Ying Ma: California vs. ‘wokeness’ – here’s how believers in equality fought back and won

The early days of the Biden administration have introduced “racial justice” and “racial fairness” as the new buzzwords for all the govt department. 

These are the marching orders governing every thing from immigration coverage to Cabinet nominations to affirmative motion in increased training. Worshipping on the altar of wokeness and identification politics can be required for the subsequent 4 years.  

But those that consider in equality for all reasonably than particular therapy for some ought to not despair: Just final November, a wildly profitable marketing campaign in California beat back the “fairness” onslaught in a most unlikely landslide victory.  

The effort defeated Proposition 16, a measure that sought to overturn a poll initiative handed in 1996 – and adopted as a part of the California state Constitution – that prohibits racial preferences in public training, contracting and employment. In a state the place Biden defeated Trump by almost 2 to 1, the No on 16 marketing campaign, for which I served as communications director, won by a 14-point margin.   

Winning the general public debate was key to our success, and the elements that made it doable could also be informative for others preventing wokeness and identification politics in the Biden period: 

Moral credibility  

The racial fairness agenda shamelessly contains racial intimidation, and the backers of Prop 16 weren’t shy in partaking. Riding the momentum of final 12 months’s Black Lives Matter protests, they referred to as for the repeal of equal alternative in California. Anyone who dared to say in any other case was branded a racist – simply as anybody criticizing the Biden-Harris “fairness agenda” now dangers the identical.  

No on 16 president Ward Connerly dared to say in any other case. A Black man with a proud multiracial heritage, he reminded Californians that the notion that “all males are created equal” is a basic American precept enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, reaffirmed in the Gettysburg Address, and celebrated in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  

As Prop 16 proponents referred to as for racial bean counting and proportional illustration to deal with alleged systemic racism, Connerly, born in segregated Louisiana, proclaimed that whereas particular person racism will all the time exist, the system is not racist.  

Connerly, the chairman of Proposition 209, the voter referendum that ended racial preferences in California almost 25 years in the past, has a protracted monitor report of preventing for equality in the state and throughout the nation. That didn’t cease our opponents from smearing him as a racist and our marketing campaign as consisting of White supremacists. Their sleaze failed to stay. 

Appealing to all voters 

Not solely did the No on 16 marketing campaign have a extreme funding drawback of 16 to 1, the effort to reinstate racial preferences loved the backing of all the political, media and enterprise institution in the Golden State, in addition to that of skilled sports activities groups and nationwide figures like then-Sen. Kamala Harris.  

Regardless, our marketing campaign was propelled to victory by voters of all colours, creeds and social gathering affiliations.  

Rosa Paniagua, a private coach in Los Angeles, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and a Biden supporter, discovered Prop 16’s message patronizing and defined her opposition to the Los Angeles Times: “It’s in our tradition to work onerous and earn our residing.”  

Prop 16 proponents tried to fan racial grievances throughout the state, particularly amongst those that appeared like Rosa. Our marketing campaign’s message was that equality is for everyone.  

Wokeness in America could now command fealty from the mainstream media, Big Tech, Hollywood, far-left politicians, Wall Street, academia and different highly effective gamers in society – however they do not characterize smart, odd Americans of all stripes. 

Fighting actual racism 

The fairness agenda requires racial justice, however inevitably inflicts injustice on teams it doesn’t favor. This was no totally different for Prop 16.   

Our marketing campaign emphasised that on the coronary heart of racial preferences is actual racism – in opposition to Asian Americans. They have been constantly and disproportionally harmed by racial schemes – from  Harvard to Yale to California public universities earlier than the implementation of race neutrality – touting “range” objectives like Prop 16. Had the measure handed, Asian Americans would have been probably the most speedy victims.  

Our opponents helped us make our case. They frequently griped that Asian Americans have been “overrepresented” on the state’s high public universities and brazenly referred to as for a discount of their numbers, even as much as 50%.  

The wrestle over oppression credentials shouldn’t be what Americans of any social gathering ought to need, in California or nationwide. 

The probability that such racism might turn out to be coverage galvanized Asian American voters, particularly first-generation immigrants. Though many have been political neophytes (quite a lot of our senior staffers had no prior marketing campaign expertise and had a steep studying curve), they introduced dedication and enthusiasm.  

An military of volunteers turned out for automobile rallies, yard signal distribution, and duties huge and small in the center of a pandemic. Over 90% of our marketing campaign funds got here from odd Asian Americans making small-dollar donations.  

In the tip, the injustice and collateral injury meant for one racial group in pursuit of the fairness agenda was unacceptable to an amazing majority of all Californians.  

Liberal ideas 

The Democratic supermajority in the state legislature put Prop 16 on the November poll, and not one Democratic politician who held statewide or nationwide workplace publicly opposed the measure. Yet, a few of our marketing campaign’s simplest spokespeople have been lifelong liberal Democrats. 

Among them, Professor Rick Sander of the University of California Los Angeles School of Law wrote, “Liberals spent a lot of the twentieth century attempting to outlaw and purge racial discrimination – why would we be so wanting to reinstitute it, someway believing that this time its use can be extra ‘benign’?” 

Charles Geshekter, retired professor of contemporary African historical past and one other lifelong Democrat, not solely condemned Prop 16 however all the mindset underlying identification politics. He wrote: “Proposition 16 promotes a return to a racial and ethnic spoils system that teaches college students to label themselves and others because the oppressed or the oppressors. In this realm, no competitors is fiercer than the wrestle over oppression credentials.” 

Indeed, the wrestle over oppression credentials shouldn’t be what Americans of any social gathering ought to need, in California or nationwide. 

Campaigns win for a lot of causes. Yet, the elements for waging an efficient public debate in opposition to identification politics and wokeness could also be fairly simple: Bring the ethical authority and spine; make the argument to everybody, together with supporters of the opposite facet; remind voters of the extent of the meant injustice; and do not be shy – worry and cowering won’t do.  

After all, equality and commonsense American ideas deserve an excellent struggle.  

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