Prop 16 advocacy group pushes for voter education
Students of YAPA’s Prop 16 group are working to make diverse perspectives more accessible for prospective voters
Proposition 16, formerly known as ACA-5, is a California ballot measure that will appear on the 2020 November ballot. It repeals Proposition 209, which prohibits state and local governments from providing preferential treatment to individuals or groups on the basis of their race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Supporters of the measure, a form of affirmative action, argue that it would improve inequity and provide minority groups with more opportunities, while opponents argue that socioeconomic status would be a better gauge.
Students of YAPA’s Prop 16 advocacy group, who harbor different opinions on the complex issue among themselves, are working not to sway voters to one side or another but to inform them on different perspectives and arguments.
Eleanor Yick, who mentors the Prop 16 group, has worked in education for 42 years and is the current president of the League of Women Voters in Southwest Santa Clara Valley and former superintendent of Mountain View Whisman school district.
According to Yick, the issue of Prop 16 is a lot more complicated than it may seem on the surface level.
“[Inequity in workplace and education access] is such a systemic problem that there is no one right or wrong way to try to fix it,” Yick said. “It is really difficult to change a cultural mindset that relegates a whole population to a lower place in society and try to provide them with opportunities to move out of that place.”
Many laws and regulations have been put into place to support an ideal of “equal opportunity,” Yick said, but it is something yet to be achieved. What the group is pushing for, Yick said, is not necessarily a definite solution, but to make sure that the community understands the reasons for supporting or opposing it, and are able to make the decision for themselves.
For the students of the group, learning to value and represent both sides of an issue has been an educational experience as well.
“The first three or four weeks after I met Eleanor, I had no clue what her position was [on Prop 16], and that really impressed me,” said Bennie Chang, a group member and junior at Lynbrook High School.
According to Alyssa Yao, another group member and a junior at Cupertino High School, the accepting and inclusive discussion facilitated by Yick allows students hear many perspectives and share their own distinct viewpoints, not just about Prop 16 but on other topics as well.
“Everyone’s able to say whatever they want,” Yao said. “I think there’s a boldness in people’s responses — I don’t think anyone really holds back when we have discussions, which is really cool.”
The Prop 16 group has invited multiple guest speakers, including assemblymember Kansen Chu, to speak on their experiences and views. For students, these opportunities have been a source of empowerment and are very helpful for those developing their own opinions, Chang said.
“Being in this advocacy group isn’t just about advocating specifically on this issue, but about helping each other develop our voices,” Chang said. “Not just presently, but also continuing on into our future work, I hope that students can be empowered from their experiences in this group.”
Written by Sargun Dhillon