So one of the predominant misconceptions out there today about affirmative action is that it's a quota system. This is false, as I have gently reminded CNN, but it still seems to hold a lot of sway over the electorate when debating plans to abolish equal opportunity programs like affirmative action.
But now, civil rights groups fighting to defend affirmative action are test-running a new plan that seeks to neutralize the misconceptions on quotas. Basically, in response to a Ward Connerly backed initiative to ban affirmative action outright, they are attempting to place on the ballot a counter-measure of their own which would prohibit quota or point-based systems (what were outlawed in Bakke and Gratz, respectively), but would otherwise maintain the ability of the state to use affirmative action as upheld by the Supreme Court in cases like Grutter.
Connerly's people are ticked off, saying that it "was created just to confuse and deceive voters." On the one hand, they sort of have a point -- voters may not understand the difference between the two initiatives, and could vote for both on the misunderstanding that both would bar affirmative action (which would set off one hell of a court battle). On the other hand, the whole thing wouldn't be a problem if anti-affirmative action forces weren't aggressively pedelling the lie that racial quotas are still part of modern affirmative action, so my sympathy for their claims of deception is limited. Moreover the counter-initiative does apparently tell voters that it will uphold legal affirmative action programs, which makes it much clearer.
Most importantly, the counter-initiative helps give Colorado voters a genuine choice as to just what they want to exclude from their state. Do they just dislike quota systems, or do they also want to eliminate counseling programs for freshman college women, mentoring for at-risk minority youth, outreach programs to Latino youngsters, and other race and gender-conscious plans which enjoy much broader support? With the knowledge that all sides oppose racial quotas, the debate can proceed in a far more honest and fair manner than what we've heard thus far. And that's worth celebrating.
See also a certain brilliant and sexy blogger.