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October, 2003

 The Reality of Proposition 54 Is Bad
   The Proponents of 54 say they want us to move towards a color-blind society.  Well, we all want that - a society in which neither race, ethnicity, gender, nor any other trait determines how we're treated or what opportunities we have.  In reality, this is the last thing that Prop 54 will help us do.
   Prop 54 would hamstring public institutions across the board, making it impossible for state, county, and local agencies to collect or use demographic data that is critical to effective management of government services, including critical services like health care, education, and law enforcement.  Under Prop 54, wherever race or ethnicity is a factor, it would become difficult or impossible to recognize disparities, monitor progress, or tailor efforts towards populations being served.  The result would be less efficient, less effective services, and in some cases, the elimination of programs that have been proven to be effective.  For these reasons, a long list of health care organizations, public officials at every level, and civil rights organizations have denounced the measure - saying it's misguided, counter-productive, and dangerous.
   The implicit logic of Prop 54 is that if we cannot see the challenges presented by the issue of race, then they will go away.  The reality is that the challenges won't go away - we simply won't have the data to identify and address those challenges.

If passed, Prop 54 would:
   Impede public health protections and the elimination of disparities in health care delivery - Health conditions such as breast cancer, heart disease, infant mortality, and AIDS affect individuals differently depending on race or ethnicity. Racial and ethnic groups experience differences in treatment, have different rates of risk behavior, and respond to different methods and messages in important prevention programs ranging from lead poisoning, to teen smoking, to suicide. Although Proposition 54 includes some exemptions for health care data collection, public health prevention resources that are often carefully allocated to specific racial and/or ethnic groups would be severely impacted by Proposition 54. Former US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher states that "[W]ithout that data we could not even begin on a course toward eliminating disparities in health; we would not be able to measure our success or evaluate our objectives toward eliminating disparities. . . ."
   Erode basic civil rights protections-If Proposition 54 is approved, victims of discrimination based on race and ethnicity will not have the data to meet court standards in proving racial discrimination when it comes to state employment, contracting, or housing. However, discrimination complaints on the basis of age, gender, and religion, could continue to be pursued, creating an unfair disparity among victims of discrimination. Further, without data on race and ethnicity in law enforcement, it would be nearly impossible to track and thereby prevent racial profiling in the state.
   Hamper tracking of hate crimes -Proposition 54 would prevent the state attorney general and public agencies from prosecuting and tracking race and ethnicity-based hate crimes and therefore impede efforts to educate against hate. Also, under Proposition 54, the state Department of Justice could no longer require local police to collect data on victims and suspects, important data that can help solve crimes.
    Undermine school accountability-The collection of data and information is the centerpiece of California's Public School Accountability program, as it holds schools to two standards: general improvement, and improvement for students of different races and ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, racial data is a central part of the evaluation process and allows schools to determine the rates at which particular groups are improving so that resources may be targeted for the best overall improvement. Without this measurement data, schools would not be accountable to the goal of advancement and improvement among all students.
   Please help us prevent this divisive, misguided proposition from becoming law and at the same time prevent a dangerous precedent from being set for the rest of our country.
By Wes Boyd and James Rucker
MoveOn.org PAC
 

 

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