Richard Sander writes for the Martin Center about an important item on the California election ballot.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209 by an impressive 56-to-44 percent majority. Prop 209 amended the state’s constitution to prohibit the granting of preferences based on race or gender. It inaugurated a series of campaigns, led by businessman and University of California Regent Ward Connerly, that by 2006 had established similar prohibitions in 10 states.

A few weeks ago, in a move perfectly in sync with the racial politics of 2020, the California legislature put a referendum on the November ballot that invites voters to repeal Prop 209. The new Proposition 16 would allow the state government, and state officials, to take racial and gender “diversity” into account in their decisionmaking. In other words, it would allow officials in state government and state universities to freely discriminate on the basis of race or gender.

Listen closely, and you will hear that race-conscious preferences to achieve “equal” racial representation is the principal substantive idea that advocates for change are advancing to combat America’s fundamentally “racist” nature. Increasingly, there is no pretense that this is about eliminating discrimination.

On the contrary, it is about institutionalizing discrimination to achieve racial proportionality.

The spirit is well-captured by a recent, full-page headline in the New York Times’ Arts & Leisure section that read, “Fix Classical Music. Now.” Inside, the Times’ classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini called for abolishing blind auditions—a reform that was instituted by most top orchestras in the 1970s and 1980s to overcome a history of discrimination against women. Tommasini conceded that blind auditions might have been useful in increasing the number of women in orchestras, but now, they have become an impediment to achieving racial diversity. This sort of logic can only end in the assignment of orchestral seats on the basis of race.