Leon Jenkins of the NAACP leading the charge against Prop. 209 (PHOTO CREDITS: MALCOLM ALI)
NAACP leads new campaign to overturn ban on affirmative action as the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in Feb. on Prop. 209
Last Wednesday, a coalition of community and civic leaders joined forces with the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper to announce the beginning of a campaign geared towards overturning California’s affirmative action ban, Proposition 209, that prohibits public universities from considering race and gender in admissions decisions. The campaign comes on heels of the July 1- decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturning of a similar law in Michigan, Proposal 2 MCRI. In that decision, Judges R. Guy Cole Jr. and Martha Craig Daughtrey said that “Proposal 2 reorders the political process in Michigan to place special burdens on minority interests.”
Attorney Leon Jenkins, president of the L.A. chapter of the NAACP, believes that California can get the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to follow the direction of the 6th Circuit.
To make sure that happens, Jenkins is leading a campaign comprised of a coalition of organizations and activists working to spread the word throughout the African-American community. The idea is to get as many people and organizations as possible, to attend the court hearing, and to file friend-of-the court (amicus curiae) briefs in favor of striking down the law.
“California has the most diverse population on the planet and that should be reflected in its schools and universities,” explained Jenkins at the press conference. “We’re asking the whole community-not just the African-American community-we’re asking the whole community to come out and show the interest that we have in this community to overturn 209.”
While the law has been upheld by the California Supreme Court, this time around, opponents hope the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion will be the difference in getting Prop. 209 overturned.
Danny J. Bakewell Sr., chairman of the Brotherhood Crusade and executive publisher of the Sentinel newspaper, shared that the community stands in solidarity on this issue.
“It’s been said that we [California] have the most diverse population in America, but the reality is that we don’t have the most diverse workforce or the most diverse student population on our campuses.”
Since the passage of Prop. 209 by California voters in 1996 barring consideration of race, sex or ethnicity in public education, employment and contracting, critics have said that the numbers of Black and Latino students admitted to the University of California fell dramatically, especially at UCLA where there’s been major concern by both African-American faculty members, students, and alumni at the low numbers of Black students currently being admitted.
Accord to UCLA sociology professor Darnell Hunt, California needs to reverse a pattern in which under-represented minorities are having disproportionate access to the top University of California campuses.
Hunt is working alongside the NAACP to help overturn Prop. 209 because as a faculty member, he has personally seen the racial change of the UC student body population and changes, and attributes much of it to Prop. 209.
“Attending more prestigious institutions provides graduates with significant opportunities for future success-opportunities that African-American students are not receiving,” explained Hunt.
“In 2006, less than 100 African-American students were admitted into UCLA for the fall semester out of a class of 5,000,” explained Chris Strudwick-Tuner with the Alliance for Equal Opportunity in Education Coalition. “These are real kids, kids from here in California who deserve to be at UCLA and UC Berkeley, and who are getting accepted at other top universities like Yale and Harvard but can’t get into their own UC system.”
Jenkins, the NAACP, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary plan to face their opponents in San Francisco on Feb. 13 when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments.
In addition to the above-named, the press conference also included Rev. Eric Lee of SCLC; and Blair Taylor of the LA Urban League.
For more information, please visit www.naacp-losangeles.org.