The right-wing AADP (which graciously linked my piece oppposing Proposition 54 and my friend and fellow lefty Suzy Khimm's excellent piece exploring the tactics and success of the opposition), shares a frank and perceptive analysis from an author of California's anti-affirmative action Proposition 209, written before the recent election in California, of why the Racial Privacy Act was bound to lose: The Racial Privacy Initiative’s fate on election day will rest on how voters weigh in the balance the appeal of abolishing the racial checkboxes against the arguments that opponents will marshal for why they should be kept. The most compelling argument against the RPI (by no means the only one) is that the publicly available data that is provided by these checkboxes is essential to monitoring and enforcing compliance with antidiscrimination laws, including Prop. 209. This argument is the single greatest direct threat to the RPI, because there is a mountain of survey data showing that voters want strong and effective laws protecting them against racial and ethnic discrimination, as I show in the paper “Discrimination is a problem—and voters care about it” (in preparation). For the opponents of the RPI, the task will therefore be to convince voters that they can’t have their cake and eat it, too. Voters must choose, because there cannot be meaningful enforcement of antidiscrimination laws like 209 unless potential plaintiffs, watchdog public interest law firms, and other monitors have essentially the same data about the race and ethnicity of applicants and others that the potential discriminators do, who can ascertain the race and ethnicity of individuals in a myriad of ways, quite apart from the information provided by the racial checkboxes. Once voters realize that abolishing the racial checkboxes helps potential discriminators and hurts potential victims of such discrimination, whatever tendency there is on the part of voters initially to vote for the RPI will be overwhelmed as the campaign against it gets underway.


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