Leaders urge no vote on Prop. 54

LOS ANGELES – Civil rights leaders and public officials announced their opposition to Proposition 54 at an Aug. 12 press conference on the steps of City Hall here.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn called Prop. 54 “a recipe for disaster.” If passed, Prop. 54 would bar any public agency from keeping records on race and ethnic origin. The initiative will be on California’s Oct. 7 recall ballot.

From health care to ending racial profiling by the police, Prop. 54 would put communities at risk, Hahn said. Prop. 54 would “hinder our attempts to track racial profiling,” which can send the message that racial profiling is acceptable, he said.

Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) said Prop. 54 is an attempt to bring out the right-wing conservative voters in the Oct. 7 recall election.

Prop. 54 is a follow-up measure to Prop. 209, the anti-affirmative action measure or so-called “civil rights initiative” passed in November 1996, which prohibits affirmative action in state government. Prop. 54 is proposed by right-wing University of California Regent Ward Connerly. Connerly, who was appointed by Republican former Gov. Pete Wilson, also led the campaign for Prop. 209.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said Prop. 54 will affect the ability of minorities to seek redress for discrimination in housing or employment. “It will make it impossible to file these complaints,” he said.

Race impacts everyone in the country every day, Bond said. “As long as race counts in America, we will count race in America,” he said, underscoring the proposal would not only have a negative impact on African Americans and Mexican Americans, but also women and seniors.

Los Angeles Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa said Prop. 54 was an attempt to turn back the clock to another era prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other measures to end racial discrimination. Villaraigosa said he had done some checking around since the passage of Prop. 209 and while 27 African-Americans enrolled in law school in Mississippi, there was only one at UC Berkley.

The California attorney general rejected recently Connerly’s attempt to use the misnomer “Racial Privacy Initiative” on the ballot. Prop. 54 will appear as the “Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color or National Origin Initiative.”

Other groups opposing Prop 54 include the American Public Health Association and The Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In a press statement Jonathan Bernstein, director of the ADL’s Central Pacific Region said, “This damaging initiative will reverse the tremendous progress the state has made in tracking hate crimes and providing equal opportunities for all Californians.”

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