Discrimination fight is not over

Despite Obama’s successes, affirmative action still necessary

By Kimberly S. Johnson
Denver Post

The very presence of Barack Obama’s name on the ballot may be a setback for civil rights advancement in Colorado.

Here’s why: On Nov. 4, Coloradans also are being asked to vote on Amendment 46, which seeks to end affirmative action programs for minorities and women. Some voters may make a leap in logic and assume that because a black man has a chance to become president, discrimination is thing of the past and affirmative action is no longer needed.

They’d be wrong, of course.

Obama is an intelligent, highly successful black man. He has reached echelons of success unattainable for many Americans, regardless of race.

But his rise is an exception, not a rule. His candidacy cannot possibly end the systemic discrimination reflected in state hiring, college admissions and contracting.

Obama has the opportunity to interview for a job on a national stage, whereas most minorities and women have one person or a small group making a hiring decision. If one or more members of the group hold prejudiced attitudes toward a certain racial group, that could be the deciding factor between a new opportunity and nothing, argues Tim Wise, author of “Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White” (RoutledgeFalmer, 2005).

“Unless you have something that requires people to seek out differences, they will do things the same old way,” he said. “Racism and inequality are still entrenched.”

The true goal of affirmative action, before it was twisted by conservatives and liberals, was to forge a path to end the disparity between the races due to slavery, Jim Crow and segregation.

Affirmative action does not intend for unqualified minorities and women to get “a helping hand,” but rather a “hand up” to a more level playing field. It’s not about quotas (which are illegal), or having the Rainbow Coalition in the office, classroom or boardroom. To put it plainly, it’s about not being overlooked because you’re qualified but happen to have a bit more melanin in your skin or have breasts.



Due to the trauma that Hurricane Ike caused the Houston community, AAJC had decided to postpone this event, initially scheduled for September 30.  We are proud to announce that the event has been rescheduled for WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19.  Please join us!

Asian American Justice Center

in partnership with

Asian Chamber of Commerce, Houston Minority Business Council, Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA, Prudential Financial and South Asian Chamber of Commerce

proudly presents


How Can Asian American Businesses in Houston Earn a Piece of this Multi-Billion Dollar Pie?

Speakers include:

Valerie Coleman, U.S. Small Business Administration

Ed Pringle, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Chad Frasier, U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division

Jo Casady, Prudential Insurance Company of America

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

International Trade Center

11110 Bellaire Boulevard, 2nd floor

Houston, TX 77072

Attendance is FREE. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

RSVPs are required.

Reserve your spot by Monday, November 17 by calling 202.296.2300, ext. 131 or emailing hpark@advancingequality.org.

This program has been made possible through the generous support of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.

Civil rights or civil wrongs?
A trail of fraud, deception and suspect motives follow Ward Connerly into Nebraska

by Bryan Cohen -Omaha Weekly Reader

This was supposed to be Ward Connerly’s year.

Following successes in California and Michigan, Connerly announced in March 2007 his “Super Tuesday for Equal Rights” campaign — a push to effectively ban affirmative action policies by amending as many state constitutions as possible in 2008. From a list of 10 states, Connerly narrowed his efforts and petition signature gathering machine to five: Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska.

Connerly is controversial as his campaigns. In interviews he has praised the Klu Klux Klan for supporting his initiatives and questioned the legitimacy of the civil rights landmark decision in Brown v. The Board of Education. His “civil rights” efforts have earned him over $7 million since 1996.

But November 4 is panning out to be less super than he hoped.

Connerly has dropped three campaigns. His petition gathering company, National Ballot Access, has been dogged by lawsuits. In Oklahoma, the state with the shortest petition period at 30 days, the machine failed to get enough valid signatures. In Arizona and Missouri, opponents pressed legal and administrative charges of fraud, over 130,000 signatures were found invalid and his amendment failed to make the ballot.


Sep 30, 2008

DENVER (AP) ― Gov. Bill Ritter announced his opposition Monday to a ballot measure that would ban affirmative action in the awarding of state contracts, employment and admission to Colorado universities, calling it a California import that doesn’t fit Colorado.

Ritter said Amendment 46 would destroy years of progress in education, health care and work force development. Supporters say affirmative action based on race and gender is no longer needed.

Amendment 46 is similar to initiatives bankrolled by former University of California regent Ward Connerly and approved by voters in California, Washington and Michigan. A similar measure is on Nebraska’s ballot.

Ritter said that women earn $3 an hour less than men for equal work. African Americans earn 25 percent less than Caucasians, he said.

“In Colorado, African Americans, Latinos and American Indians make up 22 percent of all high school graduates but only 9 percent of freshmen at the University of Colorado-Boulder,” he said.

“Amendment 46 undercuts Colorado and destroys years of progress in education, in health care, in work force development, all efforts that are important to Colorado’s hard working families and family owned business,” Ritter said.

Amendment backers cried foul when Don Elliman, director of the governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, acknowledged that state time was used to organize an event featuring a researcher who studied the negative effects of California’s Proposition 209, which ended race and gender affirmative action in that state.

Elliman estimated that three to four hours of state time was spent on e-mails and RSVPs for the Sept. 22 event.

“It was an error both in substance and in style,” Elliman said. “I wish we hadn’t done it and now we have to figure out what to do to make it right.”

Ritter didn’t know about the development office’s work, Elliman said.

Elliman said his staff told those attending the event that the state did not endorse the views of Michael Sumner, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who examined the negative effects of Proposition 209.

Elliman said his staff believed that disclaimer met the legal requirement against using state money to campaign for or against a ballot measure.

Colorado Civil Rights Initiative Executive Director Jessica Peck Corry, whose group supports Amendment 46, said it will pursue legal action.

“This isn’t just a benign educational effort. This is a scare tactic to mislead people into believing certain consequences will happen if our initiative passes,” said Corry.

State law requires all sides of an issue be presented whenever public money is used to discuss a ballot initiative.

Elliman said he would follow the advice of legal counsel on what to do next and that he wasn’t considering discipline for anybody on his staff.

“If anybody is saying discipline, I hope they start with me,” he said. “It’s my department.”

(© 2008 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

The following article originally appeared on THE DAILY VOICE on Sept. 25, 2008.

Staff Reporter

A hard-hitting new TV ad campaign in Colorado and Nebraska accuses anti affirmative action crusader Ward Connerly of profiteering and hypocrisy. The ad says Connerly, who led the successful effort against race-conscious policies in California, received more than $7 million for his opposition to affirmative action and received a $1 million race-based contract much like the ones he said he opposes.

The ad was put out by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is fighting efforts in several states that are seeking to ban affirmative action.

“Think your family wins when we outlaw equal opportunity?” the announcer asks at the beginning of the ad. “Scratch the surface and you might think differently.” The ad shows a scratch-off lottery game, in which the images underneath the scratch-off sections is a portrait of Connerly.

The ad describes Connerly, who is African American, as a “California political operative” and a “fraud” who used “nonprofit slush funds” to pay himself $7 million. The group also alleges that Connerly used his race to land no-bid contracts worth over million dollars from race-based government programs he says he opposes.”

As the final section is scratched off the card, we see a third image of Connerly, normally an indication of a jackpot. But the announcer intones: “With his plans to outlaw equal opportunity, Connerly wins. We lose.”

Ballot initiatives were proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma that would give voters the chance to decide whether to eliminate affirmative action in government-funded programs and public schools.

Connerly. who heads the American Civil Rights Institute, has said the 37-word initiative would read: “The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

Supporters of affirmative action argue that the language is deceptively simple and the proposal would actually allow hurt women and people of color who were supposed to be helped by civil rights laws.

As a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Connerly led an effort in 1995 to convince a majority of the Regents to end the use of race as a means for admissions. He led the effort to pass Proposition 209 in California, which passed in 1996 and later led efforts to pass similar bans in Michigan and Washington.

On September 11, 2008 the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, chaired by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), held a hearing related to bill S. 2920, which is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2008.  The hearing was held to address provisions in S. 2920 that would provide venture capitalists incentive for backing minority and women-owned small business owners and an entrepreunership training program for minority and women-owned businesses.  AAJC/AACEP submitted the following testimony in support of these provisions of the bill:

“Business Start-up Hurdles in Underserved Communities: Access to Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship Training”

Written Testimony of:

Vincent Eng & Aarathi Deshmukh
Asian American Justice Center

1140 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1200

Washington, D.C. 20036

Phone: 202.296.2300

Email: veng@advancingequality.org/adeshmukh@advancingequality.org


Founded in 1991, the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) (formerly the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium) works to advance the human and civil rights of Asian Americans through advocacy, public policy, public education and litigation. AAJC is one of the nation’s leading experts on issues of importance to the Asian American community, including equal opportunity, anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigrant rights, immigration, language access, television diversity and voting rights. AAJC works with its affiliates, the Asian American Institute in Chicago, the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles to enact a sweeping range of programs on critical national issues that enrich, enhance and serve our communities all across the country.

AAJC has a long history of dealing with the adverse impact of United States laws, policies, regulations, and procedures on minority contractors and small businesses, having published a report in 1997 on the plight of Asian American businesses in public contracting,[1] filed an amicus curiae brief in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta,[2]partnered with community organizations to reinstate Asian Americans as a presumptive minority group in the city of Chicago’s public contracting set-aside program and preparing for the impending release of a handbook and follow-up report on the disparate treatment of Asian Americans in public contracting. In addition, AAJC recently launched the Asian American Contractor Empowerment Project (AACEP), a project which seeks to build alliances with Asian American business associations and other advocates of small and disadvantaged businesses in order to strengthen and preserve Asian American participation in government business and contracting programs.


AAJC supports the provisions in S. 2920 that were the subject of the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee’s hearing on Thursday, September 11, 2008: 1) the creation of additional leverage for venture capital firms that dedicate at least 51 percent of their investment portfolios to underrepresented communities, and 2) the grant program for development of entrepreneurship training programs that would encourage small business growth in underrepresented communities.

Without equal access to capital, Asian American business owners cannot fairly compete in the U.S. marketplace. S. 2920 will encourage financial institutions to look beyond their traditional methods and networks which often, unintentionally, shut out Asian American business owners. S. 2920 tells venture capitalists that they cannot just reach out to the people they know – they must give everyone a fair and equal opportunity to succeed. S. 2920’s venture capital and entrepreneurship programs will open doors of opportunity previously closed to Asian American businesses, as well as those owned by women and other minorities. By including minorities and women in areas traditionally barred to them, the nation’s economy will greatly benefit, and will continue to benefit, from previously untapped human resources.


Asian American business owners, similar to other minorities, have faced a long history of racial and national origin discrimination. Today, Asian Americans continue to face both intentional and institutional discrimination. By and large, Asian Americans are still excluded from the “old boys’ networks” that provide access to venture capital and other business opportunities – further highlighting the necessity of implementing S. 2920’s venture capital and entrepreneurship provisions.

A new report and handbook published by AAJC[3], based on research conducted by researcher Paul Ong at UCLA, includes findings that highlight the necessity of S. 2920’s venture capital and entrepreneurship programs:

· Despite the popular stereotype that Asian Americans have extraordinary entrepreneurial drive, the observed self-employment rate for Asian Americans is below that for non-Hispanic whites, 10.8% versus 12%.

· After adjusting for educational attainment, Asian Americans earn only 86 cents to every dollar they would have earned if they had the same self-employment rates and average self-employment earnings. This is consistent with the hypothesis that Asian American business formation and viability is sub-par.

· On average, Asian American firms receive only 72 cents for every dollar in revenues received by white firms, and the respective figure for payroll is only 66 cents for every dollar. In other words, Asian American firms are typically smaller than non-Hispanic white firms – despite their higher level of educational attainment and their supposed entrepreneurial drive.[4]

Unfortunately, the shocking data above do not stand alone:

· One South Asian American businessman, a structural engineer with his own consulting firm in Alameda county (San Francisco), was able to get an unsecured line of credit only after an Asian American loan officer at another white owned bank told him that he would be eligible. He maintained that line for several years with a clean record, yet when a white loan officer took over, she refused to renew his credit line. He finally took his business to a minority-owned bank.

· Asian American business owners are less likely than white male owners to obtain commercial bank loans, at 13 percent versus 16.9 percent, respectively. As a result, nearly one out of four Asian American entrepreneurs is forced to rely on personal loans from family and friends as their primary source of start-up capital.[5]

· Congress has recognized that “[o]ver and over again, studies show that minority applicants for business loans are more likely to be rejected and, when accepted, receive smaller loan amounts than non-minority applicants with identical collateral and borrowing credentials.”[6]

· Financial institutions discriminate against Asian Americans by requiring them to meet criteria different from those required of white borrowers, and requiring greater collateral from them than is required from white business owners, regardless of the Asian American firm’s financial health.

· An analysis of 2000 U.S. Census data shows that after controlling for relevant variables, Asian Americans are less likely to form businesses, and that when they do form businesses, they earn lower earnings than businesses owned by white males.[7]

· The loan denial rate for Asian American businesses is 50% higher than for white males.[8] According to a survey of small businesses conducted by the Board of Governors, firms owned by minorities are especially likely to report that the most important problem experienced by the firm was “financing and interest rates.” One in ten Asian American small business owners listed financing as their biggest problem. Not surprisingly, minority-owned firms, including those owned by Asian Americans, have their loans denied when they should not, and have to pay higher rates of interest when they should not.[9]


Constitutional guarantees and anti-discrimination laws on their own have not achieved true equality of opportunity for all Americans. Discrimination still persists within our society and our social institutions. Equal opportunity programs over the past thirty years have helped to lower some of the discriminatory barriers confronting women, Asian Americans, and other minorities. To eradicate those barriers completely, we need to continue those programs and implement new ones where needed. Such programs have been proven effective against both intentionally and unintentionally discriminatory practices.

[1] Asian Pacific Americans and Public Contracting: A Report by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (1997), available at

[2] 534 U.S. 103 (2001).

[3] Equal Access: Unlocking Government Doors for Asian American Businesses, Asian American Justice Center, ISBN 1-932526-11-0 (2008)

[4] Id.

[5] The Urban Institute, “Do Minority-Owned Businesses Get a Fair Share of Government Contracts?,” p. 38, Table III.1, from the U.S. Census Bureau, 1987 Economic Censuses, Characteristics of Business Owners, also available at, p. 36.

[6] See Compelling Interest, 61 Fed. Reg. at 26508.

[7] David G. Blanchflower, An Evaluation of Whether Asian-owned Firms Should be Included in the City of Chicago’s Aspirational Goals Program in Construction 4-5 (2007).

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on September 23, 2008 and was written by Paula Mays.

We have come a long way as a nation but have we come far enough and are we destined to go backward if the U.S. elects candidate McCain and Governor Palin?

I’m talking about race relations and the demonized term “Affirmative Action,” which has now come to mean “quotas” and “set asides,” but from the beginning was about making policy and programs that would seek to redress past discrimination by ensuring present-day equal opportunity.

Increasingly over the years, and compounded in the Bush Administration, the term affirmative action has been demonized. Instead of rectifying a past wrong, it has somehow come to mean giving an unfair advantage or “privilege” to one group, namely African Americans, over white people, especially in the area of jobs and education. Affirmative action has become synonymous with the term “quota,” specifically, setting aside a number of educational of employment spots for minorities.

It did not start off that way. Affirmative Action finds its roots in the 1960’s Burger Court, in cases such as Green v. County Board, 391 US 430 (1968). This and related cases placed upon schools an “affirmative duty” to desegregate. This “affirmative duty,” was solidified by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the so called “sweeping Johnson legislation,” a part of the Johnson “Great Society.”
The Beginning of the End

However, since the early 1980s when Republicans have been in control of the White House with President Reagan, and in control of Congress, and more acutely in the Bush Administration, the hue and cry has come to derail this legislation.

It began with the ground breaking anti-affirmative action case, Baake. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, a 1978 Supreme Court case, where Mr. Baake objected to his denial of admission to medical school. Baake claimed the denial was a result of “affirmative action,” which set aside spots for minorities, thereby denying whites admission to the University of California at Davis medical school. By a slim margin, the Supreme Court determined the set asides were improper and that Mr. Baake should be admitted to the medical school.

Though the Baake decision did not kill “affirmative action,” it was the first major nail in the coffin. Those who wanted to end affirmative action, such as Mr. Baake, focused on the so called “set asides,” provisions of the policy, or what are now termed “quotas.” They ignored the fact that quotas were implemented merely as a tool to enforce affirmative action, and as a preventative measure. Prior to the set asides, the only remedy for anti-discrimination was a court battle after the discrimination occurred. Such court action is extremely expensive and can take years to complete. For example, Brown v. the Board of Education, though a momentous decision, took years to come to fruition, and more resources than could be gathered by the ordinary citizen. Moreover Brown v. Board was a spectacular case, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement.

The second problem with Brown and with other anti discrimination legislation, enacted prior to affirmative action, is that just because the courts and congress mandate racial equality, does guarantee an individual employer, town, or educational organization will implement racially equal programs. And in fact, they did not.

To remedy the problem of enforcement the Courts permitted and sometimes ordered so called “set asides.” That is an employer or educational institution could be or was ordered to set- aside a certain number of slots for minorities. And millions of Americans benefited from these set asides. For instance, from 1960 to 1975, the number of black students in higher education rose from 150,000 students to approximately 1 million.

Destroying the Goose to Get to the Gander/Set Asides

The election of President Reagan and the rise of George W. Bush and the NeoCons, have legitimized the Baake attack on affirmative action. In 2003, President Bush said this about a University of Michigan case taken to the Supreme Court on the issue of affirmative action. “At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes perspective students, based solely on their race.” Bush stated before the Supreme Court hearing, “…tomorrow my administration will file a brief with the court arguing that the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, which award students a significant number of extra points based solely on their race, and establishes numerical targets for incoming minority students, are unconstitutional.” White House Press release January 15, 2003

The election Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin will likely be the final proverbial nail in the coffin to affirmative action. First, there is no indication that Governor Palin will have the critical analysis needed to see that the goal of racial justice has not been achieved in America. Secondly, Senator John McCain was reported to have said the following with regard to affirmative action in July. “Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Sunday that he favors a proposed referendum in Arizona that would ban affirmative action, reversing a position he took a decade ago.”

So how will Senator Obama be different? In an interview with the ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Senator Obama stated: ” I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can’t be a quota system and it can’t be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black, or white, or Hispanic, male or female. What we want to do is make sure that people who’ve been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future.”

While Obama has not embraced quotas or set asides, it is pretty certain that Senator Obama will not be hostile to other remedies for discrimination, and that the nature and the tenure of the courts will return to fairness and not ideologically based decisions.

We cannot afford to un-ring the bell of affirmative action. We need leadership that will recognize that utopia has not been reached in discrimination. The risk is just too great.