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Since 1970 Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. - Books for All Ages September 2003
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Prop 54: Going Beyond Arnold and Arnold
By Michael Kim

"Hasta la vista, baby." This is what backers of Proposition 54 want California voters to say to the collection of race, ethnicity, color, and national origin by state agencies in October's upcoming special election. Because of media bias in covering the election, most California voters think the ballot will consist of only one two-part question. What a lot of voters don't know is that there will be two other questions - both ballot measures. One of these is Proposition 54. Previously named the Racial Privacy Initiative, Proposition 54 is now officially the Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color, or National Origin.

Authored by Ward Connerly, co-author of Prop. 209, this initiative also involves the issue of race and ethnicity. While Prop. 209 bans any government agency from giving preference based on race, Prop. 54 would go further if passed. The measure would ban even the collection of race, ethnicity, color, and national origin. However, the initiative does not seek to ban classification by sex.

Advocates of the initiative claim that "Proposition 54 seeks to eliminate racial categorization, by the government, in all areas except medicine, health care and law enforcement." They claim that the initiative will contribute to the formation of a color-blind society. In such a society, we will all be "Americans" rather than associated with our ancestry as "hyphenated Americans." However, under Proposition 54, classification will be permitted under certain circumstances: to comply with federal law, in racial profiling by law enforcement agencies, and in medicine. According to the state's independent legislative analyst, "information collected for most programs would continue" and the effects on state and local budgets would be limited. The programs most

affected would be state sponsored educational programs, including the Cal State and UC systems where race-related information could no longer be collected. Proposition 54 is endorsed by the California Congress of Republicans, the Libertarian Party of California, and the Italian Cultural Society of Sacramento as well as several individuals. Full disclosure of endorsers is not available (the state is currently suing proponents of Prop. 54 over this issue).

Opponents of Prop. 54 counter, "Proposition 54 is bad for health care, bad for public safety and bad for education." They state that information on race, ethnicity, color and national origin serve a number of important functions in society. They claim that hate crimes and discrimination by employers and law enforcement will be harder to prevent in the future if the initiative passes. They also believe that Prop. 54 would make schools less accountable and that it would allow the achievement gap to persist. Those against this ballot measure have focused heavily on its affects on health care, saying that "eliminating information will make it harder to stop preventable disease outbreaks, premature death, and disability." Opponents of Prop. 54 include the California Medical Association, the Anti-Defamation League, and the California State PTA along with several other medical organizations as well as other groups and individuals.

However you feel about Proposition 54, it is important that you vote on the initiative because it will affect everyone in California, including you. So please register to vote in time for October's special election . Even if you're tired of hearing about Gray, Cruz, movie star Arnold, or Diff'rent Strokes Arnold, please make a difference this October and vote on Prop. 54.

More Information
On Prop 54


CA Voter Foundation
Project Vote Smart
League of Women Voters


Official Proponent
American Civil Rights Coalition

Official Opponent
Coalition For An Informed California

Asian Pacific Americans for an Informed California

Editor's Message

Hi everyone. This month we bring you our take on an issue that we feel is important - California's proposition 54. The connection between this political measure and AACP may not seem too apparent, but if you read our article and editorial, you will find that proposition 54 should be of concern to all of us that are interested in multi-cultural education and multi-ethnic issues.

2004 Calendar
It's not too late to help us with our 2004 calendar (
see last month's call for help). If you have some pictures that you think may be appropriate for our calendar, please contact us as soon as possible. We are also still in need of sponsors to help defer the costs of printing. Once again, contact us ASAP. Thank you.

Thank You
Thank you Rena Krasno for letting me know about your new book Cloud Weavers which we are featuring below.

Thank you very much to this month's newsletter writers Michael Kim and our new intern Lizelle Festejo. We look forwards to seeing more of your works in future newsletters.

We've been so fortunate this year to have so many talented interns and volunteers. We, the regular staff at AACP, are disheartened by the loss of all the wonderful interns that are returning to college - Melissa Eng, Shirley Yang, Alice Tan, Lydia Chao, and Vivian Hoang. Thank you very, very much for your help and good luck with school.

Last but not least, thank you Philip for all your help with the interns, the newsletters, and being there when we needed you.

Leonard Chan

Up Coming Events

Here are some other events that AACP will soon be attending.
Invite us to your events.
Sept. 13
Sonoma County Bookfair Old Court House Square
Santa Rosa, CA
Sept. 19
Educators’ Night
The Assoc. of Chin. Teachers,
Assoc. of Chin. Am. Admin.
and Chin. Hist. So. of Am.

Other Event of Interest that AACP May Not Attend
Nov. 5–9 Nat. Assoc. for Multicultural Ed. (NAME) 2003 Conference Sheraton Seattle
Seattle, WA

Notes About Educators' Night

• Where - Gordon J Lau Elementary School, 950 Clay St.
• We will be doing a book signing with Ruthanne Lum McCunn (Pie-Biter, Thousand Pieces of Gold, Sole Survivor, The Moon Pearl, Wooden Fish Songs, Chinese American Portraits)
• Space is limited
• To sign up contact Hubert Yee 415-391-1188 ext. 105

Give Us Your Feedback

Please feel free to send us your reviews, comments, and book suggestions. You can contact us at -

Blinding Ourselves with a "Color-Blind" Initiative:
Why Proposition 54 is NOT Color-Blind

An Editorial by Lizelle Festejo

Excuse me, Amerika I'm confused?
You tell me to lighten up
but what you really mean is whiten up
you wish to wash me out,
melt me in your cauldron
excuse me, if I tip your melting pot
spill the shades onto your streets

-Anida Rouquiyah Yoeu Esguerra, member of the Asian-American spoken word collective, I Was Born With Two Tongues
Excerpt from "Excuse Me, Amerika"

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made a disturbing comment about how he wished that Proposition 54 passes, just so our community can see how much it is affected by politics. The weight of his words resonated within me, helping me to see that if Proposition 54 passes, we would be playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with the well-being of our communities at stake. If Proposition 54 passes, University researchers would not be allowed to conduct necessary work to help analyze the social problems that affect our Asian-American communities here in the Bay Area, the rest of California and even across the country. Proposition 54 will have profound effect on civil justice because it would be against the law to keep California state databases that record race-based hate crimes, which skyrocketed by 345.8% in California in 2001 after September 11th. Proposition 54 would make it illegal to record this information and make us blind to the injustices that are really going on.

In reading the initiative, one sees history repeating itself. Proposition 54 is the second racial initiative that Ward Connerly, a University of California Regent of African American, Native American, and European ancestry, has spearheaded. The first initiative was Proposition 209, which banned Affirmative Action in California. Formerly called the Racial Privacy Initiative, Proposition 54 passes off as a seemingly logical policy. Proponents of 54 claim that it will prevent the government from classifying people on the basis of race, because, as quoted from the American Civil Rights Institute, founded and chaired by Ward Connerly, "race has no place in American life or law." Proponents also claim that Californians are fed up with checking boxes for our ethnicity and instead, all would be considered "American." In an article for the Sacramento Bee, Connerly explains the sympathy he has for biracial families that have difficulty in having to chose which race their child is going to be and "how dehumanizing it is to ask people to check a box on what their race is."

The failure of this initiative to erase the color lines lies within the symbolic intent of the proposition, for it has no practical effect in actually eliminating the various forms of institutional discrimination. Instead, it would actually shroud discrimination within education, health care and law enforcement. The passing of Proposition 54 would not only represent our unwillingness to continue to tackle these problems but furthermore would make it impossible to prove these problems continue to exist. State Schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell spoke out against Proposition 54 to the State Senate Judiciary Committee, citing the fact that although the federal government already mandates the collection of information on racial subgroups in schools, California schools would not be allowed to use this information in making important public policy decisions. Among the uses of this collected information is to document the serious educational gaps amongst African American and Latino students, two groups that have historically scored low on achievement tests. Such information is also used to document the huge disparities in education between Asian American groups as well, especially among students who have recently immigrated to the United States.

Proposition 54 will also impede efforts in bringing social justice in law enforcement. Racial profiling is the illegal practice of using of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin by law enforcement agents to determine who should be investigated, except where those unique characteristics are part of a specific suspect description. A recent lawsuit stemmed from the disproportionate numbers of African American and Latino motorists being stopped and searched by the California Highway Patrol. As part of the settlement ending this case the CHP was forced this past February to adopt reforms that prohibited the search of motorists without

probable cause. Under Proposition 54, it would be impossible to determine if the CHP has actually carried out these reforms and stopped the practice of racial profiling since the collection of racial data about those stopped and searched would be prohibited.

In addition, the initiative's effect on providing equal access to health care would be tremendous, as evidenced by the many medical and health organizations, and health providers campaigning against Proposition 54 . As an undergraduate, I worked as a research assistant for a public health project aimed at using Asian grocery stores as sites to educate women about breast and cervical cancer. The study concluded that women within Asian American communities, particularly Vietnamese, have the lowest rates of exposure to preventive education about cancer, especially early screening which can prevent or halt the disease before it reaches a later and deadlier stage. This study relied heavily on information collected by surveys conducted within the community. The wording of Proposition 54 does not overtly state the legality of collecting this necessary information from surveys. How will we be able to serve our communities when it might be against the law to recognize these communities and collect social and health information about them?

Although the aim of achieving a colorblind society is definitely laudable, race plays a complex role in American life and law and no good can come out of abruptly sweeping our ability to monitor inequity under the rug. This initiative is largely symbolic and as many people point out, its implications will be battled in the courts if this is to pass. Proponents say that the exemption for health research is broad and are quick to say that if contested, they are prepared to go to the State Legislature to obtain an exemption if warranted. A large problem with this initiative is the fact that it is, in many respects, an experiment; one that California is not ready to undertake.

In the argument included in the voter information pamphlet for Proposition 54, proponents write, "the government should stop categorizing its citizens by color and ancestry, and create a society in which our children and grandchildren can just think of themselves as Americans and individuals." Yet many of our communities use the terms "Native American", "Asian American", "African American", and "Latino" in order to empower themselves and to connect their lives with their grandparents and parents and to recognize their history in the United States. Stories of inequality and discrimination, such as the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II and non-compensation for Filipino-American Veterans, do not record themselves and many individuals, community organizations and political leaders, including both leading Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates Cruz Bustamante and Arnold Schwarzenegger, oppose Proposition 54. As California voters, we should not have to wait for holes within this initiative to be filled and the ambiguities to be straightened out only after it passes.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dream that people would be judged by the content of their character, not their skin color, but he also stated, "nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." As we struggle to help make his dream our reality, we have a long way to go in achieving a colorblind society. Along this path, we cannot just close our eyes and hope that race and the dialogue about race will go away and therefore, we cannot take a chance on this misguided effort in remedying racism and discrimination. Prohibiting the collection of racial data necessary to understand inequality is sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.


The following books are discounted for subscribers to our newsletter. The discounts on these books end October 7, 2003.

And then There Were Eight
The Men Of I Company 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Published by Item Chapter 442nd Veterans Club
2003, 457 pages, paperback.

A collection of World War II memoirs of the men of Company I, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Most of them are told by the surviving members of Company I and a few by their family members and friends.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3155, Price $39.95

The Butterfly's Dream
Children's Stories from China

Retold by Ippo Keido
Illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone
2003, 29 pages, hardback.

In ancient China, a man falls asleep beneath a willow tree and dreams he is a butterfly. Based on the stories of the Chou Dynasty Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3177, Price $15.95

Cloud Weavers
Ancient Chinese Legends

By Rena Krasno and Yeng-Fong Chiang
2003, 96 pages, hardback.

Cloud Weavers presents legends and tales from China, including ancient folktales, stories that reflect Chinese traditions and virtues, historical tales, and selections from literature.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3162, Retailed Price $22.95

A Gift of Barbed Wire
America's Allies Abandoned in South Vietnam

By Robert S. McKelvey
2002, 266 pages, hardback.

Robert McKelvey, a Vietnam veteran, and now a practicing psychiatrist, interviews South Vietnam refugees that had been imprisoned in re-education camps immediately after the end of the war and were now living in other countries including the United States. These former political prisoners, their wives, and their children reveal their fascinating stories of perseverance and the devastating, long-term impact of their incarceration.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3185, Retailed Price $28.95

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