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I-1000 Would Needlessly Inject Race – Again – Into Public Policy in Washington State

Brett Davis

Posted on October 24, 2019 13:57

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Identity politics rears its ugly head: After more than 20 years, affirmative action returns to the ballot.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a notion lost on a majority of this year’s lawmakers in the Washington State Legislature. How else to explain that august body’s inexplicable April passage of a pro-affirmative action initiative – in the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session – that undoes a 21-year-old vote of the people, which effectively ended affirmative action in the state?

Some background: In 1998, Washington state voters overwhelmingly approved (58 percent) Initiative 200, prohibiting racial and gender preferences by state and local government. Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed Initiative 1000 – known by the Orwellian title "Washington State Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Act" – that would once again allow affirmative action in state employment, contracting and public education.

The text of the initiative states outreach and recruitment to minority candidates is allowed, but – and try not to roll your eyes – not quotas. Voters will have the final say on Nov. 5 via Referendum 88, which aims to repeal I-1000.

In summary: Voters passed I-200 (anti-affirmative action) in 1998. This year the state Legislature passed I-1000 (pro-affirmative action). Referendum 88 gives voters a chance to weigh in on the issue.

Still, there is no real reason for affirmative action to be on the ballot in 2019. That the Legislature felt the need to pass a pro-affirmative action initiative at the tail end of the legislative session is telling. There was no clamoring by the public – and in some cases, just the opposite – for bringing back affirmative action.

And why would there be?  The state is attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. As John Carlson, a proponent of I-200, put it in a recent op-ed: “…we have two decades of experience with I-200, and the sky didn’t fall after all. In fact, every state college campus in Washington is more diverse today than it was then. It’s true that some racial groups have done better than others – and women have done better than men – but as far as I can tell, no racial group has a smaller proportion today than in 1998.”

And of course, the state’s proposed solution to a non-problem is contradictory and nonsensical. Consider that I-1000 claims it supports affirmative action efforts “that do not utilize quotas and that do not constitute preferential treatment…” Of course, the phrase “participation goals” also shows up in the text of the initiative. In other words, they are quotas by another name.  

I-1000 would also mean even more red tape in the form of a governor’s commission on diversity, equity and inclusion to monitor and enforce compliance with the law. What could go wrong?

Dishonest proponents of I-1000 are all sound and fury in trying desperately to obscure the fact they are okay with government treating people differently based on race and gender, which is the textbook definition of racism and sexism. Affirmative action has not been missed in Washington state.

Brett Davis

Posted on October 24, 2019 13:57

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