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It Started As An Attack On Migrants But California’s Prop 187 Helped Shape California’s Political Identity Today

Today is the 25th anniversary of California voters passage of Proposition 187 which denied public service to immigrants without legal status. The prevailing legacy of Prop 187 should be a point of pride for California Latinxs who successfully overturned a scathing anti-immigrant measure. According to LAist, it “remains one of the most divisive measures in state history, and the battle over its passage ultimately reshaped California politics.”

The policy denied public health care and all education from elementary school to college to undocumented immigrants. Under Prop 187, state and local agencies had to report any immigrants who did not fulfill residency criteria to state and federal authorities.

When the initiative entered the ballot on November 8, 1994, it passed with 59% in favor. Following an uphill legal battle, it was declared unconstitutional in 1997 by a federal judge. Despite its horrid attack on the immigrant community, the battle to dismantle the proposition is what shifted California from a beacon of conservatism to a reliably blue state today. 

25 years ago, California officials concocted a plan to blame immigrants for a recent state recession. 

Following a state recession, in 1994, that cost California thousands of jobs, Republican Assemblyman Dick Mountjoy, an accountant and a political team came up with the ballot measure nicknamed “Save Our State.” Mountjoy’s measure said Californians suffered “economic hardship” because of undocumented immigrants using public services. 

Under the extreme initiative, anyone who wasn’t “lawfully admitted for a period of time” in the United States would be denied social services and education. Children would be kicked out of public schools after 90 days if their parents could not prove they were lawfully in the U.S. Moreover, teachers, health care providers, and law enforcement would be forced to survey their neighbors and report any individuals they believed to be undocumented to federal immigration agencies. 

These xenophobic provisions were alleged to “save money” for California. Prop 187 came during Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s re-election campaign, which was losing in the polls. Wilson was already using anti-immigrant rhetoric in his campaign ads, thus supporting Prop 187 was a no-brainer for the troubled governor. 

Latinx begin to organize against Prop 187.

During a debate, Wilson made it clear he had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to undocumented immigrants when he was asked if he would call INS on a second-grader.  

“I make no apology for putting California children first…Yes, those children who are in the country illegally deserve an education, but the government that owes it to them is not in Sacramento or even in Washington. It is in the country from which they have come, Wilson said

The same day 70,000 people, many Latinxs, marched in opposition to Prop 187. According to a Baltimore Sun report from the rally, at the time, it was the largest demonstration the state had ever seen. 

A graduate student, Angel Cervantes, organized 10,000 students from 30 LAUSD schools staged a walkout on November 2, 1994 — 6 days before the vote. 

“It was the biggest thing I had ever seen, probably one of the most life-changing empowering, moments,” Cervantes told the LA Times in 1994. “To see so many groups, so many organizations, so many banners, so many different Latin Americans… it was very powerful.”

Prop 187 passed — but it wouldn’t hold for long. 

Prop passed with 59 percent of voters approving it. But it was immediately challenged in court by seven groups, five of the lawsuits would make it through. Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer issued a preliminary injunction blocking implementation on December 14, 1994. Despite appeals by the state, by 1996 President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform law would only strengthen the legal opposition to Prop 187. 

“Judge Pfaelzer ruled that the measure was unconstitutional in Nov. 1997, and almost two years later, in Jul. 1999, Proposition 187 was effectively overturned via federal mediation,” according to LAist. 

The fight against Prop 187 would solidify a better, stronger Democratic electorate — including a coalition of Latinxs.

The Republican-backed Prop 187 solidified for many Latinxs of the time that the GOP was an anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx party, causing many to flee toward the Democrats. These new Latinx Democrats would put Latinxs in elected offices in the years to come and shift California left. 

A report by Latino Decisions found that from 1994 to 2004, 1.8 million new voters, 66 percent of which were Latinx and 23 percent of which were Asian, registered in California. Today roughly 80 percent of elected positions in California belong to Democrats. 

The fight against Prop 187 unified Latinxs and other immigrants in a way the state had never seen. It forever changed the demographics of California politics and proved Latinxs were a valuable electorate with the power to transform.

An Ohio Teacher Used A Racist Meme About Dora The Explorer To Discuss Voter Eligibility

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An Ohio Teacher Used A Racist Meme About Dora The Explorer To Discuss Voter Eligibility

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A West Geauga High School teacher in Ohio is being investigated for using a racist image in class. The teacher showed students a meme of Dora the Explorer portrayed as an undocumented immigrant during an 11th-grade Advanced Placement government class. 

Multiple parents called the school district to express outrage and vented about the incident on social media. Some parents even pointed out that besides being offensive the information the photo was supposed to convey was inaccurate, according to Fox 8

The teacher was put on leave pending an investigation but eventually reinstated by the superintendent. 

An Ohio teacher uses a racist meme about Dora the Explorer to discuss voter eligibility.

The teacher used two photos to demonstrate voter ineligibility. One showed the mugshot of an alt-right man with a felon, the other showed Dora the Explorer with the charges of “illegal border crossing” and “resisting arrest.” One of the upset parents, Stephanie Anderson, expressed that the lesson was inaccurate according to Fox 8. Anderson noted that undocumented citizens would obviously not be allowed to vote so listing their charges would be pointless. However, the offenses that are listed are not felons but misdemeanors. 

“I was outraged,” said Anderson, “Whether this teacher intended it to be a joke, something he found online it’s simply inappropriate and outrageous.”

“Seeing that white supremacist juxtaposed with a brown-skinned child who has a superimposed black eye, blood coming from her mouth with the offense of illegal border crossing and resisting arrest combined with 666 666666 is 100% inappropriate,” she said. “There are so many other more appropriate ways to get your point across.”

The Superintendent released a statement to parents. 

“We are investigating the matter related to the politically-insensitive slides allegedly contained in a teacher’s classroom presentation today. The teacher has been placed on leave pending the results of the investigation,” Superintendent Richard Markwardt, Ph. D wrote in a statement to parents. 

While the teacher was put on leave, Anderson was hopeful that the entire district understood the gravity of the situation. The mother, whose son was in the class, believes the classroom is not a place for a teacher to impose their personal political beliefs. 

“It’s not okay for either extreme,” said Anderson, “So whether you are very liberal or very conservative at either end of the spectrum, imparting your views on your students in a non-educationally beneficial way is unacceptable.”

The Washington Post followed up on the story and found that Markwardt had already finished investigating. He told the paper he recognized the inappropriateness of the imagery but didn’t think the teacher had any ill will and refused to terminate them. 

“I will not use what I regard as a lapse of judgment as the reason to damage the career of a good teacher,” Markwardt said. “That would be following one mistake with another.”

Anderson told the Washington Post that the school district has struggled with addressing diversity and inclusivity, but that she was satisfied with the school’s response. 

“I genuinely believe they’re taking measurable steps to ensure all the students in the district can come to school in an environment that’s free from harassment and discrimination,” Anderson said.

Markwardt said some individual staff members may require diversity training, but the district overall will continue to focus on the matter. 

“I perceive the use of the objectionable image as symptomatic of a general lack of attention to the diversity of individuals in a largely homogeneous school district,” he said.

The Dora meme is a decade old and you can thank Arizona SB 1070 for that. 

According to the BBC, the Dora meme first appeared in 2009 in response to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s SB 1070 Bill, which would propose the strictest immigration laws in the country. The bill that allowed law enforcement to demand documentation from anyone they thought “looked” undocumented and made it illegal to be caught without papers would eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012. The meme was used to illustrate the effects of the law, which some members of the right championed. 

University of Cincinnati sociology professor Erynn Masi de Casanova told the Washington Post that using a meme in like this in class can legitimize and trivialize the real lives of Latinxs. 

“Because Dora is what I call a ‘generic Latina’ stereotype, a fictional character without any identifiable national origin, people may feel comfortable projecting their ideas about Latinos onto her,” Casanova said.

However, Casanova did point out one silver lining to the disturbing incident. 

“It is heartening to me that students and parents were disturbed by this image that dehumanizes and makes light of immigrants’ struggles,” she said. “It seems they are learning something about empathy in spite of this teacher’s efforts to discourage it.”

Some Colleges And Universities Offer Affinity Housing For Highly Diverse Spectrum Of Students, Including Women Of Color

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Some Colleges And Universities Offer Affinity Housing For Highly Diverse Spectrum Of Students, Including Women Of Color

@fairhousing / Twitter

The human race is no stranger to segregation. In the United States, Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” doctrine kept people racially separated for decades. In Germany, there were the Nuremberg Laws. In South Africa, Apartheid. Today, segregation in our country takes a different form—no longer supported by law, it is pervasive yet subtle, an intersectional issue rooted in gender, race, and socioeconomic status. While legally dividing people based on their differences is indisputably wrong, a complex question emerges: Could the cultivation of ethnic, religious, and racial minority communities actually yield positive outcomes for the people within those communities? Many signs point to yes.

On college campuses, this question underscores the phenomenon of “affinity housing”—spaces where minority students can live alongside peers who share important aspects of their identities.

credit: vassar.edu

The debate around affinity housing has spanned the past 50 years, beginning with active calls for change from students at numerous institutions in 1969 (Williams College, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University, to name a few). At Williams College, the discussion began when members of the Williams Afro-American Society occupied Hopkins Hall until the school president responded to a series of requests, including the development of a residence hall specifically for Black students. While that demand wasn’t met at the time—leading to a reemergence of the issue last year—students at Vassar and Wesleyan were more successful, resulting in Wesleyan’s “Malcolm X House” and Vassar’s “Kendrick House”—dorms specifically designated to Black students, which still exist today.

Now, in 2019, a wide number of colleges and universities offer affinity housing for a highly diverse spectrum of students, including women of color, Asians and Asian-Americans, Latinx populations, and LGBTQ groups. Proponents of affinity housing argue that these communal residences provide minority students with a sense of safety and security, especially at institutions with largely white student bodies. However, many people believe that affinity housing hearkens back to a darker epoch of American history, reviving segregationist tendencies that are fundamentally harmful to our progress as a society. Without a doubt, our country’s fraught past has definitely made the legal aspects of affinity housing a bit sticky.

According to the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and family status. 

credit: calstatela.edu

So, if a university offers affinity housing for Black students, it could get in trouble if white or Asian students were explicitly prohibited from living there. To avoid this, colleges provide students with the choice to reside in these spaces, using careful language to define their role on campus—for example, California State University’s website describes its Halisi Scholars Living Learning Community as having been “designed to enhance the residential experience for students who are a part of or interested in issues regarding the Black community.” While it focuses on fostering a sense of community for Black students, the Halisi Scholars LLC is available to any student invested in issues of Black culture. Thus, as long as the option to join an affinity housing residence is inclusive to all, there is nothing illegal about it.

Although it can make affinity housing tricky to navigate, the Fair Housing Act protects folks all over the country. In certain states and cities, the protections expand even further to include factors like age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, and citizenship status. Given the diversity of the U.S. population, these measures are absolutely essential to maintaining liberty and preserving our rights; yet history reveals that in spite of this legislation, marginalized communities are still most affected by housing discrimination, which perhaps points to affinity housing as a productive response to a long and unsavory trend.

Netflix’s “Dear White People” touches on the topic of affinity housing, illustrating the polemic nature of this issue through its characters’ divergent opinions. 

credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

While some characters, like Coco Conners—a Black economics student who serves as treasurer for Winchester University’s Coalition of Racial Equality—do not support the new Armstrong-Parker dorm (a residence hall for students of color), several other characters find community there. Yvette Lee Bowser, executive producer of the series, describes this point in the show as a “renaissance” for the predominantly white, fictional Ivy League school.

“Everyone wants to have a sense of community, no matter what their cultural background is,” says Bowser. “That’s really what Armstrong-Parker is about—a built-in sense of community.” As a woman of color, Bowser attended Stanford University, which also offers affinity housing. She reiterates that the housing assignments at Winchester are not meant to segregate, but to do the very opposite: the Amstrong-Parker dorm is designed to maintain connectivity within students’ own, preexistent communities. “You don’t choose to go to a predominantly white institution only to be with black people,” she says. “You want the diverse experience, but you also want to feel those creature comforts and culture comforts.”