In a wake of controversy that has surrounded Governor Gray Davis, brought on by his opponents in an effort to recall the governor, a separate initiative has also developed controversy and division amongst voters: Proposition 54, introduced by Assemblyman Myrvyn Dymally, D-Compton. Neelam Canto-Lugo, Yuba College speech and communication instructor and Director of Crossing Bridges, held a presentation on campus to address the meaning of Proposition 54. On September 19, to over a hundred and seventy students, a panel of speakers presented differing views on the ballot initiative. Speakers included Dr. J. Mariner, Economic Development; Attorney Jesse Santana, of Beecham and Santana Law Offices; and Mr. Patrick Lane, of the Painters Union. Lane stated, “A lot of people are misinformed and don’t understand the proposition. The basis of the proposition is to say that we have become a color-blind society. The reality is that’s foolishness!” Ward Connerly, author of Proposition 209, which passed in 1996 to eliminate state and local government affirmative action, is currently pushing Proposition 54, according to an Associated Press release. On the ballot this fall, Proposition 54 will, if approved, prevent the state from classifying people by race, ethnicity or national origin in public education, contracting or employment. Lane claimed during the presentation that no one understood the meaning of Prop. 54. He added that the measure will cause racial division. Lane expressed his opposition to Proposition 54 and stated, “54 allows no way to monitor K-12 education-creates racial profiling-police will be given a free hand-this is a measure that will divide us.” Lane continued, “When you vote for 54, you are saying you do not want profiling. What will happen with hate crimes? Do you believe one should be stopped because of color?” A second guest at Yuba College, Dr. J. Mariner, stated, “The initiative (Proposition 54) becomes very blurred. How many people believe that Hispanics or Blacks are a race? People shouldn’t be identified as race.” Attorney Jesse Santana of Beecham and Santana Law offices stated, “This (Proposition 54) is going to the courts and will not stand the test of law.” Professor Canto-Lugo in a interview later stated that many women’s organizations are against Proposition 54 because of several issues: ethnic harassment and discrimination in law enforcement, precondition to particular illnesses in the medical field, fair funding for students’ education and adequate records on the progress and failure of student programs. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state and local governments collect information on race, color, ethnicity, or national origin of their employees and other individuals for various purposes. In most cases, the federal government requires this information to insure compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws (particularly equal employment opportunity laws) and as a condition of receiving various federal funds. For example, state and local government agencies collect race-related information on adopted children and include this information in reports required by the federal government.
In some cases however, state and local agencies collect this information when not required by the federal government. For instance, state government collects race related information on students applying to state universities for admission (whether or not they eventually enroll). This type of information Proposition 54 would make obsolete if passed by California’s voters and upheld by the California Supreme Court. The California Constitution currently allows the collection and use of race related-information. In the area of public employment, public education and public contracting, the Constitution prohibits state and local governments from providing “preferential treatment” based on race, color ethnicity, or national origin. Canto-Lugo was upset by the conduct of some of the students attending the forum. She mentioned in particular four students, one of whom accused the presenters of being too one-sided. However, presenter and attorney Jesse Santana countered, “I am not biased. We are here to present a balanced view.”
Later, in an interview with The Prospector, Santana stated, “I am very impressed with the attentiveness’ of the students.”