California Healthline Rounds Up Recent Coverage of Racial Privacy Initiative
California Healthline today rounds up recent coverage of Proposition 54, also known as the Racial Privacy Initiative, a ballot measure that would prevent California government agencies and schools from collecting racial and ethnic data. University of California Regent Ward Connerly proposed the initiative, which would prohibit local governments from classifying students, contractors or employees by ethnicity, national origin or race. If approved, Proposition 54 would allow exemptions in instances involving some medical research data, convicted criminals or crime suspects and occasions in which the federal government requires racial data (California Healthline, 7/25). Summaries of the articles appear below.
Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week voted 4-1 to take an official position against Proposition 54 (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
New York Times: Despite Proposition 54's exemptions for medical research, federal programs and law enforcement, some say the measure could "make it impossible to track many things, including Latino birthrates and African-American academic achievement," the Times reports. According to Kaiser Permanente, the medical research exemption "is not far-reaching enough," according to the Times. The initiative, which Secretary of State Kevin Shelley (D) ruled must be placed on the governor recall ballot under a state constitutional requirement, could offend minority and liberal voters so deeply that they might "flock to the polls to defeat it," according to the Times. A lawsuit filed last Friday in federal court challenges Shelley's decision to place the initiative on the recall ballot, alleging that by moving up the initiative's initial ballot date from March 2004, there is not adequate time for public debate (Murphy, New York Times, 8/3).
- Ventura County Star: Opponents of Proposition 54 say that the measure would "make it difficult to track economic, education and health trends [and] affect federal funding based on racial statistics," the Star reports. Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund spokesperson J.C. Flores said, "Federal funding is often based on taking statistics. This will prevent doctors from using the data or asking for any racial information." However, Diane Schachterle, initiative coordinator for the American Civil Rights Coalition, said the measure would provide for an exemption in cases where federal funds depend on racial classifications (Moraga, Ventura County Star, 7/30).
Los Angeles Times: "It is easy to condemn discrimination, segregation and racism. It's harder to agree on what practical steps are needed to combat them," James Wilson, professor emeritus at the University of California-Los Angeles, writes in a Times commentary. However, instead of leading to a "colorblind state," the Racial Privacy Initiative has the potential to "aid those who want to continue to obsess about race because, no longer privy to the facts, we would invent them," Wilson continues. He concludes that gathering racial data is "essential" because "[i]f you are a liberal, racial data are important in order to learn about social progress or its lack; if you are a conservative, they are useful to learn whether a national identity is or is not superceding separatist ones" (Wilson, Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
- San Diego Union-Tribune: Health organizations, labor unions, civil rights groups and "a long list of others" say that Proposition 54 "would make it harder to stop exactly the kind of racial discrimination that Connerly's Proposition 209 forbids," columnist Peter Schrag writes in the San Diego Union-Tribune, adding that the measure "confuses cause and effect." Proposition 209 prevents the consideration of race or ethnicity in public education, hiring and contracting (Schrag, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/1).
This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.