My Two Cents: Attempts to gut I-200 thwart will of people

It hasn’t received much attention in the mainstream media, but with the introduction last week in Olympia of Senate Bill 6268, some in state government are attempting to thwart the will of the people. SB 6268 (as well as a companion bill in the House) would allow race to be used as a factor in the admissions process in higher education.

The problem? In November 1998, voters approved Initiative 200, which bans preferential treatment by state government based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. It was only a little over five years ago that the people spoke loud and clear on this issue, with over 58 percent of the 1.9 million votes cast in favor of the initiative. In fact, it passed in all counties, with the exception of King County, in spite of the fact that the opposition to I-200 raised about $1 million, far outpacing the fundraising of the pro-I-200 camp.

Though the intent of the people is quite evident, some politicians believe that I-200 needs to be “tweaked” to bring state law more in line with some recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action. Conveniently ignoring the fact that these decisions merely allow race to be considered, as opposed to being a requirement, those in favor of SB 6268 and the like are essentially attempting to gut I-200 by making race a factor in college admissions.

Besides, the whole idea of race being a consideration in deciding who gets into college is logically untenable. Those who want to restore race as a factor argue that by leaving out someone’s ethnic background, the whole applicant cannot be considered. This is utterly ridiculous, as schools can consider grade point average, test scores, athletic prowess, musical talent, work history, the overcoming of hardships, etc. These are all examples of skills or accomplishments. Race (and gender) is an immutable characteristic. Being a minority or a woman is not a skill or an accomplishment, it is a fact of biology, so why take it into account when it comes to college admissions? It would be just as ridiculous to take into consideration a college applicant’s eye color or height or nose size, so why is it okay with race?

The bottom line is the people of Washington want the state to be colorblind when it comes to college admissions. Unraveling I-200 would once again inject race into the process.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author – who thinks we focus way too much on race in this country – gets in his two cents worth, in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.