Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Institutions Discriminate--A Call For Equality

Backlash to the Passing of Proposition 228 Sparks Protests
Brit Johansson
The Associated Press

November 8, 2018--Over the course of the past election cycle there has been heated debate regarding California Proposition 228, which restores California Colleges and Universities the issuance of traditional diplomas. The measure was voted into law this past Tuesday by a narrow margin with 52% of Californians in favor of the proposed law. This law effectively overturns the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision stating that traditional diplomas are unconstitutional due to its discriminatory nature in denying the rights of individuals who are born without an intellectual capacity or drive to fulfill academic requirements. The court extended the right of people obtaining diplomas to anyone who wished to apply, not just those who completed required coursework and mandatory units. The passage of the proposition restores the traditional practice of students fulfilling unit requirements in order to obtain a degree. It is unclear if those diplomas that were issued to non-college applicants between last spring’s Supreme Court ruling and last weeks vote will remain legal.
The fallout from the passage took place immediately with opponents of the proposition taking to the streets and pundits taking to the airwaves. A large crowd of angry protesters amassed at various private Universities who had contributed heavily to the “Yes on 228” campaign. The protesters shouted such slogans as “Don’t educate with hate” and “Burned by the hate degree.” The gates of the University were vandalized with “No on 228” slogans and “Go back to home-schooling you Bigots!”
One protestor that was interviewed said, “I can’t believe after all we have come through in our nation’s history that civil rights are still being denied. Everyone deserves a diploma. I just don’t understand how people can hate someone simply because they are born without the intellectual capacity of those who have obtained college degrees. Shame on educators for discriminating—Shame on you!”
Opponents of proposition 228 often site the economic disparity that exists due to the discrimination of our nation’s universities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Workers 18 and over sporting bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average $18,734.” It is evident that there is economic disparity between those who do and do not have degrees. Alexis Peabody, a college graduate who sympathizes with the protestors said, “It amazes me that people want to deny this particular group of American citizens of their fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Who are we to deny an individual’s happiness by denying that individual of a college degree? It isn’t their fault that they do not have the natural disposition to learn. This is blatant discrimination and it should not be tolerated by America’s institutions.”
Jim Johnson, a college dropout, was appalled by the passage of the proposition. “I don’t understand why people have to hate. I can’t help that I am born this way. I’ve tried and tried to earn a degree, but it just was not natural to me. Imagine how it feels to see others dressing in their ceremonial gowns and knowing that the government does not recognize me and what I have to offer to the world. I don’t understand why they just won’t let me have a degree. It isn’t affecting anyone else’s life. I just want to be viewed as normal, to be like everybody else. Is that so wrong? ”
Protestors on the streets of California and around the nation are not the only one’s to chime in on this controversial issue. Governor Arned Schweister (R-CA) was disappointed with the results of the election. He stated: “It is a shame that Californians would vote for a proposition that is obviously discriminatory in nature. I am confident that this issue will go before the California State Supreme Court and that they will strike it down as being unconstitutional.” Senator Dina Funstone (D-CA) appeared in several “No on Prop 228” commercials wherein she claimed that the proposition is “wrong and unfair” and urged Californians to “vote against discrimination.” Upon learning of the election results, Funstone said, “It is sad that Californians have voted to deny individuals the right to have a degree. Everyone deserves to have a degree, regardless of one’s abilities. To establish requirements in obtaining a degree is obviously aimed at denying a particular segment of society of their fundamental rights. I have seen this type of discrimination before and it has no place in our society.”
News commentator Ken Olbermum took several minutes of his program on MSNBC to passionately decry the passage of proposition 228: “Finally, a special comment tonight, as promised, on the passage last week of proposition 228 in California which rescinded the right of individuals to obtain a degree. This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about prop 228, and I don’t have a personal investment in this. I’m not without a degree; I had to strain to think of even an extended member of my family who is. I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues who are fighting prejudice that still pervades their lives, and yet to me this vote is horrible, HORRIBLE! Because this isn’t about politics, it is about the human heart. If you voted for this proposition I have a few questions for you because I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? In a time when there are so many sources for information, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—to have a diploma. But no, you are saying that you cannot have it on these terms. Maybe something similar like a GED if they behave, if they don’t cause too much trouble. You even give them all the same legal rights even as you take away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them anchored in a college degree and you’re saying, “no, you can’t have a degree.” What if someone passed a law that said you can’t have a degree? I keep hearing this term “redefining diploma.” If we didn’t change the types of degrees that universities issue, we would not have any of the science and technological degrees that are offered today that were not offered in 1862. 1862! This is obviously a civil rights issue because before 1862 slaves were not allowed to have a degree. Those who support traditional degrees are the moral equivalent of slave owners. Just like the white taskmasters of our jaded American history, you want to make this segment of our society servile. And why? All because they have been born without the intellectual capacity or the drive to follow the requirements that you have established for earning a college degree! What is this to you? No one is asking you to embrace their lack of knowledge. But don’t you as human beings have to embrace what they have? With so much hate in the world; with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against each other, for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadness, this is what your conscience tells you to do? With your knowledge of life with endless vigor to tilt the playing field in favor of unhappiness and hate, this is what your heart tells you to do? Do you want to honor your degree and the God that has given you intelligence? Then spread happiness. Offer a degree to those who choose not to go to college, but still want one.”
Leading up to the election there were many television advertisements that appealed to viewers emotions in hopes to sway them from voting for this amendment. One such advertisement showed a young woman dressed in her beautiful and distinguished black graduation gown. As she pulled up in her car for the graduation ceremony her car door jammed and she needed help opening it from her father. Next, a tree branch caught her graduation cap and flipped it to the ground. As she approached the podium in order to receive her diploma, members of the crowd stuck their feet out to trip her and yanked on her gown in order to stop her. Fighting them off, she continued up the steps only to be straight-armed by one of the professors. A tearful family looked on as their daughter was denied the right to receive a diploma. A voiceover then stated, “Imagine if you couldn’t get a degree. Vote no on proposition 228.”
Another commercial showed footage from the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, followed by scenes from the 1960s of African American students being denied entry into all-white schools by police and politicians at the height of the civil rights movement. A voiceover stated: “It wasn’t long ago that discrimination was acceptable in our society. Japanese-Americans were pulled from schools and forced into internment camps. African Americans were not allowed in public schools. We have come a long way since those times, yet even today we have people that wish to deny others of the fundamental right of a college degree. Please stop the discrimination and hate and vote no on proposition 228.”
Due to the amount of money donated to the “Yes on 228” campaign by religious individuals, such as Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Protestants, and Muslims, protestors have targeted a number of churches, synagogues, and mosques. Demonstrations have been organized in front of many places of worship, crying foul for churches to get politically involved. They chanted demands of separation of church and state and called upon the government to tax these religious organizations because their members had donated money to a political cause. These religious organizations claim that their members have a right to support whatever proposition they choose, and that while these religious organizations have encouraged their members to earn an education and to value the traditional meaning of a college degree, they have not directly contributed to the campaign. Many opponents are particularly angry with Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) who donated an estimated 40% of the total funds spent by the “Yes on 228” campaign and offered countless hours of their time to promote the proposition. One member of the LDS church stated, “We believe that ‘The glory of God is intelligence,’ and that by giving access to college degrees to anyone who simply wants one without following the intellectual requirements associated with traditional degrees diminishes the true purpose of a degree. This is not a message of hate. We feel that everyone has the right to pursue what course in life that they wish. We just do not believe that we should change the fundamental requirements of earning a college degree.”
Resentful of individual Mormon’s involvement in backing the proposition, many have rallied throughout the nation at Mormon temples. In Los Angeles, protestors scribbled on the temple gates such phrases as: “Church of Latter-day Lies,” “Go back to Utah you bigots!” and “The Mormon church encourages its members to get more than one degree, yet they won’t let me have one. Hypocrites!” Protestors also carried many signs and chanted “Tax the Mormon church,” “Separate church and hate,” “Expel hate—vote no on 228.”
Opponents are also extremely upset with the African American community who voted overwhelmingly in support of proposition 228. It is estimated that 70% of all African Americans supported the proposition, which has led to vitriol from those who are opposed to it. One angry protestor screamed, “Shame on you blacks! Of all people! You should know better. You should know that we stood with you to help you obtain your civil rights and now you turn your backs on us by denying our civil rights. SHAME ON YOU!”
John Alexander, an African American who supported prop 228, said, “It is shameful that people want to equate this issue with the civil rights movement. There have been many who have said that this is a fundamental right for everyone and that by limiting college degrees to those who attend college and fulfill the requirements outlined by the institution, we are discriminating. I just don’t see it that way. People who don’t have a college degree have never had to drink from a different drinking fountain, or ride at the back of the bus, or have been hosed down by law enforcement and locked out of schools by politicians. To compare what we as African Americans had to go through in order to obtain our civil liberties is nothing like the current movement to issue college degrees to anyone who applies for one, regardless of whether or not they have attended college. As a matter of fact, it is insulting, and to point an accusatory finger at African Americans simply because we are smart enough to recognize that this is not a civil rights issue and to vote accordingly, that is just wrong.”
One thing remains certain. While the election has passed and the people of California have spoken, this issue is not going away. Opponents of proposition 228, with support of the ACLU and other organizations, have already submitted half a dozen challenges to the California Supreme Court in hopes to overturn the recent amendment. While the people of California have exercised their democratic right, those who do not agree with the outcome are hoping that the judicial branch of the state government overturns the will of democracy. Win or lose, this battle will continue to play out both in California and throughout the United States.

*This satire was composed by Brett Hall on November 18, 2008

No comments: