"A Minority Publication"

Triple-Dog Dare: An Open Letter to Governor Newsom

Posted: November 16, 2020 • By Kimberly Ellis

No governor likes to be bullied, especially you (we know from personal experience). Nor would I recommend anyone to dare the leader of the fifth largest economy in the world to demonstrate his raw political power, for that also is not the wisest way to convince Governor Newsom to go your way.


And yet, here we find ourselves and Black women in California are doing just that.


Right now, you have an obligation to fill the seat vacated by the only Black woman in the United States Senate. Just a few years ago, Californians chose a Black woman to represent them and it would be an inexcusable slight - a proverbial slap in the face - to replace her with a man, irrespective of his race. Full stop.


California’s one million Black women fought hard to finally get a seat at that decision-making table and we will not accept it being given away in the third act of political theater. This isn’t a game of musical chairs, and if you truly believe that representation matters, then don’t talk about it, be about it.


So, let’s be clear - this seat must be filled by a Black woman -- as the voters intended. And, in this moment, someone who stands out as both worthy and capable is Congresswoman Barbara Lee.


The protégé of Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Lee’s commitment to environmental justice, healthcare as a human right, reproductive freedom and advocacy against unnecessary wars is beyond reproach.


More importantly, it’s her two decades’ of experience in the halls of Congress that is our incontrovertible proof that she’s ready on day-one to walk into the Senate at a time when we need unapologetically bold leadership the most. We can’t afford to promote someone who will have to learn Washington, DC on the job. And with the Senate headed toward a deadlock at best… nope; the stakes are too high.


But beyond the practical and policy, Barbara Lee is the safest political choice that will avoid a bloody and ridiculously expensive Dem-on-Dem election in two years when this seat comes up again. No one is more respected by both the moderate and progressive wings of California Democrats and non-partisans.


To refresh our memories, it was Barbara Lee who bridged California’s Hillary and Bernie divides in 2016 and she did it again in 2020. It was Barbara Lee who led the charge for progressive policy inclusions in our Party’s platform this year. It was Barbara Lee who came out first and hardest for Vice President-Elect Harris when she decided to run for President nearly two years ago.


And while some folks are still debating whether Black lives matter, after this past election, one thing is for damn sure – Black votes matter, don’t they?!


Lest we forget, it was the Black women organizers (and voters) in Philly and Milwaukee and Detroit and Atlanta who literally snatched this country from the jaws of death and it’s because of them that we’re even having this conversation right now.


But seriously, think about it: Black women are being asked to give up our only seat in the United States Senate due to a vacancy created by the success of a Black woman. It’s like we can’t win for losing and we also can’t win for winning. It’s the cruel irony for me…


Appointing a Black woman to replace a Black woman isn’t doing us a favor. It’s doing right by us. And that’s on periodt.


So, please Mr. Governor, trust us, this isn’t a dare; it’s a request to return to an era of meritocracy and dignity that’s been missing from our politics for far too long. California’s Senate replacement pick for Vice-President Elect Harris should be Congresswoman Barbara Lee.


We’re counting on you to do the right thing, White Chocolate.


Kimberly Ellis is an American activist and was the Executive Director of Emerge California from 2010 until she ran for the Chair of the California Democratic Party in 2017.

(Courtesy Photo)  Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) Oakland

Generation Lost: UC-Berkeley’s missing black graduates

Posted: October 10, 2020 • Dr. Harry Edwards

In the mid-1960s, the University of California, Berkeley started its Educational Opportunity Program to target underrepresented applicants and combat this history of discrimination. Unsurprisingly, this program was a success and the number of Black freshmen continued to rise until 1996. That year, Governor Pete Wilson and Black conservative Ward Connerly led an effort to repeal these education gains by passing Proposition 209.


Prop. 209 prohibited public universities from considering race and ethnicity in admissions decisions, which has closed Berkeley’s doors to countless minority students. But Black students were hit especially hard. After Prop. 209, Black freshman enrollment at Berkeley dropped from 258 to 126. The numbers at professional schools were even more troubling. For example, there was only 1 Black student among Berkeley Law’s 268 first-year students. The lack of Black students at Berkeley has not improved with time.


Since Prop. 209 passed, the percentage of Black enrollees at Berkeley has only once reached 4%, and the percentage has hovered around 3% since 2007. Had the percentage of Black freshman stayed at pre-209 levels, there would have been 4,061 more Black enrollees since 1998 at Berkeley. This has also led to declining participation in science, technology, degree attainment, average wages, and the likelihood of earning higher wages throughout to the Black community.


Meanwhile, a state auditor found that UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UC San Diego admitted dozens unqualified students based on their connections to staff and donors since 2013. Each one of those admissions came at the expense of other qualified applicants, with most of the freshmen spots going to White applicants from families making at least $150,000 per year. Specifically, the auditor scolded UC Berkeley because their admissions practices for the wealthy and well-connected “demonstrates that campus leadership has failed to establish a campus culture that values commitment to an admissions process based on fairness and applicants’ merits and achievements.”


While Prop. 209 has hamstrung Berkeley’s ability to recruit Black students, public universities from 41 other states can still take race into account when making college admissions decisions. This is also true of private universities that still consider race and ethnicity in their admissions policies to create avenues for Black applicants to access higher education. For example, Stanford’s Fall 2019 freshman class was 8% Black or African American. That percentage nearly triples Berkeley’s freshman class for last year. Those numbers are even worse when omitting student-athletes.


California’s ban on affirmative action perversely limits our top universities from enrolling promising minority students and forces those that do enroll to jump through


hoops just to get there. At the same time, it immeasurably strips the Black community of economic opportunity.


Black taxpayers have continued supporting California’s public universities while receiving less and less for that investment. The effect of Prop. 209 is that Black students that have been able to succeed—often at under-resourced K-12 schools—are then penalized in the college admissions process. This further compounds on the negative impact of the inequities these students are forced to confront and overcome just to graduate high school.


According to the Economist, college graduates earn about $17,500 more annually than those with a high school diploma. The economic losses on an individual level pale in comparison to the countless dollars in lost opportunities for Black businesses, decades-long deficits in educational opportunities for Black students, and nearly two generations of losses of Black business owners, lawyers, engineers, nurses, and doctors.


The harm to Black communities in the Bay Area will be felt for decades as California has sent fewer students to the state’s flagship training ground for business and community leadership. Because of Prop. 209, the wealthy and well-connected in California continue to control access to lucrative careers that are only accessibly to alumni from top universities, and they keep cherry-picking successors that look just like them.


Proposition 16 gives the next generation students a deserved and enhanced opportunity to achieve success in surmounting those inequities—and they, our universities, and this society would be much better off for it. We desperately need something new in California. Prop. 16 will begin to prove that our lives matter by taking back our hard-won rights to equal opportunities in jobs, business, housing, and college admissions for Black Californians. Prop. 16 is a key tool for expanding opportunities for young Black people, and we need your vote in November to make that opportunity a reality.


Dr. Harry Edwards is a Professor Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley and founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

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