La Shawn Barber

Thirteen years after California amended the state constitution to bar the government from discriminating against or preferring individuals or groups in admissions, contracting, and hiring, on the basis of race and sex, courts still are eradicating discriminatory provisions from the code. Proposition 209 passed with 54 percent of the vote.

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Earlier this week, Sacramento Superior Court ruled part of the state health professional scholarship program unconstitutional. On the books before Proposition 209, Health and Safety Code Sections 128330(g) and 128345 read in part:

"'Underrepresented groups' means African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic-Americans, or other persons underrepresented in medicine, dentistry, nursing, or other health professions as determined by the board…Solicit and receive funds from business, industry, foundations, and other private or public sources for the purpose of providing financial assistance in the form of scholarships or loans to African-American students, Native American students, Hispanic-American students, and other students from underrepresented groups."

The court ordered that references to race be stricken from the statute, but allowed the words "underrepresented groups" to remain, giving the state plenty of leeway to legally award money to minorities. "In a sense, this legal case amounts to statutory cleanup," said Joshua P. Thompson, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which brought the case. "We're making sure that nothing remains on the statute books that contradicts the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition 209, which ordered that the state cannot discriminate."

Too bad the sentiment doesn't apply to the federal government. Or does it?

A few months ago, I was alerted to similar racial preference provisions in a House of Representatives's version of the health care reform bill that award scholarships and contracts based on race. One of several such sections:

"In awarding grants or contracts under this section, the Secretary shall give preference to entities that have a demonstrated record of the following…Training individuals who are from underrepresented minority groups or disadvantaged backgrounds."

La Shawn Barber

Freelance writer La Shawn Barber blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog.