Referendum 88 and the Fight Against Affirmative Action

John David

CounterCurrent: Week of 11/3


The war over affirmative action during the last several years has been a complex saga, to say the least. On the one hand, in July 2018, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice announced their plan to repeal seven regulatory documents put in place by the Obama administration. These documents effectively gave colleges and universities free reign to prioritize racial preferences over individual merit in their admissions and hiring practices. 

On the other hand, Massachusetts' District Court recently ruled in favor of Harvard University and their ongoing discrimination against Asian-American students in admissions, a major win for higher education’s progressives. These are but two of countless skirmishes that have kept the war in our country raging since the 1960s. The constant back-and-forth makes it difficult to discern who, if anyone, is “winning”, especially given the influence of radically different presidential administrations.

And now, enter Referendum 88. With this vote taking place next Tuesday, November 5th, Washington State re-enters the affirmative action fray after a brief summer hiatus. The law in question is Initiative 1000, a state statute passed in April, 2019 that permits Washington organizations and institutions to use “characteristics such as race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status...as factors when considering a person for public education or public employment opportunities.” If this sounds like discrimination to you, you’d be right. 

In this week’s featured article, NAS President Peter Wood breaks down the issue, including the byzantine text of I-1000 itself, and explains why those opposed to racial bias should vote an emphatic “NO” today. But don’t check out if you’re not a Washingtonian; if this statute remains in place, it will set a dangerous precedent for other states to follow suit.


CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Robert Ashworth, Public Domain

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