Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Matthew Yglesias provides yet another demonstration of the colossally messed-up state of the Great American Debate on Race. At issue is California's Proposition 54, a ballot initiative that would bar the government from collecting data that classifies individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity. Yglesias is vehemently opposed to the measure, describing it as a "really and truly awful idea. Really, really awful.....denying the government this data is going to make it totally impossible to do anything about discrimination or even to know whether or not it's taking place."

Now, it's hard to argue with the logic of Yglesias' argument. Race-based decisionmaking of any kind has been forbidden within the government of California since the passage of Proposition 209, but it's widely assumed that various arms of government are still surreptitiously applying racial preferences in areas such as hiring, college admissions and contracting. Without careful data-gathering, though, it will be extremely difficult to detect and expose such covert, illegal discrimination by government employees.

Ready for the crazy part? It's the opponents of racial preferences who support Proposition 54, fearing that the data will be used to impose such preferences, in direct contravention of California law. And it's the supporters of preferences who want to see the data gathered--even though it may help identify and root out those preferences that are still being implemented.

Commenters are encouraged to offer plausible explanations for this utterly bizarre state of affairs.

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