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This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Friday, October 03, 2008

Is This Dr. King's Dream? -- Colorado 2008 Amendment 46

I constantly complain about initiatives that are written as constitutional amendments but shouldn't be. Well, Amendment 46, the so-called Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, really does address a constitutional issue. So, I have to actually decide this one on its merits.

On the surface, this measure is fairly straightforward. It says that the state can't discriminate in hiring and education based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Sounds pretty good, eh?

Well, if you look deeper, and you understand the goals of the people who wrote it, there's more. The underlying purpose of this amendment is to ban affirmative action.

There are a few exceptions. If your job reasonably requires that the employee be a woman, you can discriminate. (I suppose that would be the strip club exemption.) If there is an existing court order, you can follow it (although there is nothing that says you can follow future court orders.) And affirmative action would still be allowed if it is necessary to get federal funds.

Oh, and it would still be legal to have an affirmative action plan to hire more gays, Catholics, or Republicans.

One of the complaints of the opponents of this one is that it is misleading. Indeed, several folks who signed the petition claim that they were misled into thinking that this initiative was exactly the opposite of what it claims. In fact there are reports that petitioners were specifically targeting black community events and telling potential signers that the measure would support affirmative action.

Well, I certainly don't condone potentially fraudulent petitioning practices. The fact is, between now and the election anybody who cares has ample opportunity to find out what this measure really means (although it would definitely be better if the ballot title actually mentioned that fact that it would end affirmative action.)

It's also been said that the author of this amendment likely benefited from affirmative action himself, and would profit from the passing of this measure.

So, the author may be a hypocrite, his motives may not be pure, some less than forthright techniques were used in putting the measure onto the ballot, and it certainly doesn't ban all discrimination. Is what's left a net good or bad?

Anybody who pays attention would be hard pressed to deny that racial and gender discrimination still occur. Look, for example, at dropout rates, pay equity, and other easily measured factors. So, affirmative action still seems relevant.

I've just mentioned several really bad things about this measure. And yet, I've been struggling with how to vote on it. Because, no matter how disingenuous the supporters may have been, no matter that there are holes in the protection, no matter that discrimination still does occur, it still bothers me that the way to fix that discrimination is with more discrimination.

I wonder if there might not be different ways to attack the problem. For example, invest more in education in lower income areas. Provide scholarships based on income, not race. Perform color-blind interviews. Make sure we are adequately enforcing existing anti-discrimination laws.

I can certainly see giving extra help to people who grow up in the slums, who are in single parent households, who have personally suffered high crime rates, who went to inferior schools, and who have been dragged down by their environment. But isn't it an insult to tell someone they need extra accommodation just because they are a different race or gender?

I'm going to vote YES on Amendment 46.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was originally going to vote no on this, largely because it supposedly was placed on the ballot using deceptive means, as you mention. Affirmative action has many negatives, such as discouraging one from doing his/her best, because they know they have an edge. There are plently of wealthy AA who get into the best schools because their M.D. AA parents are AA. It has outlived its usefulness.

Then I visited the new CU Law School this week. Talk about white bread! Not a single minority student I could see - Latino, Asian, AA. It was creepy. Imagine if there is no affirmative action. The few women would be gone!

Thu Oct 16, 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. Unfortunately, we're just not quite there yet. "ism's" still exist and until we have a better alternative (such as providing help for a better environment earlier), affirmative action is needed.

Mon Oct 27, 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Your comment about investing in low income schools is absolutely spot on! I'm voting yes (rather already voted yes) on 46. Without the distraction of higher-ed preference programs maybe we can get to the difficult work of solving the economic inequity in primary ed,

my take at:

Sun Nov 02, 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous tia said...


My name is Tia and I'm an editor at, the debate website. Since we both cover race issues, I thought I'd drop you a note. I would've e-mailed you but I couldn't find an address.
See, we're currently having a discussion about whether or not we still need affirmative action. You can see it here:
Although vetted experts are the ones doing the debating, anyone can contribute by choosing a side and posting comments about the experts' arguments.
Check it out and, if you have the time, let me know what you think at

Thu Nov 13, 07:49:00 AM  

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