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