THE COLOR BIND by Lydia Chávez


California's Battle to End Affirmative Action
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paper 0-520-21344-0 A strong yet impartial look at the beginning of the end of affirmative action in the US, by a self-proclaimed recipient of its benefits. The fantastically misnamed California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), which became Proposition 209 on the 1996 ballot and was passed by state voters, was intended “to end the use of race and gender preferences in state employment, contracting, and education.” As such, it went beyond the landmark US Supreme Court case of University of California v. Bakke (1978), which declared affirmative action programs that looked only at race unconstitutional. Ch†vez (Journalism/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) traces how Glynn Custred and Thomas Wood, two disgruntled academics, and Ward Connerly, an African-American appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson to the University of California’s Board of Regents, launched the initiative, after Wilson had effectively stripped the state educational system of affirmative action programs, with Connerly’s inside help. Wilson hoped to ride the issue to his ultimately abortive presidential campaign. Bob Dole’s nomination complicated the issue for CCRI’s proponents, as neither Dole nor running mate Jack Kemp was willing to disavow affirmative action entirely. The opposition to 209 came from a “forced marriage” between white liberal women in the San Francisco area led by Patricia Ewing and blacks and Latinos around Los Angeles led by former Black Panther Anthony Thigpen. The question of whether CCRI was more racist or anti-woman fractured the opposition, and their use in commercials of David Duke’s visit to California to speak in favor of CCRI seemed distasteful to many. They also had to contend with President Clinton’s refusal to denounce 209 directly, as well as the general public’s inability to understand the legalese of the initiative, especially given its misleading name. In the end, however, the opposition was simply outspent. Ch†vez skillfully shows the upside and downside to each argument and each outcome, and her ability to turn the subject of a plebiscite into a compelling, widely relevant, and instructive study is admirable.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-520-20687-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998