SPECIAL SERIES : 2003 California Recall Election
Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks out against Proposition 54
October 3, 2003 7:52 PM
Support towards Proposition 54 has significantly declined and opposition is growing steadily, according to a new statewide poll released Saturday. This reflects a significant change in voter sentiment as the initiative has continuously led at the polls as recently as early September, The Field Poll, a non-partisan public opinion news service, said.
Proposition 54, or the Racial Privacy Act, has been one of the most controversial political initiatives on the ballot since its conception.
The oppostion reflected in The Field Poll was in full effect as students and the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke out against the initiative when Jackson visited SF State Thursday afternoon.
Supporters of Proposition 54 argue it will save the state funding, and that it is the next step toward a colorblind society. University of California Regent Ward Connerly, one of the main endorsers for Proposition 54, defends the initiative by claiming that the government has no business granting preferential treatment or discriminating against any citizen based on race, according to the Propostion 54 Web site.
However, this same initiative has outraged many communities of color throughout the state, and it is this same outrage that has driven a wide variety of campus organizations to campaign against its success. This grassroots campaigning had its climax when Jackson stopped here as part of his “Keep Hope Alive/No on Prop 54 Campus Tour." He is visiting many California college campuses to urge students to vote against Proposition 54.
The President of Associated Students, Inc. Natalie Batista opened the event by talking to a packed crowd about the pros and cons of Proposition 54. Hundreds of students stood shoulder-to-shoulder listening to campus organizations like the Black Student Union, the General Union of Palestine Students, the Asian Student Union and others critically voice oppositon to the initiative.
As each speech ended, more and more people crowded around Jack Adams Hall anticipating Jackson’s arrival. Musician Alfredo Aguayo, played his guitar and sang songs about love and war until Jackson took the stage. As Jackson approached the stage the crowd erupted, greeting him with a standing ovation as he stepped on stage at Jack Adams Hall.
“Our values make us strong,” said Jackson. “It’s time for a change; we’re going to win on Tuesday.”
Jackson talked about how Proposition 54 threatens communities of color by eliminating the collection and tracking of racial data for various social services such as health care, education and law enforcement throughout the State. He also said the same forces that were behind the anti-civil rights movement that jailed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are the same conservative forces that want to disenfranchise communities of color.
Jackson also criticized gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California recall election.
“Let him [Arnold Schwarzenegger] terminate in the movies, not in the state,” said Jackson. “We need racial data to enforce the law, we need the truth and it shall set us free”.
“Vote no on Prop 54 and send Schwarzenegger back to the studio,” urged Jackson.
It was evident that Proposition 54 struck a deep chord in many students that day, as witnessed when students from City College of San Francisco talked about their personal experiences with racial profiling. A black student told a story about how he was constantly harassed by police officers in Oregon, where he grew up.
“Stand up or get rolled on,” said Samuel Carr, the President of the SF State Black Student Union. “What I mean by that is stand up, fight against hate crimes and Prop 54, stand up or get defeated.”
“We’re not going to get whited out,” said Valerie Francisco. “It’ll [Proposition 54] just shut us down. We’re not a colorblind society and if we can’t track injustices, that’s worse."
Jackson ended the day by urging students to demand a voting precinct on campus before voting day, Oct. 7. Despite Jackson's persuasions, many students seemed hesitant to approach those students who were attempting to get a voting precinct on campus.
“It’s good to get motivational speakers, and he’s [Jackson] a great speaker,” said Toby Guerrero, ethnic studies graduate student. “But if this is a hands-on school, I still feel that we need to be more hands-on, on how to organize ourselves”.
“A lot of people want to go to events like this but afterwards, then what?” said Guerrero. “He [Jackson] tried to get people motivated at the end, but everyone was quick to leave”.
Steve Phillips from Power PAC, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Californians about Proposition 54, also spoke at the event.
“This is a historic opportunity to turn the vote around,” said Philips. “On Oct. 7, California is going in a new direction. We’re going to turn this state around”.
As Rev. Jesse Jackson walked out of the Student Center, the crowd followed behind him to Malcolm X Plaza where he spoke more about Proposition 54 and the voting power of students.
"This election is brought on by fear," said Jackson. "If we vote on Tuesday, like we're cheering here today, we will win."
Reflecting on the event, Nina Fendel, Regional Representative for the California Faculty Association said, “We helped organize it and we’re thrilled we got a good turnout. They [students] were all passionate, political and we hope they’ll go out there and vote."
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