Friday, April 11, 2008

Ward Connerly's Anti-Affirmative Action campaign is defeated in Oklahoma!

Ballot Petition Hits Firewall in Oklahoma <--link to NAACP LDF

In a significant blow to a national effort to curtail equal opportunity in America, backers of a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would end equal access and opportunity programs in the state have asked to withdraw the measure from consideration. The move comes after supporters of the so-called Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative – spearheaded by Ward Connerly's American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) as part of a national crusade against affirmative action – failed to collect the signatures needed to get the proposal on this November's ballot.

In conceding defeat, Connerly characterized the ACRI's efforts in Oklahoma as a "miscalculation." "The hope is that this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Connerly's flawed campaign," said John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). "The attempts by supporters of this initiative to manipulate the democratic process never garnered support from the people of Oklahoma, who have instead stood up to defend access to equal opportunity for all."

Oklahoma is one of five states, along with Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska, currently targeted by Connerly and his ACRI. The deceptively worded initiatives claim to end "discrimination" and "preferences," but have been cited as the basis for rolling back a wide range of equal opportunity programs in states where similar initiatives have been adopted. "The most recent developments in Oklahoma only lend further legitimacy to the widespread concerns that have been raised about the tactics used by Connerly in each of the states he has targeted," said Reginald T. Shuford, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Racial Justice Program. "The efforts of Connerly and the ACRI are an affront to the ideals they claim to support, and my hope is that this is only the first of a string of victories on behalf of the many Americans who believe so strongly in equality and equal opportunity."

The withdrawal follows a lawsuit challenging the proposal by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU Racial Justice Program, the ACLU Foundation of Oklahoma and the ACLU Women's Rights Project, which raised deep concerns about the signature-gathering process and the constitutionality of the ballot petition itself. "Secretary of State Susan Savage found numerous irregularities in the signature-gathering process," said Chuck Thornton, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. "We continue to find such deficiencies in our on-the-ground investigation, consistent with the beliefs of OCRI's own backers that its petition is defective and should be withdrawn."
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In discussing these campaigns with my colleague President Clyde Williams from the Mar-Saline Branch NAACP in Missouri, I have learned that Ward Connerly and his petitioners would simply ask people if they were supportive of Civil Rights. As people respond in the affirmative, they follow up by asking if those people would be willing to sign a petition to 'protect their civil rights'. The use of these deceptive practices and in some cases outright lies is shameful.


Now I will admit, that when Mr. Connerly makes his argument that he is trying to eliminate preferences that favor some at the expense of others, there is a simple surface logic to his point. However, if this campaign was truly about eliminating preferences and moving our nation towards a meritocracy, then he would have to include a multitude of preferences that his campaign willfully ignores.


Consider the University of Michigan, which was ground zero for Ward Connerly's Anti-Affirmative Action Campaign. The ACRI initiative was designed to eliminate the 20 points that were awarded to African American applicants to the University of Michigan. Mr. Connerly and the ACRI argued that these points discriminated against White applicants and should therefore be eliminated. Mr. Connerly and the ACRI argued that such preferences had no place in our contemporary society. However, the University of Michigan also awarded points for applicants who lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, they awarded points for applicants who were the children of alumni, they awarded points for applicants who attended one of a number of preselected High Schools, there were preferences in place for the children of donors and supporters of the schools, etc etc... All in all, while Mr. Connerly ravaged on the unfairness of the 20 points awarded to African Americans, he willfully ignored the 37 points being offered to the Prep School kids from Ann Arbor. And now that the program intended to increase diversity at the University of Michigan has been disbanded, so has his outrage; and the 37 points of preference reserved for the affluent and connected remain in place.


I could respect his argument if it were consistent (though I'd reserve my right to disagree). If you are against preferences, be against ALL preferences... If if diversity programs are discriminatory, then so are Legacy programs. If it's wrong to use points to achieve racial diversity, then it is equally wrong to use points to achieve geographic diversity. If its discriminatory to award points to members of a certain race, then it is equally discriminatory to award points to members of a certain family. But the ACRI campaign is not concerned with any of that... they are concerned about race and race alone. Ironically, Ward Connerly's campaign displays a peculiar inverse form of Color-Blindness; one where he is apparently blinded by color. And he's hoping to blind the rest of us with BS...

(Clyde Harold & Anita out in Missouri, Rev. Ratliff in Iowa, Bea Madison out in Colorado, and to our folks out in Arizona... Keep up the Fight! We've got 1 down - and 4 more to go)

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