Illustrating the way in which conceptions of race and crime shape and are shaped by law is California's Proposition 21. Enacted in 2000, Proposition 21, also known as the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act," was the product of California's direct democratic process through which voters are able to change the California Constitution through a simple majority vote. Part II address the ideological foundations of direct democracy and examines critically its ability to serve a democratic function. I examine the founders' rationale behind the decision not to employ a representative form of government, and look at direct democracy in California and the theoretical underpinning behind it. I argue that direct democracy has been used to oppress minority groups, partly due to the undermining of the structural protections in a representative form of government and that further, in the case of California, the racial impact of direct democracy was conceived at the inception of the system. Part III examines the socio-political landscape surrounding Proposition 21. I examine how the proposition system in California has been used to subjugate racial minorities throughout its history. Part IV highlights Proposition 21 and examines the discourse that surrounded youths, race, gangs, and crime at the time of the legislation and analyzes the rhetoric employed in the campaign. Part V looks to how this legislation has been challenged, both through traditional litigation and through progressive tactics. I evaluate the strategies' liberatory potential and argue that creating greater transparency in racial dialogue is important from an anti-subordination standpoint and argue that this is necessary to mobilize and empower those most affected by these laws, to create the social change necessary to rectify racial injustice and contest the current discourse on race and class in society. I conclude with some suggestions on how to best build coalitions and steps that need to be taken to move forward with the struggle.


Symposium: Eighth Annual LatCrit Conference City & The Citizen: Operations of Power, Strategies of Resistance: Section II: Race Ethnicity and Gender: Identity and Ideologies in Law, Theory and Culture