THIS upcoming November election, California voters will get to decide whether or not the state should restore affirmative action after a measure was approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, June 24.

The state Senate voted 30-10 to include ACA 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would reverse Proposition 209, a prohibition on affirmative action, and to once again allow public universities to consider race in admissions and the government to prioritize women-owned and people of color-owned businesses when granting contracts.

Voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996 when that measure’s proponents argued for a color-blind approach to opportunity. But the senators that voted in favor of affirmative action say that the ban on the policy has disproportionately slighted women and people of color.

“California’s ban on equal opportunity programs, such as affirmative action, denies women and people of color a level playing field in the workplace and in education,” said California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who authored the measure.

Among the lawmakers endorsing the measure include Black American CA Sens. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who led a two-hour floor debate during which senators of color shared their experiences with institutional racial disparity.

“There’s not enough fingers and toes in this building to count the number of times that me and my colleague from LA have walked into a room and we’re the only one that looks like us,” Bradford said.

The vote was largely divided along party lines and progressive senators believe that the 1996 vote has resulted in failed efforts to establish diversity among college campuses, school staff, recipients of government contracts and police departments.

Previous efforts to reverse the affirmative action prohibition have failed, but proponents of the measure hope that the current climate regarding race in America would lead to the passing of ACA 5.

Several Chinese American groups oppose ACA 5, arguing that it would unfairly discriminate against and establish quotas on Asian American student admission.

Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) shared these sentiments on the Senate floor, calling affirmative action a vehicle for “discrimination” and encouraging the Legislature to explore other ways to ensure students of color are fairly considered in college admissions.

“Let’s work together over the next year on how we can accomplish our goals without using discrimination as the main tool to fight discrimination,” Chang said.

However, the ACA 5 garnered vast support from organizations that serve communities of color like the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, which endorsed it on Monday, June 22, saying that prohibiting affirmative action doesn’t promote color-blindness, “it’s blindness toward structural racism.”

As all ballot measures, ACA 5 only needs a simple majority vote to pass and does not need approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)

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