and Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, and money followed the idea. It was not the parties and the money that began the movement.
THE COLOR BIND would be excellent reading if studying the issue of how not to run a campaign, and assessing ways to keep coalitions together. In the event of another initiative, the groups in opposition or support can use the material in the book to create a rough outline of unity. But reader beware: a strong bias against initiatives and for affirmative action is present. Read with your thinking cap on. One last thought: if the initiatives in California were largely liberal endeavors, would the author's bias have been the same? ·
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|Date:||Tue, 04 Apr 2000 23:16:16 -0700|
|From:||Mary Nash <1portia@GTE.NET>|
|Subject:||Response to Adam's review of The Color Bind by Mary Nash|
Adam Kinzinger criticizes Lydia Chavez's contention in The Color Bind that Proposition 209 passed because "54% of Californians actually agreed with the wording." He suggests that Chavez is "irresponsible" in her assumption that voters misunderstood the implications of a yes vote. Let's look at the actual wording of Proposition 209 for a moment. The proposed amendment to the California Constitution was stated as follows: "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." Who wouldn't agree with this wording which appears to borrow language used in the Civil Rights Act? Granted I did not read this book, nor did I live in California when the law was proposed, but I can see myself voting in favor of it and unwittingly doing away with affirmative action. No where in the proposed amendment is affirmative action mentioned. To assume that it is implied would be "irresponsible." Apparently a yes vote meant the elimination of affirmative action programs for women and minorities run by the state or local governments in the areas of public employment, contracting and education. This certainly was not made clear by the actual text of the proposed law. Adam states that commercials stressed that a yes vote would end discrimination against whites and males, but this assumes that every one who voted had access to a TV and indeed watched it and paid attention to the commercials. I rarely watch TV and even more rarely pay an ounce of attention to commercials. If at the polls all the voter had was the actual language of the text of the law, I do not feel it would be illogical or "irresponsible" to think the law passed in part due to a misunderstanding of the wording. I whole-heartedly agree with Adam's contention that citizens have a responsibility to think for their own instead of "simply accepting what was given." But, if what was given concealed the full intent of the law then some of the responsibility for Proposition 209's passage must be credited to "dishonesty by the Proposition 209 campaign."
California law, before Proposition 209, allowed for tutoring, mentoring, outreach, recruitment, and counseling to help ensure equal opportunity for women and minorities. With its passage such affirmative action programs like those that helped achieve equal opportunity for women and minorities in public employment, education and contracting were eliminated. Apparently the initiative's language was so broad and misleading that it eliminated many equal opportunity programs without informing voters that a yes vote would mean their removal. Tutoring and mentoring for minority and women students, affirmative action that encouraged the hiring and promotion of qualified women and minorities, outreach and recruitment programs that encouraged minority applicants for government jobs and contracts and programs designed to encourage girls to study and pursue careers in math and science were all eliminated when Proposition 209 was passed. But their elimination was never expressly stated as an outcome of a yes vote. It appears to me that the people who acted "irresponsibly" where those on the Proposition 209 support campaign. ·
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|Date:||Wed, 05 Apr 2000 10:31:04 -0500|
|From:||Paul Herrick Peterson
|Subject:||Re: Response to Adam's review of The Color Bind by Mary Nash|
I never thought that I would see the day when a liberal disagrees with a proposition to end "all" discrimination. I will simply say that the voters knew what they were voting for, and it was a proposition that ended racial, ethnic, religious, and gender discrimination in most state affiliated programs and offices. If affirmative action falls under the heading of discrimination, well then I hate to break it to all of you liberals, but it is. It is about time the people, those who comprise a democracy, took the bull by the horns, and wrestled this problem to the ground. This campaign was one the stemmed out of grass roots efforts, even though it ended up in special interests groups hands. The flip side to all of this though is if Prop 209 had failed, liberals, minorities groups, Feminist organizations, and the media would have credited the people of California with a pat on the back. If it would have failed, there would have been ramblings of " a true democracy at work", and "the people have spoken". The truth is that they prop passed, and all of those liberals lost. They are hard broken and are showing bad sportsmanship. They sound like the basketball player blaming the ref after a game they just lost. Mary Nash's reply just goes to show you that life is only fair if a liberal tells you so, and if a conservative initiative is passed, there was coercion, deceit, misrepresentation, and misinformation. If it was vice versa, "democracy would have prevailed".
I would also like to ask, how is this prop any different from any other election? Whether it is a Republican, Democrat, or Socialist, how is it different? I don't believe it is. The purpose if the initiative is to get the peoples support for your movement. That could be the same as Bill Clinton in '92. He brought up issues that were definitely relevant, but hadn't necessarily been on the peoples mind. He took those issues and built a position around them. From that position, he got America to vote him into office. Was his wording of one of his positions Misinformation, coercion, deceit? Was anything he did in '92 different than what any other politician does in an election? If you state your position in favorable words to your boss for a raise, is that coercion, or misinformation. What about a job interview? What I am getting at is that just because a specific side puts up it point of view, the prop 209 people, it is the other peoples job to refute it. It was Bush's job to refute Clintons position, and it is your bosses job when it comes to a raise. Prop 209 passed because the people of the state of California voted for it in a very decisive race. The proponents for 209 put out a good message, and the people liked it. The opponents put out a message, and the people didn't like it. The people spoke, and in doing so, eliminated discrimination in the state of California.
Paul H Peterson
|Date:||Wed, 05 Apr 2000 15:07:37 -0400 (EDT)|
|Subject:||Re: Mary Nash's response to Kinzinger, and some other thoughts.|
I appreciate the response to my review from Mary Nash, and I thank her for reading and commenting. I feel it is necessary, however, to follow up, so please humor me. I will also be making a somewhat unrelated comment.
Mary contended that the wording that "The State shall not discriminate against, OR GRANT PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO, any individual or group on the basis of. . ." authorizes affirmative action. When I read the controversial statement, I get the impression that I would be voting for the end of preferential treatment. I believe that this is not misleading, rather, it seems quite straight forward.
I believe that people should follow the laws of the United States, and should accept and treat everyone as equals. When the United States implements a law which clearly says that no preference will be given to ANY group (not whites or blacks), affirmative action comes to mind. Remember, the commercials for Prop. 209 in no way disguised the fact that whites would benefit, and did not hide the end of preferential treatment (which affirmative action is, by definition). Towards the end of the debate, most knew exactly what prop. 209 was-those who were uneducated about the implications were not the ones who voted.
Any campaign for any office or issue has supporters who are unaware of the implications of their support. But for the liberals to claim that a conservative, antiracist measure passed only because of underhanded tactics by the supporters is doing what some in the leftist camp do best: failing to take responsibility. When are you all going to accept that American's just don't agree with you?
On a slightly different note to follow up on some class discussion: I want to remind everyone that I am a white male, and I have to work, without cease, to acquire the things I have and attain my goals. When I fail, I ask myself why and determine what I could have done differently, and it has made me a stronger man. If someone was always there to tell me why my mistakes weren't my fault, or if there was some program which would have blamed others and given me an undeserved head start, I don't think I would have developed the same tenacity.
Affirmative action had its day. However, the debate has shifted. When racism was a problem, blacks were not allowed in restaurants, they were openly prohibited from certain activities, and so on. We passed those barriers, and now we are fighting with issues like "I am followed more by security guards" or "The way he looked at me screamed racism." When are we going to quit nit-picking for problems and get over it? I personally believe the complaining won't end, it's just too fun! But if we believe that we have it bad, might I remind you of a certain Kosovo, or Rwanda? Praise God we have what we have, now let's join hands and sing.
This letter was written in humble respect to Mary and all others who disagree. This strong debate makes us each sharper in our beliefs, and I thank you all for fighting with me:-)
Adam Kinzinger ·
|Date:||Wed, 05 Apr 2000 20:31:02 -0700|
|Subject:||Laurie Beth's two cents on the COLOR BIND saga|
I just I just could not help myself from interjecting a bit here. I have to say first off, that this is sort of a response to Adam's response, to Paul's response, to Mary's response, to Adam's response, so at this point I guess it's really just a statement, sorry about the confusion. I guess I would like to say that in spite of the fact that I appreciate the opportunity to argue with Adam on many issues, in spite of the fact that I may be considered to be what he and Paul would both label as a liberal, in spite of the fact that I have somehow become the poster child for feminism in this class, I have to admit that I agreed wholeheartedly with at least 90% of the Adam's original review of COLOR BIND. I though that it was a well-written and realistic synopsis of an unecessarily lengthy and fairly biased book (considering that it was supposed to be an example of "objective journalism)". It becomes very clear to the reader that the book was motivated by her discontent with proposition 209. My point here though is not to actually argue whether or not I think the CCRI mislead voters, or whether or not the opposition failed merely due to their inability to unify. I am writing because I feel that the past few responses have turned into some sort of liberal vs. conservative battle between the students of POS 334. An argument which almost parallels the underlying trauma of proposition 209 when republicans and democrats were talking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue of affirmative action because they really just wanted to win the upcoming election, not because they were sincerely concerned about an issue which seriously affects all Americans. Tossing out statements such as “When are you all [liberals] going to accept that American’s just don’t agree with you?” and “life is only fair when a liberal tells you so” are not only spiteful and not really on the level of respect that I would expect from students of a 300 level course, they are attacking an abstract group. If there is one thing that I thought we have learned in this class, it is that random assumptions about a collection of people really don’t make too much sense.
So on that note Adam, I’d be more than happy to join hands and sing while you praise your God that we have what we have, and I guess I’ll just pray to the Goddesses that someday we ALL will have what you and I have.
|Date:||Thu, 06 Apr 2000 12:05:36 -0500|
|Subject:||Color Bind (Budzina)|
Reviewed By: Stephanie Budzina (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Most people would think that ballot initiatives and referendums are a great way to get citizens involved in the political process. In THE COLOR BIND: CALIFORNIA'S BATTLE TO END AFFIRMATIVE ACTION by Lydia Chavez, she argues this is not what really happens. Chavez is a UC-Berkeley journalism professor and former writer for the LOS ANGELES TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES. Instead of average citizens putting true concerns on the ballot, Chavez purports that private interest groups often use their millions of dollars to persuade the public to believe in something that they did not care about before. Chavez takes the reader through every nook and cranny of the grueling process of putting an initiative on the ballot. She chronicles who actually gets all the signatures needed and who actually pays the bills.
In 1992, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), also known as Proposition 209, was the idea of two white male academics (Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood) that are tired of multiculturalism and job preferences for women and minorities. Wood had a Ph.D. in Philosophy and had trouble finding a job. So he blamed this on affirmative action. According to the author, though, the truth was that a majority of jobs filled in his field that year went to white males. Wood and Custred want to end affirmative action programs in the state's public universities, but the language on the ballot confuses many voters. In the CCRI, the academics want to end preferences, which people seem to abhor. However, when these same voters are asked whether they would like to end affirmative action, they say no to pollsters. The process is not made of ordinary citizens, as Chavez shows the wealthy donors that are needed to kick-off a statewide campaign and the paid political strategists. The two academics wanted the CCRI to remain non-partisan until they realized they would need the help of then Republican Governor Pete Wilson. Wilson hoped such a hot topic could send him to the White House. To top off the campaign, Wilson appointed an African-American University of California Regent, Ward Connerly. The Republican campaign was still grinning from its victory in 1994 (which helped Wilson get reelected) with Proposition 187 (to end public services to illegal immigrants). The Party had tapped a gold mine of white male rage against a changing system that included minorities and females.
Chavez also reviews the reasons for CCRI's victory in 1996. One reason is that California has had a longer tradition than most states for using ballot initiatives to promote political change. Proposition 13 in 1978 repealed some taxes for Californians and as mentioned above, Proposition 187. The main reason for the victory, though, is that the opposition failed to make a clear and cohesive battle plan. Northern and Southern California liberals were divided as to how to attack the initiative. One side wanted to mend affirmative action and get their own initiative on the ballot to soften the blow. Other more radical groups refused to change affirmative action at all. The women's groups, minority groups and the Democratic Party could not agree. The Democratic Party wanted to avoid the issue all together because it could have split the party and they could have lost the election. This point drives home that initiatives will pass if the interest group involved is well-organized, has a lot of money and is able to market their idea to a central audience or as Chavez puts it, LEAVING CENTRAL QUESTIONS OF SOCIAL POLICY UP TO A POPULAR VOTE IS NONSENSE.
The CCRI initiative (Proposition 209) had many long-term ramifications. First, Proposition 209 played a role in the 1996 Presidential Race. Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole only mentioned it when he thought he had a receptive audience and General Colin Powell (a possible running mate at the time) was pro-affirmative action. Clinton stayed with the old-standby MEND IT, DON'T END IT reply. While the Democrats won the presidential race, Congress was taken over by Republicans. According to Chavez, though, in the long run this Republican support of such an initiative cost them women and minority votes in later elections. Recent statistics differ on the impact of Proposition 209 on minority enrollment on the US campuses. UC boasts that it now enrolls more minority students than ever thanks to a program that admits the top 10f students from all California high schools. Enrollment may have dropped at the more prestigious campuses, but they are all relatively prestigious campuses. Other statistics find that more minorities are enrolled because the UC system has admitted more students overall in recent years, and the real change in minority enrollment since 1996 is lower.
There were four main problems with the book itself. First, the title of this book shows how disorganized the opposition was; THE COLOR BIND leads the reader to believe that affirmative action is all about race. The fact is that many affirmative action programs include women, too. Some of the leading opponents of Proposition 209 were women's groups. Second, the author failed to define affirmative action or to get either side to define affirmative action, so it still leaves the reader to rely on a popular notion of what it is. Which was a main point of the author's: people voting on this do not clearly understand the implications because they are tricked by the wording of the initiative and because politicians are playing on the irrational fears of white males. The reader expects to find a book chronicling racial tension, but this does not happen. The third problem with this book is that it does not address how Proposition 209 affected the California State University system. Would more minorities and women now seek admission there? Lastly, even though the author claims she is merely following the political process of an initiative, she is clearly biased through the book on the side of affirmative action. Since, the reader expects to read about racial tension and instead finds the book to be a long and winding road to putting initiatives on ballots, this book is recommended solely for political strategy and public policy students. ·
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|Date:||Tue, 11 Apr 2000 12:31:00 -0500|
|Subject:||Color Bild Review|
Lydia Chavez’s book Color Blind gives a detailed account of the events leading up to California’s Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in the state. Color Blind does not defend the merits of affirmative action, nor does it support the opposing position. Color Blind does however give a great deal of insight into the political process and the interest groups and public figures that influence the process.
Chavez believes that California’s Proposition 187, which banned non-emergency health care and education for undocumented immigrants was the first step towards ending affirmative action. Not only was proposition 187 passed, but also it gave a boost in popularity to Republican Governor Pete Wilson. In the early 1990’s California was suffering from economic troubles. Blaming the undocumented workers for using up the taxpayers money proved to be a convenient scapegoat for California’s economic troubles. In a chapter called “Hitting a nerve: The Angry White Males of 1984” Chavez explains how the victory of Proposition 187 showed politicians that race issues could be effectively used as “wedge issues” in elections. Chavez states, “He was only running for governor in 1994, but Pete Wilson’s stance on immigration transformed him into a national figure with presidential prospects. More important, Wilson had demonstrated with Proposition 187 that California was a fertile political ground for racial wedge issues-issues that could split white males from the Democrats and send them to the Republican Party.”(Chavez p.39). The success of Proposition 187 as a wedge issue opened the door for Proposition 209. The concern over the issue of affirmative action and the threat of the voting power of the “angry white male” became a great concern in the 1996 presidential election.
Throughout the political careers of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, both had been strong supporters of affirmative action. However, the popularity of Proposition 209 caused both candidates to reexamine their positions. Chavez writes;
“In early March, President Clinton, not yet finished with his review of affirmative action, held a forty-five-minute press conference and suggested that it might make more sense to base affirmative action on economic need rather than race. This was a historic moment. For the first time in three decades, a Democratic president was suggesting that taking race and gender into account in hiring and employment was outdated.”(Chavez p.51).
This statement angered many Liberal Democrats. According to Chavez, Clinton was in a difficult position of trying not to alienating the moderates in the Democratic party, who wanted to end or at least change affirmative action, and trying to please the liberal Democrats. As a result of this, the conclusion to his review on affirmative action was to “mend it, not end it.” Republican candidate Bob Dole had a similar problem. He had previously supported affirmative action, yet his party seemed to favor ending the programs, especially in the politically important state of California. Dole had argued against ending federal affirmative action programs during both the Reagan and Bush administration. But in 1995, he changed his position. Dole stated in a Senate meeting, “Race-preferential policies, no matter how well intentioned, demean individual accomplishment.”(Dole in Chavez p.151). Dole then backed ending federal affirmative action programs and publicly supported the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).
The issue of affirmative action and Proposition 209 went from being a controversial state proposal to the forefront of national politics. It was such a hot topic that the two presidential candidates changed or modified their stance on the issue to please their parties and try not alienate the white male voters. California’s passing of proposition 187 proved that the angry white males were a powerful voting block in California, and California is an important state to win in presidential elections.
CCRI was drafted by two academics in California, Glynn Custred and Thomas E. Wood. Custred and Wood are described by Chavez as the quintessential “angry white men” that favored ending affirmative action. Chavez describes Wood’s interest in ending affirmative action as having been the result of an unsuccessful job search. Wood claimed that he had lost out on a position at San Francisco State University because the University needed to fill a quota. Wood alleges that he was told by a friend at the university, “Well, Tom, it sounds to me as though you would just waltz into this job if you were the right gender.”(Chavez p.13).
Wood viewed this as discrimination against him, and therefore a violation of the of the Fourteenth Amendment. He found further evidence to support his opinion in the 1978 Supreme Court ruling on the Bakke case. The court ruled in favor of a white male medical student who was denied admission to The University of California, which had an affirmative action program that included setting aside sixteen slots for minority students. The court ruled that the set asides were in fact unconstitutional, however, race may be a consideration in admissions. Chavez explains Justice Powell’s “opinion of the court”, “Powell, however, agreed with and underscored the argument that the university’s goal of creating a diverse student body was clearly a ‘constitutionally permissible goal.’ Offering the Harvard College program as a model, Powell said that ‘race or ethnic distinctions may be deemed a ‘plus’ in a particular file, yet it does not insulate the individual from comparison with all other candidates from the available seats.” (Chavez p.15). Wood soon went on to meet Custred, a professor at Hayward University. Chavez describes Custred as disliking the cultural diversity, which was being implemented into his university. As an Anthropologist, Custred believed that diversity leads to problems. The two men had similar goals and thus together wrote proposition 209.
Those who supported CCRI basically held two views, first like Wood, some believed that affirmative action was simply another form of discrimination. The other view was that affirmative action was actually harmful to the minorities that benefited from the programs, Bob Dole voiced this view during his campaign, and in California, prominent black businessman and politician Ward Connerly supported the view. Connerly became an ally in the CCRI fight. He told stories of his difficult childhood and how he never needed to use affirmative action to gain success. He held that it was insulting to minorities that the state believed that they needed it’s help to pull themselves up. Many of his stories of hardship however turned out to be exaggerated or even false, which damaged his credibility. Still he was a very good speaker and an intelligent man, who did a great deal in aiding Proposition 209.
Proposition 209 brought out many controversial supporters on both sides. By supporting or not supporting Proposition 209, many of these supporters actually ended up hurting their side. For example Jesse Jackson was very vocal and actively opposed the proposition. Chavez believes that in the past, association with Jackson is dangerous for a politician’s career. Chavez writes, “Republican candidates had long tainted challengers by linking them to Jackson, an icon of black, radical liberalism.”(Chavez p.59). Clinton none the less still sided with Jackson and against ending affirmative action. “Now it was Wilson, the moderate, pro-choice governor of California, and the black moderate Connerly against Clinton and the radical Jackson.”(Chavez p.60). While the association was not enough to keep Clinton from being reelected as president, it still was helpful in passing Proposition 209. Jackson was a tool for the Republicans that were trying to make affirmative action a wedge issue. The feminist Majority and The National Organization for Woman (NOW) also opposed Proposition 209. NOW made commercials that seemed to take an extremist view and again did more to alienate the voters. Also Chavez believes that the support of these and other feminist organizations was not helpful because they did too little too late.
The Republicans also had some supporters who could have hurt their side. Among them were David Duke and Pat Buchanan. Duke was present at a debate on Proposition 209, a move that ultimately did not hurt the proposition as much as those who had opposed the proposition had hoped. Dukes presence was intended to show that the proposition was racist and that anything supported by Duke could not be in California’s best interest. Chavez quotes writer Dan Walters on the damage that was caused by Duke’s presence, “Wilson and Connerly come of seeming reasonable and sympathetic. The legitimate opponents of Proposition 209 look bad, meanwhile, because they refused to join Wilson and Connerly in denouncing the invitation to Duke, and while denying any involvement in bringing Duke to Northridge, clearly hoped that it would help them with their uphill campaign against the measure by equating Wilson and Connerly with Duke." (Chavez 203).
In Color Blind, Lydia Chavez does an excellent job of illustrating the politics involved in the success of Proposition 209. Chavez gives a detailed history that shows how the most culturally diverse state became the first and only state to end affirmative action. Color Blind gives a detailed analysis of how interest groups and politicians interact with each other and the effects that the have on the voting public. Chavez may not have been completely unbiased, however she still presented the strengths and weaknesses of both sides in the fight for Proposition 209. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 23 Apr 2001 14:40:45 -0500|
|Subject:||The Color Bind (Amanda Moore)|
Reviewed By: Amanda Moore email@example.com
"Governor Hiram Johnson lobbied to include in the California state constitution a voter's right to propose and enact laws by collecting enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot" (Chavez, 17). In "The Color Bind," which follows California Proposition 209 --the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) --from conception to passage, author Lydia Chavez, Associate Professor in the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkley, writes that "what Johnson had long ago failed to foresee was that few initiatives make it into the ballot without the help of paid signature gatherers and the money of special interest groups" (17).
These words accent one of the author's central purposes for writing her book, namely that the initiative process in California is neither participatory nor democratic, rather that it is firmly established as a process based solely upon money. Chavez also examines several other themes which will be addressed subsequently. However, before delving more deeply into these issues, it is important to note the most significant historical details reported in her study of Proposition 209. In an interview with "California Monthly," Chavez reported that she "modeled the 'Color Bind' on Theodore White's political classic 'The Making of the President 1960,' starting her story years before the culminating election and following the campaign every step of the way" (Rodarmor, 2). Although certainly not as lengthy as White's work, "The Color Bind" is extremely detailed to the point where the reader must be vigilant to maintain the larger picture without becoming entangled in the minutia. Certain details are extremely important, however, in order to develop the reader's background sufficiently to deal with the larger themes.
Chavez thus focused on the following details of the process whereby Proposition 209 was ultimately enacted: the proposition authors and their backgrounds; Proposition 187 which was a political forerunner to 209; the language of the proposition; California Governor Pete Wilson's role in the process; Ward Connerly's role; funding; Clinton and Dole, the 1996 Presidential candidates; and the opposition.
Chavez' insight into the authors' backgrounds and their impetus for writing the CCRI is extremely interesting. Proposition 209 was authored by Thomas E. Wood and Glynn Custred, both academics from the San Francisco area. Chavez points out that Custred had witnessed firsthand the tremendous changes and upheaval on college campuses during his career, while Wood had witnessed said change as an outsider. Custred became increasingly disturbed by changes in faculty policies, course designs, and tenure/retirement issues relative to affirmative action. Wood continued making application for various university faculty positions to no avail. Both Wood and Custred began a period of study and research, believing that the changes in policies as well as the scarcity of academic positions were due in large part to affirmative action. By 1991, Wood and Custred had met, the two forming an association that would ultimately lead to their co-authoring Proposition 209.
Chavez also detailed the importance of an earlier ballot initiative, Proposition 187, which outlawed non-emergency medical treatment for illegal immigrants. In this discussion, she introduced her readers to the concept of "angry white males" which 187 had engendered. The idea that hard-working American citizens either had to pay for, work for, or do without medical care while illegal non-citizens were receiving such services at no cost particularly angered California white males. This issue was so divisive that it in fact drew many of them away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican fold, with their support, in large part, producing the victory for 187. Summarizing this issue, Chavez says, "they watched as Proposition 187 began to gather momentum. Ultimately, it became the defining issue of the 1994 elections and cut the electoral path for CCRI" (Chavez, 34).
A third component of the successful outcome of Proposition 209 was the masterful language with which it was written. Proposition 209, was placed on the 1996 ballot, where the key portion of the initiative read:
"Neither the State of California nor any of its political subdivisions or agents shall use race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as a criterion for either discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group in the operation of the State's system of public employment, public education, or public contracting" (Chavez, 20).
Affirmative action is undeniably the central concept argued in Proposition 209; however, it is also among the most interesting parts of this debate because the words affirmative action do not appear anywhere in the text of the proposition. In "The Color Bind," Lydia Chavez explains: "Custred and Wood frequently talked about CCRI's impact on affirmative action; it was explicitly designed to end affirmative action programs upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. But polls showed that voters tended to support affirmative action by a slim margin while they abhorred 'preferences.' To take advantage of the powerful emotional reaction against the latter, Custred and Wood wrote an initiative to end race and gender preferences and omitted any reference to affirmative action" (245).
Another element in the successful outcome of Proposition 209 was the support of Governor Pete Wilson. Chavez offers a myriad of details concerning his interest in, attachment to, and support of the CCRI. Interestingly enough, both when Wilson had served as a United States Senator and as a California state legislator, he had strongly supported affirmative action. However, considering a run for the Presidency, he quickly realized the political benefit in advocating the Proposition, thereby garnering white male support and a subsequent jump in the presidential polls. Thus, the effect of Wilson's involvement, effected several very significant elements in the final outcome -- the issue became a partisan rather than non-partisan issue; Wilson's advocacy meant tremendous financial support flowed into the CCRI; and finally, his association with Ward Connerly led to Connerly's serving as public point-man for the initiative, a masterful appointment.
Wilson's association with Ward Connerly began in 1965, when Wilson was chair of the California Assembly Committee on Urban Affairs and Housing, and, hearing about Connerly from others, met him and persuaded him to become the Committee's chief consultant. Thus, Wilson's alliance with and appreciation for Connerly had begun nearly thirty years previous to the CCRI issue, and once again he used his powers of persuasion to urge Connerly to chair of the California Civil Rights Initiative. The details of Connerly's impact could also be voluminous, but three salient points are sufficient. First, Connerly is black. Second, through a serious of events and professional achievements, he became a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California. Third, Connerly's belief system regarding affirmative action was critical: "If you take people at face value, race is irrelevant…The truth is that preferences…are not just reverse discrimination, they're degrading to the people who accept them. They've got to go" (Gurnsey, 105). His background, beliefs, and race made him the ideal choice to lead the campaign for Proposition 209.
Tied closely and inseparably to Wilson and Connerly, was the resultant funding which their support and involvement produced. Chavez' discussion of this issue, central to the passage of CCRI is detailed and protracted; however, suffice it to say that their control of and relationship to the state's most abundant "purse strings" ultimately was the key to the success of CCRI.
As powerful and significant as Pete Wilson's involvement with CCRI was, it might have then been logically expected that with 1996 being a presidential election year, the CCRI could have received either tremendous assistance or damage from the presidential candidates, Clinton and Dole. Both Clinton and Dole feared the issue as a "hot potato" which could easily cause the loss of California in their electoral column. Thus, to the benefit of Proposition 209, their influence turned out to be minimal, allowing the initiative to move forward with its own tremendous momentum, resulting from financing, language, and appeal to white males in particular.
A final element --important, but falling short in the final analysis-- was the opposition to 209. Feminist groups as well as groups founded to champion minority causes formed the core of the opposition to the CCRI. There were several reasons for their ultimate lack of effectiveness. They were never able to generate enough funding; they disagreed upon the best approach to combat the CCRI (an alternate proposition versus hitting the CCRI head on with an all-out attack); they were unsuccessful in their effort to insert the actual words 'affirmative action' into the language of the proposition; their voter base was difficult to educate as well as to register and vote; and the appeal that Bill Clinton's support might have engendered, never materialized.
Having condensed and reviewed the most significant facts presented by Chavez, it is essential to examine her major purposes in order for this review to be complete. I believe that Chavez wrote "The Color Bind" for three reasons. She wished to report the behind-the-scenes story of Proposition 209 from beginning to end; to reveal what she considers the failure of the system of changing or enacting laws by placing initiatives on the ballot; and to make her own veiled statement in support of affirmative action.
Regarding her wish to record the history of the proposition, Chavez says, "I hesitated to get involved in the story, because I was a beneficiary of affirmative action myself" (Rodarmor, 2). However, Tom Goldstein, the Dean of the School of Journalism at Berkeley, where she was on the faculty "hinted that writing a book might help her win tenure, so Chavez grabbed her notebook and hit the campaign trail" (2). It should in fact be noted that Chavez did win tenure in 1997.
Chavez' second purpose was to reveal the failure of the initiative system. She finds the root of that failure in money. Chavez believes that a system that was designed to offer common citizens an opportunity to gather signatures, place an initiative on the ballot, and perhaps effect dramatic change has degenerated into a quagmire of political influence and big money. She writes, "the folks who buttonhole you at the local supermarket probably aren't your friends or neighbors. They earn 50 cents or a dollar for each signature; many travel the initiative circuit from state to state, like migrant strawberry pickers" (Rodarmor, 3). Chavez summarizes her assessment of the current state of ballot initiatives saying, "In short, anyone with a million dollars to pay for the signatures necessary to put an initiative on the ballot can attempt to enact laws or change a state constitution" (Chavez, 245).
Finally, I wish to challenge Chavez' claim to impartiality in writing "The Color Bind." Although she states categorically that, "there are many books that argue for or against affirmative action…. this is not one of them," (Chavez, xiii), an undercurrent of resentment toward the passage of the Proposition, toward the authors, toward the Chairman of the Proposition campaign, and toward the opponents of affirmative action does appear to flow through the book. She was a beneficiary of affirmative action, she believes that the initiative system has degenerated into a format which would be unrecognizable to it's founders, and I believe that she wrote "The Color Bind" as an exposé to illuminate and perhaps change the current condition of initiatives. Is this an attack against Chavez? No. I only dispute her stated intent, not her motives. "The Color Bind" offers an superior and detailed study of an issue that needs to be examined, and Chavez has done a masterful job.
Chavez, Lydia. "The Color Bind". (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1998).
Guernsey, JoAnn Bren, "Affirmative Action." (Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1997).
Rodarmor, William. "Manufacturing Consent: Inside the 209 Campaign." CALIFORNIA MONTHLY. April, 1998, Vol. 108, No. 5.
Amanda Moore firstname.lastname@example.org
|Date:||Wed, 25 Apr 2001 01:04:55 -0500|
|From:||Jessica Claire Pearch|
|Subject:||The Color Bind (Jessica Pearch)|
Reviewed by: Jessica Pearch (email@example.com)
Frustrated and upset by the discrimination they faced as white men, Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood decided to act. Custred, an anthropology professor at California State University, Hayward, was troubled by the happenings at his and several other universities. On Custred's own campus, a movement of multiculturalism began. It efforts lead to new policies on the hiring and tenure of minority faculty members. As a result, Custred began developing arguments against affirmative action. He began to think about creating an initiative that would end discrimination against white men. His idea became a reality when he met Thomas Wood, another San Francisco area academic. Despite holding a Ph.D. from Berkeley, Wood had great difficulty finding a full time position in academia. Together, the two teamed up to write the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), an initiative that promised to "end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education" (2).
Lydia Chavez, in The Color Bind, uses her journalism background to chronicle the California Civil Rights Initiative, from its conception through its growth into Proposition 209 to its ultimate passing. Desiring to be impartial, Chavez presents both the campaign for the initiative and the campaign against it. However, Chavez prefaces The Color Bind by stating that her enrollment in prestigious universities and employment at highly respected newspapers "all were assisted either directly by affirmative action programs or indirectly by the receptivity toward minorities and women that those programs fostered" (xiii). Essentially, Chavez begins her coverage of the events by telling the reader her position on them. Throughout The Color Bind, Chavez's coverage of the opposition to Proposition 209's cause seems more favorable. Although she points out the flaws in the opposition's campaign and its leaders, those involved in the opposition do not undergo the same scrutiny and criticism as do the CCRI's co-authors and spokesman, Ward Connerly.
The book's full title, The Color Bind: California's Battle to End Affirmative Action, is somewhat misleading. While the title suggests racial issues will be at the forefront of Proposition 209's campaign, for most of Chavez's coverage, race played a secondary role to gender. Chavez notes that since "California doesn't have enough minority voters to defeat any statewide initiative, it seemed logical [for the opposition] to pursue a larger group of voters - women - who had benefited from affirmative action" (250). White women, in particular, are the greatest benefactors of affirmative action programs, according to Chavez. Therefore, it seems that women have the most to lose from the passing of Proposition 209. However, if the affirmative action programs stay in place, the white husbands and sons of these women must struggle to find work. This seems to be more of the bind indicated in Chavez's coverage of the campaign. Women may not be thought of as the traditional benefactors of affirmative action programs. Yet, women's organizations provided much support to the opposition's campaign. As Katherine Spillar, the national director of the Feminist Majority, argues, "[Women] are impacted by what happens with affirmative action...We should not be treated as an add-on, but as an equal partner in this debate" (239).
Technically, California did not end all affirmative action programs. Polls indicated that affirmative action was not a major concern for the vast majority of voters. Some polls even showed that affirmative action was supported by a slim margin of voters. Consequently, the wording of the California Civil Rights Initiative was revised, with all use of the term "affirmative action" omitted. Therefore, instead of seeking an end to affirmative action, the CCRI and subsequent Proposition 209 sought to end what voters truly disliked, gender and racial preferences. "CCRI," explains its spokesman, Ward Connerly, "is an attack on preferences. It is not an attack on affirmative action. You will not find the words affirmative action in it anywhere" (120). Yet, when asked to name an affirmative action program that does not take into account gender or race, Connerly was unable to do so (xii).
Chavez does not seem to attribute the successful passage of Proposition 209 to the stellar campaigning of its proponents. Rather, she portrays it as a series of missed opportunities by the opposition. These lost opportunities were largely due to differences in the monetary resources available to each party. This difference in funding, in Chavez's estimation, may be the main reason the opposition failed to defeat CCRI, especially during its early stages.
In order to get CCRI on the ballot, 693,320 signatures were needed (70). This would be a costly process for a campaign consistently plagued with issues of insolvency. By October 1995, the CCRI campaign was again in a desperate financial situation. Around this time, polls showed some disparity between voters' views on affirmative action and on CCRI. Although one poll showed that 41 percent of voters favored affirmative action, 77 percent of voters would choose to support CCRI, a measure that effectively eliminates affirmative action programs (104).
At this time, CCRI's opposition should have chosen from one of two options. They could have started an educational campaign that informed voters of the true consequences of CCRI. Another option was to propose an alternative measure to CCRI, one that did not mean the end of affirmative action, but rather the mending of it. "If an alternative measure that contains some significant affirmative action reforms were placed on the ballot at the same time as CCRI," wrote Sacramento pollster Jim Moore in a memo to the opposition, "the public opinion debate would be framed as a choice between two measures--one that reforms AA and the other that eliminates it" (104). Lacking the appropriate resources to make either plan come to fruition, the opposition lost a valuable opportunity to strike down the California Civil Rights Initiative before it even made it on the ballot. Along with the inaction of the opposition, the CCRI's campaign met with seemingly guaranteed success when it received the backing and funds of the Republican Party and California Governor Pete Wilson. The necessary financial support seemed to ensure that the CCRI would collect enough signatures to be put on the ballot. As Chavez notes, "once the initiative made it onto the ballot, the cost of a campaign to defeat it and the odds of it winning rose astronomically" (250).
In the final weeks and days of the campaign advertisements both for and against Proposition 209 became prominent. Chavez provides the transcripts of several of the radio and television advertisements that were broadcast on both sides of the proposition. One of the clever advertisements used by the CCRI campaign featured the initiative's spokesman, Ward Connerly. In it Connerly, an African American man, discusses how Proposition 209 will end discrimination and preferential treatment for men and women of every race. The advertisement closes with a female voice asking the listener to vote for Proposition 209 because it will "bring us together" (188). In using this advertisement, the campaign for Proposition 209 seemed to be asking for support from not only white voters, but also women and minorities. It implied that all groups could benefit from the passing of Proposition 209. The end of gender and racial preferences would level the playing field and equalize the treatment of all people. The use of an African American man and a woman helps portray the unifying tone of the advertisement, and probably caused some undecided voters to support Proposition 209. The same cannot be said, however, for the tone of the advertisements put out by the opposition.
The financial resources available to Proposition 209's opposition for advertising were minimal. Through their television advertisements they hoped to shock the viewer into not supporting the proposition by showing images of burning crosses and equating proponents of Proposition 209 to such extremists as ex-Klan member David Duke. Another television advertisement put out by the opposition addressed gender concerns. By showing professional women being reduced to strippers, this advertisement hoped to tell women that Proposition 209's passing would seriously limit their employment options. Radio advertisements used celebrity spokespersons to encourage listeners not to support Proposition 209. The advertising campaign of the opposition seemed at best desperate and unpersuasive. Perhaps, rather than spending their resources on uninspired advertising, the opposition would have had more success if they expanded such positive educational campaigns as those carried out by Anthony Thigpen.
Anthony Thigpen began organizing his grassroots educational campaign in early 1996, at a time when he knew that defeating Proposition 209 seemed impossible. His goal was to get seventy-five occasional voters in as many 1,000 precincts throughout the city of Los Angeles to vote on election day and to do so with a full understanding of Proposition 209 (174). Chavez's coverage of Thigpen's efforts demonstrates just how uninformed many of the voters, who will feel Proposition 209's effects most seriously, were about the issue. If the opposition had started similar educational movements throughout the state of California early on in their campaign, it might have been effective enough to pose a serious challenge to or even to kill the California Civil Rights Initiative.
It is still too early to tell the long term effects of Proposition 209, but as Chavez notes, the political battles for minority voters in California will continue on for years. Pointing to Proposition 209's precursor, the decision to end affirmative action in the University of California school system, Chavez suggests that the future of California's minorities is grim. In the years shortly after the decision to end affirmative action programs at the University of California school system, Chavez gives evidence that minority enrollments have significantly decreased at one of the state's prestigious public law schools (254). Will Proposition 209 have the same effect? Only time can tell. ·
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|Date:||Mon, 23 Apr 2001 21:05:48 -0500|
|Subject:||The Color Bind (Matt Bice)|
Throughout the history of the American political landscape, issues of racism and the evidences of oppression have ignited fierce debate. Governmental intervention on the behalf of the ignored is in some minds, a core value of the democratic position. The Color Bind illustrates just how conflicted the American democratic position really is. The case study of proposition of 209, is an example of a competition of interests all allegedly sharing the same goal…equality. On one hand, the legacy of proposition 209 was a positive example of the democratic process. Proposition 209 was evidence that grass roots initiatives can effectuate change, and that peoples votes can be felt. On the other hand, the influences of political agendas and the pull of money are too obvious.
Proposition 209 began in 1994, as an initiative under the auspice of the California's Civil Rights Initiative, or CCRI. The goal of CCRI was the abandonment of preferential treatment based on race or gender in state employment, contracting, or education. CCRI began as a non-partisan effort founded by two college professors, Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood, who opposed the methods of multiculturalism used throughout the state.
The political and social climate that eventually surrounded proposition 209 was first felt earlier, with the passing of Proposition 187. Proposition 187 refused non-emergency healthcare, and education, for undocumented immigrants. The resulting political action was a fierce battle for voting support in the Democratic and Republican parties. Controversial issues in California, such as Proposition 187 and 209, were used as platforms in order to sway opposition's supporting vote. Advocates of CCRI found support with California Governor Pete Wilson, who happened to be a Republican. With partisan support, the debate over what became Proposition 209 was intensified. With Presidential aspirations, Wilson appointed a friendly face in Ward Connerly to lead the campaign. Connerly was an African American, formerly a Regent at the University of California. With Connerly at the lead, Proposition 209 built steam, capitalizing on the "white-male rage" against practices of affirmative action.
Where Chavez falls short throughout her analysis is the clarity of the vocabulary used to explain proposition 209. Throughout the reading, as it was through out the campaign, proposition 209 became a three-headed monster. Was the debate over preferential treatment, or the use of quotas in preferential treatment? Or was it over the issue of "affirmative action," which is a term that has been used to describe each of the above? Even though the issue of semantics became a huge factor in the outcome of proposition 209 Chavez wrote little to address it.
In 1995, public opinion polls showed that a growing number of people supported affirmative action, while at the same time opposing preferential treatment. Political reactions to the polls were just as clouded as the results. Governor Wilson changed his position in supporting proposition 209, and adopted an anti-quota stance, mirroring the attitude of the polls. The Democratic Party avoided the debate over preferential treatment almost completely. Bill Clinton summarized the rationale almost too easily: "mend it, don't end it." That attitude did little to appease the growing number of factions in California battling over proposition 209.
Chavez credits the Democratic Party's lack of contribution, as being one of a couple of variables in proposition 209's success. According to Chavez, a primary reason for the passing of 209 was the division of the proposition's liberal opposition. In what she calls the North/South split, liberal factions became divided on their plan of attack against 209. The northern half of the argument wanted to pursue alternative initiative strategies against preferential treatment, while the south wanted to attack the change head on. The split divided women's rights proponents and civil rights leaders into separate camps, which further weakened the liberal opposition to 209.
I think that it is too easy, however, to blame the success of proposition 209 on a fragmented liberal position. The fight over preferential treatment is in reality a version of the same political arguments. Preferential treatment has its roots in the traditional debates over active versus inactive government, as well as individual freedoms versus the notion of a "common good." Women's rights organizations have historically supported an active government, while clinging to their individual freedoms as women. Other factions of liberals and civil rights organizations want an active government, but search to establish a sense of common good. Once again the issue is semantics, but the difference has kept liberal factions from unifying.
Another reason for proposition 209's success, according to Chavez, was good ole' corruptive capitalism. Evidence of this was in the campaign itself. Political opinion is just as easily swayed by money as it is by public opinion polls. Proposition 209 was surrounded by a vast amount of media propaganda from both sides. T.V. commercials were thrown back and forth, starring celebrities, and featuring condemning challenges. Whether or not the interests of money preceded the interests of political agendas is hard to determine. What is clear was that it took a lot of money to come to what was supposedly a purely democratic conclusion.
Chavez argues that this circus of agendas and campaigning somehow brainwashed the voting populous. The allusion is that the people are misinformed, and only pay attention to headlines and sound bytes, which in turn muddied the democratic process. Which brings up the issue of accountability. Doesn't the public have a right to be dumb or uninformed? Every day you see someone in McDonalds that takes twenty minutes to look at a menu that hasn't changed in fifteen years, how is that the product of corruption?
I think that the issue of affirmative action, or preferential treatment, or whatever, will continue to exist until one of either two things happen. One chance is that all nerves are severed, and nobody cares anymore. Another is that a clear objective is established and agreed upon by everybody. I think the main point that I carried away from The Color Bind, was that it seems that one is just as likely as the other. ·
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|Date:||Tue, 24 Apr 2001 00:40:16 -0500|
|From:||Melissa Ann Lynott
|Subject:||The Color Bind (Melissa Lynott)|
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the section on equal employment opportunity, says: "It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" (Chavez, 12). Yet, despite this federal law, affirmative action policies run rampant in both state and federal governments. No one really knows what affirmative action actually consists of or has a real definition of the phrase. People simply know affirmative action by the phrases that have been associated with the concept, such as quotas. Some people are even under the impression that affirmative action policies must necessarily include quotas by definition, yet this is not the case.
Lydia Chavez begins The Color Bind by pointing out exactly how difficult it is to define affirmative action. She then begins to tell the history of one attempt to put an end to affirmative action. The Color Bind focuses on Proposition 209, which has been said to be California's battle to end affirmative action policies. However, this in itself is a wrong statement. Proposition 209 began as CCRI, or the California Civil Rights Initiative. CCRI was started by two ordinary citizens of the state of California. Glynn Custred was a teacher at Hayward State University and was upset with the new strategies of multiculturalism at his university. Custred was an Anthropology teacher who disliked the cultural diversity brought about by multiculturalism because he felt that diversity only leads to problems. Custred also argued that affirmative action policies were in direct conflict with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Based on the actual wording of Title VII, Custred believed that the Act actually prohibited affirmative action. In his mind, taking gender or race into account violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and he therefore wanted to write an initiative that would end programs that were viewed as discriminatory against white males and others who were not considered part of the underrepresented minority.
Thomas Wood, on the other hand, was also a teacher, but his desire to end affirmative action came from the fact that he could not find a full-time teaching position. Wood felt that his unsuccessful job search was a direct result of affirmative action policies that were in place at San Francisco State University. Wood even alleged that a friend at the university once said to him, "Well, Tom, it sounds to me as though you would just waltz into this job if you were the right gender" (13). This statement angered Wood enough that he began to feel strongly about ending affirmative action policies. Wood gained further support of his opinion by the 1978 Supreme Court ruling in the Bakke case. This case ruled in favor of a white male medical student who was denied admission to the University of California because of a program that set aside sixteen seats for minority students. The court ruled that such quotas were unconstitutional, but that it was okay for race to be taken into consideration in admissions.
It was only a matter of time before Custred and Wood joined forces to lead the campaign for ending affirmative action. Chavez gives a detailed history of how the initiative began and reports that it was a non-partisan campaign in the beginning. She also tells of the many political processes and political figures that were involved in the campaign for what came to be known as Proposition 209. Custred and Wood knew that most American voters were for affirmative action, but were against quotas and preferential treatment. Based on these facts, Custred and Wood were very careful when they were drafting the actual initiative. They did not focus on affirmative action, but instead focused on "preferential treatment" based on race and gender. Moreover, they were careful not to address other preferences such as those for military service, disability, or socioeconomic status. The initiative read: "Neither the State of California nor any of its political subdivisions or agents shall use race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as a criterion for either discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group in the operation of the State's system of public employment, public education, or public contracting" (20). It is important to point out here that both the exclusion of religion and the inclusion of gender in the initiative played a major role in it passing in the election.
Chavez traces the support that the initiative received and especially how it gained the financial support that was necessary to even get the initiative on the ballot. In 1992, it cost about a million dollars to put an initiative on the ballot (17). Neither Custred nor Wood had that sort of financial backing and eventually the initiative took on a partisan role. Eventually, Proposition 209 does in California, putting an end to all "preferential treatment" in public entities, but it did nothing for private industries or private educational institutions.
One of the main points that Chavez makes is that Proposition 209 didn't pass so much because the voters agreed with it, but more that the opposition failed to meet its goal of stopping Proposition 209. One reason she points out for this failure, it the simple use of semantics. Pete Wilson is a prime example of this. AS a U.S. Senator and state legislator, Pete Wilson had supported affirmative action, but he somewhat changed his beliefs when he was running for Governor of California. Wilson changed his views to match what the polls had been showing. The polls said that most Americans were still in favor or affirmative action, but that they were strongly against quotas. Wilson took advantage of semantics by running campaign advertisements that stated his opposition to quotas, but at the same time he was still in favor of affirmative action.
However, the main reason Chavez points out for the failure of the opposition to Proposition 209 was the fragmentation of the opposition groups. Chavez points first points out a split between northern and southern California. Eva Patterson and the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights led the northern opposition, while the southern opposition was led by Katherine Spillar and the Feminist Majority. The northern opposition advocated an alternative initiative strategy without a quotas initiative. The southern opposition, on the other hand, advocated a direct approach to getting rid of the proposition. The south might have had the right approach, but they lacked the political backing to get the job done.
The opposition to Proposition 209 was divided into three main groups. The first group was the civil rights leaders who wanted to save affirmative action as a way of righting the wrongs of the past. The second group was the Democratic Party, which was trying to find a way to win the next election and needed an issue that would gain some support. And the third, and perhaps most significant, group was the women's rights leaders. Chavez argues that women are the one's who had gained the most from affirmative action and thus that they had they most to lose from Proposition 209. Chavez argues that women are the largest overall minority, but that they have made great strides towards equality in this country. It is for these reasons that I feel that the biggest mistake of the anti-209 campaign was stressing the impact that the proposition would have on women. By focusing on the gender issue so intensely, the opposition let what might have been more successful strategies pass them by. While women have made great advances in our society, I do not necessarily feel that this success was due to affirmative action or that the gains would not have occurred without affirmative action. Chavez made it clear that the opposition simply did not muster up enough money, cohesion, and support to defeat Proposition 209 and that is the reason that it passed, not because proponents necessarily did a good job of advocating the proposition.
The strongest criticism that I can make of this book has to do with Chavez's objectivity. In the beginning of the book, Chavez states that the book is a straight history of the facts behind Proposition 209. She even states that she only wants to understand why an important part of the civil rights movement became unpopular and politically vulnerable and to trace the history of a grass roots initiative. However, at the same time, she clearly told a story which was tainted with her own opinions and agendas. She tells the readers at the beginning of the book that her "enrollment at University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, and her employment at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, and the Graduate School of Journalism at the University or California, Berkeley, all were assisted either directly by affirmative action programs or indirectly by the receptivity toward minorities and women that those programs fostered' (xiii). Now, how could someone who had benefited so much from a policy try to write an objective account of a proposition designed to end those very types of policies? It simply isn't possible and it was very clear when reading this account, that Chavez was in favor of affirmative action and was disappointed in the failure to oppose Proposition 209.
But perhaps the bigger question, beyond affirmative action, that is raised by this book is the issue of referendums. California is still one of the few states that allows for citizen led referendums to be placed on the election ballot. I feel that ballot initiatives and referendums are a great way to get citizens involved in the political process. It also gives citizens a chance to bring up important issues that politicians often try to avoid because they are too "touchy." And although Chavez rights her whole book trying to convince the readers that the initiative process is plagued by special interest, corrupt politicians who are only involved to serve themselves, and the necessity of a large amount of money, I still feel that the idea behind initiatives is a good one. While the campaign for Proposition 209 was somewhat driven by special interest groups, power-hungry politicians, and various sources of money, it is important to remember that it was started by two, nonpartisan, ordinary, citizens. And this is perhaps the more important concept to come away with after reading this book. I feel that more states should allow for ballot initiatives such as California does because they give the citizens more of a chance of bringing about changes in more controversial topics than they might expect from politicians.
|Illinois State University|
|Normal, Illinois 61761|
|Date:||Wed, 02 May 2001 16:50:21 -0500|
|From:||Kimberly Ann Ida
|Subject:||The Color Blind (Kim Ida)|
Affirmative Action began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this Act was Title VII which dealt with employment. Title VII, which is the section on equal employment opportunity, says: "It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer 1. To fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin"
Title VII therefore, prohibits any use of discrimination in order to receive or give a person a job or place in education. Title VII has not been upheld by many places of employment or education. It is for this reason that many people have began to debate Affirmative Action, saying that it is unfair and gives preferential treatment. This was not the intent of Affirmative Action.
Many people and places have began to do a way with Affirmative Action practices. The Color Blind, by Lydia Chavez, retells the history of a plan to get rid of Affirmative Action. Chavez tells the history of California and Proposition 209, from a political standpoint. It begins with two men, Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood, who were unhappy with the effects of Affirmative Action. Wood and Custred were the two people who gave birth to proposition 209. They also headed the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), that worked for Proposition 209.
Proposition 209 was basically a derivative of Proposition 187, which dealt with the denial of health and education benefits to illegal immigrants. In 1994 the CCRI was begun to "end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education."
The Color Blind follows the path that Custred and Wood drew on the way to ending Affirmative Action and enacting Proposition 209. On the path many other people come into play like governor Wilson and Ward Connerly, who became the spokesperson for 209. On the side against Proposition 209 were people like .
Chavez tells of the struggle on the political realm of Democrats and Republicans. There are also, many interest groups, who become involved with the issue at hand. Chavez shows each groups views, actions, and struggles that they go through to persuade the public to embrace Proposition 209, or to throw it away.
Chavez's main point is just this, the struggle in which each side had and who was able to persuade the public in a more efficient manner. The Democrats and Feminists went about things in a slow manner and also the wrong manner. The Feminists tried to organize women and get them to take a stand against Proposition 209. But instead of sticking together, the actions that occured made north and south California be divided on the issue. Chavez also shows how dirty politics can be, especially when election time comes around and there is a very controversial issue at hand. Both sides used the media to make statements about Proposition 209, which were done in a dirty manner and most were untrue.
Chavez also showed how Bill Clinton and Al Gore got introduced to the issue of Proposition 209, seeing as at the time was the Presidential election. Both men tried to avoid the issue as much as possible. Needless to say, Proposition 209 was passed and after a long struggle and many political tactics on both sides were used.
Chavez did a phenomenal job on retelling the history of this issue, from a political standpoint. She did fail to fully address the real issue of Affirmative Action on a whole. Also, the views of the society should have been taken into account, and not just politicians. The Color Blind, indeed focused mainly on a political struggle. Chavez should have brought the issue to a more real level by interviewing normal people in society and recording their personal views on the whole issue concerning Affirmative Action and Proposition 209.
Chavez recounted things in too much of a history book perspective. She did not offer any of her own views on the issues. I would have liked to know what she felt on the issue of Affirmative Action and if she felt there were any solutions that either of the sides could have brought up. Overall, Chavez did show an insight into how an issue goes through a huge struggle to get enacted, and the politics behind it. ·
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|Date:||Thu, 10 May 2001 11:57:37 -0500|
Chavez, Lydia. The Color Blind., (University of California Press: 1998)
Revied By: Amy A. Weseloh
American political culture is founded upon the ideals of the democratic lawmaking process. Note the use of the word ideal. Ideally the process would include civilized debate of all views no matter how absurd they sound and respect shown to all sides. However, historically the democratic process has invited fierce debates and ugly campaigning. Ultimately the processes can lead to the passing of vague laws that temporarily quell the debate until they are challenged again. Race and discrimination is one of these issues that incite fierce political debate. The passing of the Civil Rights Act, particularly Title VII, was the result of heated debate through activism and progressive campaigning to ensure equality to all citizens.
Title VII sets out standards of nondiscrimination in employment. It states, in part, that "it shall be unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" (Chavez 12). The language of Title VII is vague, however, in that it seems to directly contradict the standards set forth in most affirmative action programs, yet some states have used Title VII as the springboard for allowing reparations for past discriminatory employment practices. In recent years, however, state affirmative action programs have come under increased scrutiny, being charged by some as being just another form of state-sponsored discrimination. The first serious challenge in the courts came with the Bakke case in 1978, in which the Supreme Court upheld the legality of affirmative action programs in principle. With this decision, opponents of affirmative action could no longer fight these programs in principle; the option of removing affirmative action programs via the Supreme Court was too tedious. Instead, they saw removing affirmative action programs on a state-by-state basis as the most promising course of action.
The Color Bind describes the battle over California's Proposition 209, introduced under the auspices of the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). The proposition was started in 1994 as a grassroots campaign by Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood, two California college professors who sought to end preferential treatment on the basis of race and gender for purposes of state employment, contracting, and education. Having failed with their proposition in the state legislature, they turned to the statewide ballot referendum to get it passed. Custred and Wood knew that the majority of California voters were in favor of affirmative action, but were opposed to "preferential treatment" clauses and quotas. As a result, they carefully worded their initiative to make no mention of abolishing affirmative action itself, but only the "preferential treatment" clauses that were the basis of many statewide affirmative action programs.
With the overwhelming white male turnout and the eventual passing of Proposition 187 a few years earlier, which ended all state aid to illegal immigrants, California had recently seen its political pendulum swinging to the right. Riding on the coattails of Proposition 187, and in anticipation of a heated presidential election, proponents of CCRI decided that 1996 would be the year to take Proposition 209 to the polls.
Soon the California Civil Rights Initiative, which had been initiated by two white university professors, became the topic of political conversation throughout the state. By the height of campaigning in 1996, Proposition 209 had become a key partisan issue for political candidates and kicked off a whirlwind public relations effort on both sides of the debate.
Chavez points out in her "objective" case study that the Republicans had a major advantage in the debate from the beginning with the support of Governor Pete Wilson and presidential candidate Bob Dole. Another key player on the Republican front was CCRI spokesperson Ward Connerly, an African-American. Connerly saw himself as the poster child for affirmative action's antiquated necessity.
On the Democratic side, few key political leaders voiced their opposition to Proposition 209 openly. President Bill Clinton was worried he might offend moderate voters in California, and responded to the debate only with the words, "Mend it, don't end it." The opposition, then, to Proposition 209 by the Democratic Party was led by special interest leaders in California, rather than by big-name political leaders. In addition, those who were opposed to Proposition 209 were divided in their opinions of how best to fight it. In Northern California, the case against Proposition 209 was taken up by Eva Patterson and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. They advocated fighting Proposition 209 with an alternative proposition, one that would keep affirmative action programs in place, but that would reform them by eliminating quotas. In the eyes of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the public debate could be framed in terms of a choice between two propositions, rather than letting one proposition appear on the ballot unopposed. The southern California effort against Proposition 209 was led by Katherine Spillar and the Feminist Majority. This group advocated a direct, all-out attack on the proposition head-on. They saw the best option to oppose the proposition in educating the public about what Proposition 209 actually meant for women and other minorities.
Because California did not have enough voters belonging to racial minorities to defeat Proposition 209 on their own, the opposition turned to women's issues as the focus of the anti-209 campaign. Because women had benefited from affirmative action more than any other minority group, Chavez argues, they also had the most to lose should Proposition 209 pass. However, due to the fragmentation in the anti-209 camp, there was little money, cohesion, or political support available to the various groups opposing Proposition 209, and the referendum was passed at the California polls.
Chavez begins the book claiming to present a case study of a grassroots campaign. She wants to present a "book that chronicles an initiative campaign from beginning to end" (Chavez xiv) and even hopes "that this book about a specific initiative campaign will serve as a case study" (Cahavez xiv). She points out that "there are…already many books that argue for or against affirmative action" and claims that her book is not to be counted among them (Chavez xiii). Instead however, Chavez' views in support of affirmative action and her frustrations with the lack of cohesion on the anti-209 side of the debate are readily apparent. Chavez herself admits that she has been the beneficiary of affirmative action programs in placement at educational institutions and in employment.
It is unfortunate that the view presented in this book is so one-sided. Chavez has missed an opportunity to explore the process of citizen-led ballot referenda in general, and in particular to explore the success of Proposition 209, which proved to be a successful grassroots initiative to end a practice that most polls had shown was supported by the majority of voters in California. The main reason for the proposition's success, according to Chavez, was the fragmentation of the opposition. The proposition didn't directly succeed, she maintains, the opposition simply failed to stop it. On the other hand, the pro-209 camp presented a well-crafted public relations campaign that spoke to the voters' strong opposition to quotas, and this is what eventually led to the proposition's success.
|Date:||Mon, 07 May 2001 18:51:55 -0700 (PDT)|
|Subject:||Comments on Kim Ida's review of The Color Bind|
I plead dumb to the history behind Proposition 209, but I do know that it ended affirmative action in California. What I don't know is whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I can understand the arguments on both sides of affirmative action. I understand that it promotes preferential treatment, but I also understand that it promotes diversity. I tend to side with pro-affirmative action because I think diversity is a more compelling argument than preferential treatment. But that's just me. I also understand that affirmative action was not enacted to promote preferential treatment. It was enacted to right the wrongs of the past, and to promote diversity.
I think it's great that Chavez shows how political everything can be because it is so true. Politics drive everything in one way or another. I didn't read her book, but it sounds like she should have included her own views on affirmative action, like Kim said.
On that same note I would have liked to have heard Kim's views of affirmative action in her review. I would have like to have read how she felt about Proposition 209.