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Proposition 54: An Assault on Indian Nations
by Claywoman   

Last edited: Monday, September 29, 2003
Posted: Monday, September 29, 2003

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My scholarship essay answering the question posed by the director of the scholarship committee:

The scholarship focuses upon, "offering students a better understanding of California Indian histories, issues, and experiences." What are some of the
current issues in Native California? Please select one topic and/or issue.
Describe and discuss aspects of your selected topic. In what ways can you
make a positive difference or contribution?

On paper, Proposition looks innocuous, it wants to eliminate a small, insignificant check box on state government documents that decides which ethnic race you want to acknowledge. Beneath the surface lies racism and racist attitudes towards minorities. This is not the only assault on Native Americans and other minorities, but it is the one that is soon to be resolved. This Proposition reads as follows:

“Amends Constitution to prohibit state and local governments from using race, ethnicity, color, or national origin to classify current or prospective students, contractors or employees in public education, contracting, or employment operations. Does not prohibit classification by sex.

Prohibition also covers persons subject to other operations of government unless Legislature finds compelling state interest, authorizes by two-thirds of each house, and Governor approves.

"Classifying" defined as separating, sorting, or organizing persons of personal data. Exemptions include: law enforcement descriptions, prisoner and undercover assignments; actions taken to maintain federal funding.”

While this appears innocently, as a bid for “equality for all”, this is not equality at all. It is a way of blending all the races together in one mixture so that statistics in medicine, in the law, in state hiring of minority bidders, and in education, look better then they really are. This piece of legislation prohibits your family physician from gathering ethnic information about you as an Indian, Chicano, or Asian woman - information that might aid in research of diseases that affect more Indian and Chicano women then other groups, yet these statistics will not be available for researchers if Proposition 54 passes. Statistics that might save lives allowing research to target ethnic groups for study and treatment and will not help with advancements in future medical treatment. California would lose funding for research because some of the major funding is for these types of studies.

If Proposition 54 passes, education would suffer. Right now the dropout rates for ethnic minorities is high. Without a racial identity check box on state documents, such as school enrollment forms in state-run universities and colleges and lower grades, administrators will not know what groups to target for special help. This would equal more dropouts because more students will fall between the cracks of the educational maze. You would not know how many minority students would have trouble with standardized testing. You would not know how many minority students would have no access to classroom books and be forced to depend on mimeographed or photo-copied handouts instead. You will not know how many minority students would graduate and go on to college.

Once an Indian or other minority student reaches college, this discriminatory law will affect him also. The University will no longer know how many minority students they had. Therefore, scholarships like this one, might not be offered to students because they target ethnic groups. Right now the statistics show that the greatest majority of college freshmen graduate within six years of entrance to this school. This statistic looks good on paper, but when you break it down demographically, you will find that only 20% of Black students, 36% of Chicano students, and around 40% of Indian students graduate in the same six-year period. The rest drop out, and would probably never return to finish.

If Proposition 54 passes, these educational statistics would not be available for research. Programs that are directed toward minority students stand a good chance of being eliminated, and the help they offer would be denied to the minority student.

Proposition 54 will not end racial profiling; it would just make it harder to study. Racial profiling is practiced all over the state and is tracked by many organizations. I know from personal experience that just being Indian makes you vulnerable to being stopped by state, county and local police, just in case you are an illegal immigrant. Since September 11, 2001 racial profiling has made traveling difficult for minorities. People of color are chosen more then the Caucasians for airport security searches. While traveling in Southern California, you are more likely to be pulled over by the police if you are a person of color. Without the racial check box on various state documents such as your driver‘s license, how are we going to know how many more people are targeted and abused by the police?

On a personal note, I was one of the children born during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1959s during periods of forced assimilation. My birth mother was ‘encouraged’ to give me up for adoption, to ‘give her baby a better life.’ I was adopted by a ‘white’ family. Although I was loved and cared for, it bothered me that my birth certificate said I was a white child. I waited until my adoptive parents died to find my own heritage and identity by having my birth records unsealed. I could not legally check the box that said ‘Native American.’ I am Salish, and I am proud of who and what I am. I do not want to be just a part of the masses. I am not going to let anyone take that identity away from me again. I am not gray nor am I white, and I will not be forced by the State of California to either color.

I have been going from house to house telling my story, and urging my neighbors to voting against this insidious proposition. I attend rallies and marches and talk to students on campus. I am working to fight this racist piece of legislation so my children and my grandchildren can live in a state that cares about its people rather then one that shoves its native people into corners to be forgotten. California is the most ethically diverse state in the Union and it should acknowledge that diversity rather then ignoring it.

If Proposition 54 passes, it will spend years in courts, costing the taxpayers of California millions of dollars better spent on social programs. Like Proposition 187, it will lose, however, there will be a gap in statistical data that may kill hundreds of Indian men, women and children because our stat-funded Indian Health program may become a casualty, and thus, funding may end. The Federal Indian Health programs are few, and the distances may discourage people from seeking health care. Indians, like other people, do not want to travel 20-30 miles to seek medical treatment and unless these people have good medical insurance and not state-funded insurance, it is difficult to find a physician to care for your family. Therefore, some may die or suffer needless pain because treatment is not available.

Reader Reviews for "Proposition 54: An Assault on Indian Nations"

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 10/2/2003
well done
Reviewed by Lawrance Lux 9/30/2003
Excellent presentation of your position, and the evils of Prop 54. lgl
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 9/29/2003
good article.....
Reviewed by Julie Donner Andersen 9/29/2003
Incredible! No wonder you are so outraged, Clay! As a former political lobbyist, nothing burns my beans more than sneaky legislation. Keep up the good work!

Jules :)

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