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Flourishing In The Belly Of The Beast: A California Response

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.202.1 - 2.202.9



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Paper Authors

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Michael Aldaco

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2570

Flourishing in the Belly of the Beast: A California Response

Michael Aldaco MESA Program/University of California


In November of 1996, 54% of California’s voters passed Proposition 209 which, if found constitutional, will eliminate the consideration of race, ethnicity and gender in state-supported education, employment and contracting. As promised, Proposition 209 advocates are working to bring about the same restrictions in other states through legislation and the initiative process. This paper will be of interest to those who anticipate a challenge to institutional outreach efforts that currently utilize race, ethnicity or gender to any degree in the selection of their participants.

The limited focus of the discussion. Though Proposition 209 was on the ballot only in California, the debate about its merits was national in scope. Each side recognized that a favorable outcome would give it the advantage in the broader national battle to come. The discussion was widespread and, with few exceptions, was focused on three distinct areas:

1. The awarding of business contracts to minority/women owned contractors. Most often explored in this area was whether there should be concern for the awarding of a proportion that was set aside or targeted for such contractors. Proponents of 209 argued that contracts targeted in this way were inherently discriminatory against white males and that total job costs were artificially increased. Opponents argued that without such targeting, minority and women-owned businesses would receive only a small proportion of the already small proportion of work not currently awarded to white males.

2. The consideration of race, ethnicity or gender in the hiring decision. Proponents of 209 argued that such consideration was inherently discriminatory against white males, that employers were forced to hire minorities and women because of quotas imposed upon them, and that unqualified persons were being hired over qualified white males. Opponents argued that in those cases where representation of certain groups of workers was low, race should be given some consideration, but only when the person hired was fully qualified to perform the job.

3. The consideration of race, ethnicity or gender in the decision to admit students to colleges and universities. Proponents argued that admission should be based solely on merit, as defined by grades and test scores, and that “lowering the bar” so as to admit unqualified minorities and women was discriminatory against white males and, in some cases, Asian Americans. Opponents argued that diversity on campus, including racial/ethnic diversity, enriches the educational experience of all students and that the minorities and women that have been admitted, rather than being unqualified, were actually highly qualified.

Aldaco, M. (1997, June), Flourishing In The Belly Of The Beast: A California Response Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6574

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