California at a Crossroads: Social Strife or Social Unity?
A series of public policy and ballot initiatives in the 1990s compelled Californians to choose between social peace and deepening struggle and growing violence between competing groups. The idea behind California’s Proposition 187, which scapegoated undocumented immigrants, denied the state’s dependence on immigrants avoid taking responsibility for including them fully in our society. The California Civil Rights Initiative denied the legitimacy of the claims of long-disrespected groups to avoid extending social benefits to them. Finally, Proposition 184, which mandated permanent imprisonment for third-time felons regardless of the nature of their offenses, denied the social causes of crime to avoid having to provide opportunities for people before they become criminals. In a wealthy like the United States, it should not be necessary to withhold jobs from white men so that others can work, or to deny working people the chance to send their children to college. The American problem appears to be less a matter of limited resources than of the maldistribution of wealth and of the social disutility of great wealth. If the free-market system is incapable of generating sufficient health care, education, and employment to meet the needs of all the people, then we must not hesitate to modify that system intelligently and boldly.
California; University of California; affirmative action; anti-immigrant movement; criminal law
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 22, No. 3 (1995): 53-63