The state of California is one of the most pluralistic societies in the world. Our people come in all colors, religious beliefs, ethnic backgrounds and other characteristics imaginable. “Diversity” is not just a word in California; it is a reality. I have long felt–and said–that the challenge in California is not to “build diversity” but to manage it so that we are not destroyed by it.
In 1996, the people of California placed into their constitution a ballot initiative that enshrines a policy of non-discrimination and anti-preferential treatment. That initiative was Proposition 209: “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 public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Although the campaign was a very contentious one, the voters approved Proposition 209 by a margin of 55-45. During the campaign, a widely-repeated claim by some of its opponents was that 209 was the dying gasp of a white majority and that someday soon the emerging Latino majority would assert itself and repeal the measure.
Subsequent to the passage of 209, State Senator Ed Hernandez, a respected member of the Latino Caucus, began to pursue the realization of this prophecy.
In the immediate aftermath of the passage of 209, Hernandez introduced legislation in two successive sessions of the Legislature to curtail the effect of 209. On both occasions, Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edmund G. Brown, respectively, vetoed the bills, calling attention to the fact that the voters had already expressed their will about the issue.
As a result of the vetoes, Senator Hernandez introduced a constitutional amendment (SCA 5) that would delete “public education” from the provisions of 209, thereby enabling educational institutions to use whatever factors they choose in the admissions process, and to have a free hand in all other facets of public education. Giving UC admissions officers the freedom to use race and ethnicity would, it was thought, be a sure path to increased Latino admissions, because those officials would be well aware of the legislative intent of SCA 5.
Democrats, who have a supermajority in both houses, control the California Legislature. The Latino Caucus is the dominant force in that institution. For this reason, SCA 5 was easily approved by the Senate and referred to the Assembly, where a similar fate was predicted.
However, before the measure could even be heard in the Assembly, the unexpected occurred: a group of Chinese-Americans began to mobilize and to discuss the likely consequences of SCA 5 to Asian-American students if it passed the Legislature and was approved by the voters. They communicated their concerns and opposition to SCA 5, in forceful term, to Asian-American legislators. Their efforts succeeded in convincing these legislators to alter their position and to also oppose SCA 5.
The opposition of Asian-American legislators deprived Democrats of the requisite 2/3 supermajority in the Assembly. This fact set off a chain reaction that resulted in SCA 5 being sent back to the Senate. Procedurally, this meant the death of SCA 5. It also unleashed a fury of retaliation by the Black Caucus and the Latino Caucus. Included in their activities was the refusal of several members of both caucuses to vote for a noncontroversial measure sponsored by a fellow Democrat, who happened to be an Asian American. Clearly, their conduct was an act of retaliation.
Individual merit is a critical value in American life. To the extent that our nation is an exceptional nation, we owe that fact to the principle of individual merit. It is what defines the American way of life.
The characteristic that seriously threatens the value of merit is the foolish pursuit of “diversity,” which has transformed our nation quite profoundly and is largely erasing one of the most fundamental American values–equal treatment for every individual. Tragically, this is happening with the blessing of the United States Supreme Court.
The “civil war” between the Black and Latino caucuses and the Asian-American legislators illustrates in vivid and profound detail why the pursuit of diversity is foolish, dangerous and contradictory to the most fundamental American value of equal treatment.
Diversity is not the central quality of America. Equal treatment is what guides and informs American culture.
I do not oppose our diversity. My objection is to the pursuit of it, which inevitably results in discrimination.
The law of the land, with regard to civil rights, is a policy of nondiscrimination. Without fully appreciating the consequences, we have allowed the pursuit of diversity to become discrimination. It has overwhelmed our opposition to discrimination. Throughout America, especially on college campuses, the pursuit of diversity is a sacred mission.
While we profess to still believe in nondiscrimination by our government, we are schizophrenic about it. For women and “people of color,” we favor nondiscrimination. On the other hand, with respect to white males, “diversity” is the norm.
In a society such as California, it is flirting with endless social chaos to sanction a policy of discrimination.
SCA 5 legalizes and promotes discrimination. Such a policy is not sustainable is a society such as California. We owe our profound thanks to those Chinese-American activists who derailed SCA 5.