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Ward Connerly’s Super Tuesday for Segregation - Color of Law By David A. Love, BC Editorial Board
“Supporting segregation need not be racist. One can believe in segregation and believe in equality of the races.”
- Ward Connerly, on CNN’s “Wolf Blitzer Reports,” Dec. 13, 2002

Ward Connerly, that high profile opponent for affirmative action and Black water carrier for the new Jim Crow, has returned. He wants to eliminate affirmative action everywhere, and make a buck at the same time. And with the help of corporate philanthropy and hate groups, he wants to take us back to the future we know too well.

Connerly is plotting and planning for what he calls a Super Tuesday for Equal Rights. The purpose of his campaign is to promote ballot initiatives throughout the country that would eliminate tax dollars to affirmative action programs based on race and gender. Following similar initiatives in California, Michigan and Washington, he has targeted five states for this year’s November ballot - Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Targeting states with relatively low numbers of people of color - and undoubtedly relying on the longstanding effectiveness of racial scapegoating, particularly in hard economic times, Connerly might very well succeed in the absence of a determined and coordinated campaign to quash his efforts.

Although the anti-affirmative action forces seek to eliminate public funding of diversity based on gender as well as race, thereby harming White women as well, it is the so-called “racial preferences” that stick in the minds of people. Part of the time-tested Southern Strategy, anti-diversity campaigns is to appeal to disaffected Whites, who will act against their own interests, if it means the elimination of programs they believe are unfairly benefiting Black and Brown folks.

Destroying the King Legacy is Profitable

So, what’s in it for Connerly? The dollars, of course. Apparently, there is much money to be made in dismantling the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, and Connerly is first in line to get paid.

In 1993, he was given a platform by California Gov. Pete Wilson with a seat on the California Board of Regents. Soon, he became a crusader against all that is important to Black people. That crusade was made possible through the support of extreme right-wing corporate philanthropy and alliances with White supremacist hate groups. Certainly, behind every puppet there is a puppet master who controls the strings, and Ward Connerly is no exception.

In 1996, Connerly, himself a beneficiary of affirmative action through a California set-aside program for minority contractors, was responsible for the passage of Proposition 209, which eliminated the use of affirmative action by the state government in hiring and university admissions. On the eve of Dr. King’s birthday in 1997, thanks to the generosity of the ultra-conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and others, he formed the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI). (The Bradley Foundation has funded organizations that seek to destroy civil rights, such as the Center for Individual Rights. Charles Murray, author of the infamous book The Bell Curve, is a Bradley fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.) That same year, Connerly also formed the American Civil Rights Coalition (ACRC), the lobbying arm of ACRI. In true Orwellian fashion, these organizations embrace the antithesis of what their names suggest.

The Equal Justice Society reports that in 2003, based on IRS records, Connerly received $1 million in compensation for his anti-civil rights efforts at ACRI and ACRC. This does not include compensation he received as CEO of Connerly & Associates, his Sacramento-based real estate business.

The group Media Transparency has detailed the bankrolling of Ward Connerly’s segregationist operations by the Bradley, Olin and Scaife Foundations. When he was unwilling to disclose the funding sources of his failed Proposition 54 - which would have prevented California from collecting important racial data, thereby crippling any efforts to address racial disparities in healthcare and education - a coalition of civil rights organizations sued him. Connerly, who raised $1.6 million for the 2003 Prop 54 effort, was fined $95,000 for breaking campaign financing disclosure laws. According to the Equal Justice Society, some of his largest contributors included John Moores, Sr., University of California Regents board member and owner of the San Diego Padres ($400,000); Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News ($300,000); Joseph Coors, the late Colorado beer baron and founding partner of the Heritage Foundation ($250,000), and William J. Hume, head of the anti-labor San Francisco-based company Basic American Foods ($200,000).

White Supremacist Support for Anti-Affirmative Action Efforts

If people are judged by the company they keep, then history will not show kindness to Connerly and the foes of civil rights. In his successful campaign to eliminate affirmative action in Michigan, he allied himself with Rev. John Raternik, head of the Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).

The CCC, a White supremacist organization, descended from the White Citizens’ Councils of the Jim Crow era and is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The CCC, which has made the issue of non-White immigration a top priority, has declared America “a European country,” opposes “all efforts to mix the races” and refers to Black people as “a retrograde species of humanity.” Well-known figures with ties to the CCC include Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R-AR), ex-Senator Trent Lott (R-MI), Governor Haley Barbor (R-MI), the late Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, former Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice, and former Alabama Governor Guy Hunt.

Connerly, who supports segregation, welcomed the support of White racist groups in his fight against affirmative action. “If the Ku Klux Klan thinks that equality is right, God bless them,” said Connerly. “Thank them for finally reaching the point where logic and reason are being applied, instead of hate.”

Dishonoring the movement

Conservatives will point to individuals such as Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly and others who are viewed as “brave” and “courageous” for bucking the Black establishment and taking unpopular views. But there is no bravery in what Connerly does, which is to cynically misappropriate Dr. King’s vision for a colorblind society, in order to strike a blow against the nation’s civil rights protections.

There is no honor in desecrating the graves of the truly courageous martyrs, those such as Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five from Detroit who was gunned down like a dog by the KKK in Alabama in 1965, all for fighting for civil rights. There is no honor in spitting on the memory of voting rights crusader Fannie Lou Hamer, who was jailed and beaten nearly to death by police in Mississippi, and never recovered from her wounds. Nor is there any glory in dishonoring and mocking the name of Vernon Dahmer, who was killed in a terrorist bombing, not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in his home in Hattiesbug, Mississippi, after volunteering to pay for Black voters’ poll taxes.

A Return to Jim Crow

Years later, what we are witnessing is a concerted effort to bring the country back to the old times, at a time when the nation is becoming increasingly diverse, increasingly Black and Brown. In the absence of mandated diversity programs, the country will revert to de facto segregation.

Some people yearn for the days of exclusion and privilege, when universities maintained a quota of zero for Blacks, a rigid quota for nonwhites, Jews and others, and a place for women - in the home.

The sentiment against diversity is best characterized by President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard, who, in not allowing a Black student to live in the freshman dorms in 1922, told him, “I am sure you will understand why, from the beginning, we have not thought it possible to compel men of different races to reside together.” Lowell, in enforcing a 15 percent quota for Jewish students, stated that “anti-Semitic feeling among the students is increasing, and it grows in proportion to the increase in the number of Jews... when... the number of Jews was small, the race antagonism was small also.” In his racist view, “The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate…because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also.”

Lowell’s ideological heirs are found in the form of Ward Connerly and the members of today’s neo-segregationist movement. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most prominent jockey of that movement, recently voted with the court’s majority to outlaw voluntary integration plans in the public schools. In a concurring opinion, Thomas seemed to channel Lowell when he said that “Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations… Some studies have even found that a deterioration in racial attitudes seems to result from racial mixing in schools.”

Voices of the new segregation, like the old voices of Jim Crow, are having a chilling effect on democratic tendencies in America. It is no accident that, according to Columbia University and the Society of American Law Teachers, enrollment for African-American and Mexican-American students in law schools has continuously declined over the past 15 years, despite high scores and grades from applicants of color. And while the legal profession is disproportionately White, the prisons are disproportionately Black and Latino. What can we do to stop this trend?

One group, The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, is a leader in the struggle to save civil rights and diversity programs in higher education. But groups such as BAMN cannot do it alone. People of goodwill must join together in creating a country that embraces diversity. The alternative is to allow a victory for Ward Connerly, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation and the Klan. Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a lawyer and prisoners’ rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges. His blog is Click here to contact Mr. Love.

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January 31, 2008
Issue 262

is published every Thursday

Executive Editor:
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Peter Gamble
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