Trend or Change?

In all the hullabaloo over the California recall, not much attention has been paid by the national media to Proposition 54, which will share the ballot with the recall. Prop 54 would prevent state and local governments from collecting any information on race. The proposition is backed by Ward Connerly and his ilk who believe that we live in a color blind society and that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.

This proposition is incredibly stupid. At the most basic, scientifically unassailable level, research has shown that some medical conditions are related to race due to genetic characteristics of some subgroups — there’s no squishy social science involved. Preventing the state from tracking these medical conditions just to make a political point is not only stupid, but will decrease the state’s ability to serve these populations and might ultimately harm the state’s economy (to the degree that these medical conditions are related to individual productivity).

Even conservatives who think that racial discrimination no longer exists should be able to distinguish between their own political agenda and the real health needs of the population.

Furthermore, the possibility that we might be living in a color-blind society isn’t enough reason to abandon the collection of data on race — how can the advocates of this position hope to prove themselves right without data?!

But setting all that aside, even a quick glance at any social indicator demonstrates that we do not live in a color-blind society. Pretending and wishing that we did isn’t enough, and ignoring the problem won’t solve it.

Prop 54 would eliminate the ability to track the racial gap in education in California. It would make it impossible to prove the presence or absence of employment discrimination. It would allow red-lining, race-based credit checks, racial profiling by police and so on. Without the data collected by governments, proving the presence or absence of discrimination would become next to impossible — consequently, I think Prop 54 would result in an increase in race-based discrimination.

The continued hostility of American conservatives to scientific knowledge is apalling — instead of merely putting their own spin on facts (as Herrnstein & Murray did in The Bell Curve), they are restricting our ability to find facts.

That’s shameful.

I was told by a colleague in California that Connerly plans to take this dangerous proposition to all 50 states — I can’t verify that in any of the news reports I’ve seen, but that possibility scares me. The good news is that support for Prop 54 is falling.

Posted on August 20th, 2003 by Katxena

1 Comment a “Trend or Change?”

  1. acm says:

    you appear to have missed something key in the very link that you provided:

    The proposal would prevent the state from asking the race or national origin of anyone when collecting data about public education, contracting and employment. It includes an exemption for racial data collected for medical purposes.

    (emphasis added)
    I agree with everything else you ranted, but this seems like a fairly large oversight, given your level of outrage …