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Prop. 209: The Alternative

Proposition 209 in California abolished state-sponsored affirmative-action programs. This was written in response to a letter which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after proposition 209 was approved by the voters. In the original letter, Mr. Edward Howden, who identified himself as an “old civil rights hand”, magnanimously offered, as an alternative to abolishing affirmative-action outright, to

“Look toward possible non-partisan efforts seeking legislative or administrative remedies for such problems as may remain in affirmative action programs.”

Ward Connerly, who I mention in my letter, was a regent of the University of California and was the principal sponsor of proposition 209.

The letter was not published.

4 June 1997

Regarding Edward Howden’s letter to the Chronicle (“Unintended Consequences of Prop. 209“, 3 Jun 97): Is this to be believed or trusted?

If “old civil rights hands” had ever, in the past, exhibited any willingness at all to “look toward possible non-partisan efforts seeking legislative or administrative remedies for such problems as may remain in affirmative action programs,” Prop. 209 would never have existed.

That Mr. Howden states a willingness to do so now suggests the possibility of replacing Prop. 209 with a well-reasoned, practical, and fair-minded reform of affirmative action. In that event, Prop. 209, by coercing such cooperation, will have succeeded beyond the best hopes of either Ward Connerly or the many citizens like myself who voted reluctantly for it as the only foreseeable alternative to doing nothing at all.

© Copyright 1997, 2005, Augustus P. Lowell

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