In summary

Prop. 24 creates a loophole that weakens the privacy of small businesses and hurts our Black, Latino and Asian-American small businesses the most.

By Khaim Morton, Special to CalMatters

Khaim Morton is a small-business owner in Sacramento and a father of two sons, khaimmorton@gmail.com. 

In the 1980s, I listened to my father Louis’ local radio show. It was a forum for the Black community to talk about social justice, civil rights and how the American Dream remains elusive for Black people. It highlighted the systemic challenges of surviving and trying to thrive in a government originally structured to treat Black people as property.

Recently, I pulled these 30-year-old shows from the archives and found the conversations similar to those happening today. But, history is not doomed to repeat itself. We have an opportunity before us: One that only works if we work for it. We must organize. We must vote. 

Some of these systemic challenges are obvious and notorious.  Others are less obvious but equally damaging and merit every bit as much scrutiny, even if buried deep in the technocratic and data structures of our contemporary economy.

Proposition 24, the so-called privacy measure being bankrolled by Alastair Mactaggart, a wealthy real estate developer from San Francisco, is one such example of the new challenges facing people of color. 

Prop. 24 fails us in two key ways:

First, Prop. 24 creates a loophole that allows commercial credit agencies and data corporations to sell the personal information of small-business owners.  Creating the loophole weakens the privacy of small-business owners and hurts our Black, Latino and Asian-American small businesses the most. And California leads the nation in minority-owned small businesses.

Second, Prop 24 allows the continued use of “neighborhood scores” and fails to address “digital redlining,” a practice whereby lenders use a person’s race or the racial make-up of a neighborhood as a rationale for either refusing to lend to its residents or charging much higher interest rates.  Historically, redlining stifled the ability of Black families to get ahead by either denying them access to home ownership or charging them significantly higher finance fees.

Today, redlining still exists deep in the data and neighborhood scores used by credit reporting agencies to determine a person’s credit or a neighborhood’s potential for investment. These scores are created based on a variety of factors, including census and aggregate financial transaction data, which are opaque and frequently biased against people of color. 

If Prop. 24 was truly a privacy initiative for all Californians, then decision-makers should not be able to use these scores to determine where they want to invest. But instead, Prop. 24 fails to close this loophole to protect the privacy interests and socio-economic rights of people of color.  

Bottom line, Prop. 24 furthers the institutional racism that has long been used to deny Black families and other ethnic minorities equal access to homes, services and opportunity. 

As families in my community work to achieve the American Dream, pulling themselves up through hard work, we are still being discriminated against through technology and data systems. We need more protections to fight systemic racism, not less.

I am not fooled by the 52 pages of confusing language and fine print in Prop. 24, and neither should you. I know racism when I see it; my father taught me better.

I support my community in our quest to fulfill the promise of the American Dream. I’ll be voting “No” on Proposition 24. And so should you.

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Read about the propositions on California’s ballot in the November 2020 election.

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