Prop 16: How Affirmative Action Changes Lives

Reinstating affirmative action creates more diversity within campuses, ultimately decreasing structural racism and negating harmful racial biases.


Reinstating affirmative action creates more diversity within campuses, ultimately decreasing structural racism and negating harmful racial biases.

For nearly 25 years, it has been illegal to factor in someone’s race, ethnicity, or gender in making hiring, spending, and admissions decisions. This bias in selection due to identity is known as affirmative action, and Proposition 16 aims to reinstate it in California in order to help minorities overcome the socioeconomic divide they may have experienced. Many people have polarizing views on Proposition 16, as some find it unfair while others view it as helpful. Despite opposition to Prop 16, affirmative action was created with good intentions and has the potential to be life-changing for many minorities if implemented well.

Reinstating affirmative action gives minorities a more equal chance to succeed compared to those with more privilege. In 2019, Black and Latinx students comprised only 28% of UC admissions despite having made up 60% of California’s high school enrollment. Voting “Yes” on Prop 16 would allow higher acceptance and hiring rates for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and job applicants, pushing UCs to accept a certain number of minorities each year. This would increase racial diversity within campuses and create a better reflection of what the actual world looks like. Providing minorities with a better education allows them to succeed further in life, whether that’s in job opportunities, better housing, or good schooling for their children. A better college education for Black and Latinx students would also make it more normalized for future college students of that same ethnicity. 

Affirmative action also allows school districts to choose teachers of a certain ethnicity to be hired in locations with children who are predominantly of that same ethnicity. A study done at John Hopkins University and American University found that Black students who have even one Black teacher by the third grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college. This statistic is compounded for low-income black men, who are 39% less likely to become high-school dropouts if they had even one Black teacher in elementary school. Having a teacher of color impacts what material is taught, how the students are prepared for life, and further destigmatizes people of color in education. Implementing affirmative action in Prop 16 will ensure that more students of color will be able to benefit from having someone of a similar background as a role model in school.

However, despite these positive outcomes, many people oppose affirmative action due it possibly causing racial divides amongst different minority groups.  Many Asians struggle against the model minority myth, which perpetuates stereotypes and characterizes them as polite, brilliant students who achieve higher levels of success than the general population. Many Asian Americans fear that the rates in which they get admitted to jobs and colleges would be lowered and that affirmative action would push other minorities into spots that Asians worked hard to achieve. As a result, reinstating affirmative actions could create an even greater “Us vs. Them” mindset between minority groups. However, the model minority myth is bigger than just affirmative action and is an issue that must be tackled on its own. Affirmative action has the chance to benefit tons of people across California, and voting “No” on Prop 16 would simply deepen the struggles of many minorities while not truly settling the issue of the model minority myth.

Affirmative action also has the potential to cause what is known as “mismatching,” or placing students in environments that don’t effectively suit their learning needs. In 2006, after Prop 209 took away affirmative action, the number of Black and Hispanic students receiving bachelor’s degrees at UCLA remained the same for the five classes before and after Prop 209. UCLA’s Black four-year graduation rate doubled from 1990 to the years after affirmative action was removed. Opposers of affirmative action state that this was because taking away affirmative action produced better-matched students, making them more likely to graduate. Despite this, affirmative action is still helpful because students who apply to colleges should know what the college is like in terms of competitiveness and apply to schools that they feel are a good fit for them. Colleges can still turn away an applicant if they don’t fit with that school; affirmative action just has the potential to make this decision more difficult. 

Voters across California are making their decisions on whether or not they want to reinstate affirmative action. Doing so would mean higher minority acceptance rates, fighting against structural racism, and hiring more teachers of color to become a positive influence on California’s youth. Affirmative action serves as a benefit for minorities and opens them to possibilities they may not have had otherwise, and as a result should be reinstated through Prop 16, lessening the divide in education between residents in California.