Thirteen years ago one man challenged the political establishment—of both parties—and won. His issue? Ending racial preferences. The man? Ward Connerly. Connerly, a Sacramento-based businessman, made the case why all Americans, black and white, should oppose racial preferences. At their core, racial preferences were meant to assist the disadvantaged, those who had a lesser education or who were born into impoverished conditions. What was created was a system that cheated thousands of hard working Americans of all races and classes, and coddled some Americans based solely on their race or gender.
Yet, as the political establishment set out to right a wrong, they created a convoluted superstructure of race and gender based admission policies in academia and in government contracting. More importantly, according to Connerly, these racial and gender preferences broke a fundamental promise made to all Americans that we are all created equal and should be treated as equals.
“What many black Americans have forgotten, and what the liberals don’t want them to remember, is the true genius of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous address – that America should live up to its founding principles and strive for fairness, equality and a colorblind society.”
Connerly shares his fascinating journey in Creating Equal (Encounter Books, 2007). His second book, Lessons from My Uncle James (Encounter, 2008) is a collection of tough-love teachings that rival the admonitions given by Booker T. Washington in his classic, Up from Slavery.
After ending racial preferences in the Golden State through Proposition 209, 54% to 46%, Connerly’s American Civil Rights Coalition scored victories ending affirmative action in college admissions and government contracts in Michigan, Nebraska and Washington state. In 2009, the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative was defeated by a close margin, 51% to 49%.
The Colorado loss was a wake-up call.
“We encountered a highly organized, well-funded and angry opposition. The other side brought with it the full support of President Barack Obama, a staunch supporter of affirmative action. They also hit up their liberal friends in Hollywood and New York – even billionaires like Warren Buffet.
“But it is the far-left radical groups such as ACORN who in some cases physically blocked our petition circulators from knocking on doors that alarmed me most. One of these radicals was caught on tape yelling at one of our black petition circulators, ‘Step ‘em, fetch ‘em, negro! Obey the white master!’”
Blocking and harassing petition circulators isn’t the only challenge facing the American Civil Rights Coalition as it attempts to get its initiative on the ballot in states across the nation. According to Connerly, “The other challenge comes in the form of lawsuits like the one the ACLU recently filed against our effort in Missouri. A judge there barred our initiative from appearing on the ballot based on a technicality. But this is the second time we have been blocked from gathering signatures by fraudulent ballot language written by the ACORN-backed Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan.”
While efforts in Missouri are on ice, Connerly’s effort in Arizona has paid off.
“Last year in Arizona we turned in over 330,000 signatures, almost half of which were invalidated by the political establishment on bogus charges. This year we went through the legislature where we found a sympathetic member who introduced our bill – and on the last day of the session we got our bill out of committee, to a full vote where our measure passed and now we’re on the ballot in Arizona in 2010.”
Connerly hopes to take his civil rights initiative directly to the people in many more states where initiatives are allowed. “If we get our measure in front of the people, and if we can make our case without being harassed and sued by the left—we will end the immoral and destructive polices of race and gender based quotas, preferences and set-asides.”