Racial Privacy Initiative: A Threat to Civil Rights

Article excerpt

It is saddening to read that California will take the lead in proposing yet another divisive initiative for the ballot. The Golden State has led the way on controversial issues of vouchers, immigration and affirmative action. Now the American Civil Rights Institute, founded by Ward Connerly, has proposed the Racial Privacy Initiative slated for the October 2003 ballot.

The initiative should concern everyone. It would prohibit state and local governments front using race, ethnicity, color or national origin to classify current or prospective students, contractors or employees in public education, contracting or employment operations (see Black Issues, June 5, 2003).

One way we monitor and defend our civil liberties, and work toward leveling the playing field of equality in this country, is based upon the collection of data. The reality is that racial and ethnic categories are socially significant constructs that shape human behavior. Data on race and ethnicity also aid understanding and address inequalities in primary social institutions such as law enforcement, criminal justice, the workplace, health care and education.

However, the concern the so-called Racial Privacy Initiative raises is its ability to erode the rights of all Americans to defend themselves against discrimination by removing from public records the very empirical data to protect those rights.

With an initiative of this nature as a constitutional provision, what would have been the outcome of the 1954 Brown v Board of Education, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or the 1971 Serrano a Priest? What all of these cases had in common was their ability to show a pattern of discrimination based upon impartial research using factual data. How does the California Department of Education verify they have complied with state regulations to ensure equal access to public education for all children? …