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.



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.

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.

Affirmative action ban initiative headed toward ballot

A campaign to ban most forms of affirmative action in Nebraska has enough petition signatures to reach the November ballot.

Doug Tietz, director of the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, the group advocating the ban, said this morning that the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office had informed him that the petition had “more than enough” valid signatures after a county-by-county check of those signatures.

The initiative needed 112,152 valid signatures – equal to 10 percent of registered voters statewide – to be placed on the ballot. Signers must be registered Nebraska voters.

John Gale, Nebraska Secretary of State, announced the official number of valid signatures this afternoon. With all 93 counties completing the verification process, the initiative had 136,589 valid signatures of registered voters.

“We have it by a comfortable margin,” Tietz said this morning. “Nebraskans signed it, and now they want to vote on it, period.”

The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative is seeking to change the state constitution to bar public agencies such as city governments and the University of Nebraska from considering applicants’ race or gender when enrolling students or hiring workers. Those practices are commonly known as affirmative action.

Nebraskans United, the group opposing the affirmative action ban, has alleged misconduct by the petition gatherers as they collected signatures through the spring and summer.

David Kramer, the group’s director, has distributed videos and photographs that appear to show petition gatherers leaving their petitions unattended or failing to read the petition’s complete “object statement” to people who sign it. Both practices would violate state law.

Kramer has said his group might file a lawsuit if it appears the Secretary of State and the county clerks didn’t address this alleged misconduct before they deemed the signatures valid.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how the (afternoon announcement) goes,” Kramer said.

A group headed by Ward Connerly, a California businessman and former University of California regent, is financially backing the Nebraska campaign to ban affirmative action. Connerly’s group has succeeded in passing similar constitutional amendments in California, Washington and Michigan in the past decade.

This year, Connerly’s ambitious campaign to ban affirmative action in five states – he dubbed this campaign “Super Tuesday for Equal Rights” – appears to be falling apart.

Arizona officials announced Thursday that Connerly’s group doesn’t have enough valid signa- tures to reach that state’s November ballot.

Campaigns in Missouri and Oklahoma also have ended prematurely because of a lack of petition signatures and aggressive court challenges by Connerly’s opponents.

That leaves Nebraska and Colorado as the only two states where the issue might reach the ballot box.

In Nebraska, supporters of the ban still might have to wend their way past a series of court challenges before November’s election.

A Lancaster County judge is reviewing a lawsuit alleging that the ballot language of the proposed constitutional amendment is misleading and confusing.

And Tietz said he wouldn’t be surprised if opponents of the affirmative action ban file another lawsuit seeking to invalidate more petition signatures and attempting to keep it off the ballot.

“It’s like we’re running the 100-meter hurdles, so there are a lot of hurdles to jump,” Tietz said. “But this hurdle we cleared today is big.”

• Contact the writer: 444-1064, matthew.hansen@owh.com


President Lyndon Johnson explained the rationale behind the contemporary use of affirmative action to achieve equal opportunity in a 1965 speech: “You do not take a person, who for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still believe that you have been completely fair.”

The debate over affirmative action carries enormous implications for the lives of women and people of color, since such programs have created opportunities too long denied them.

Critics of affirmative action sometimes disingenuously inject the issue of “quotas” into the public debate. Such divisive tactics have misled many to believe that affirmative action and “quotas” are the same thing – for example, that employers are required by law to hire fixed percentages of members of specific groups, regardless of their qualifications. Such claims are clearly erroneous: the Supreme Court has repeatedly made clear that quotas are illegal and that properly-designed affirmative action programs simply create opportunities for qualified women and people of color.

While these programs do not guarantee success, they do allow factors such as race, ethnicity, or gender to be among those considered in evaluating qualified candidates.