On April 26, I attended a press conference in the rose garden in the State of Arizona capital building complex, where plans were announced to launch the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, which would prohibit race-based preference policies and practices in such areas as university admissions and government hiring/contracting. Arizona was selected as one of five states (Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri, and South Dakota) to bring this initiative to a vote in November 2008, in what would be termed, “Super Tuesday.”
The story has received press coverage (see related links below), and will receive more. While this is a political issue by virtue of the fact that the electorate must vote to change laws, it is more so a philosophical and perceptual one for me. At its core is our perception of self. How we see, treat, and respond to others, is merely a projection of our own self perception. Unlike the forefathers of America, the inherent equality of self, relative to every other citizen, has been anything but self-evident in the past 231 years. However, the passage of initiatives such as these indicate that the tide may indeed be turning.
California (1996), Washington (1998), and most recently Michigan (2006) have passed similar laws. Michigan passed by a large margin in spite of a tumultuous campaign by its opponents, which included a group that called itself One United Michigan, the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan.
What does that tell you?
It tells me that opponents of these initiatives put appearances above reality on the scale of importance, favoring expediency over truth. The appearance of “diversity” is more important to them than the genuine article, where all are present because their desire, knowledge, skill, and ability merited their inclusion, without special “demographic corners” being “cut” for them.
By maintaining race-based preference programs and practices, benign bigots can continue to think that maybe their “helping hand” is needed because “the helpless” can never achieve anything substantial on their own.
Let’s pat ourselves on the head for the quantum changes we’ve made… those who were, in another era, “the property” are now assumed to be “the helpless.” Notice the connotation left by the latter part of the word, “help-less.” Do I need to spell it out? I will bet that this perception wasn’t what abolitionists or civil rights leaders fought and gave their lives for. The political concession that appears to have been “won” by the advent of race-based preference systems, was a trap that, as a society, we walked right into. However, it has not really helped. Why? Because “racial tensions” can still go from tense to high at the drop of a hat. The only way to ameliorate this condition is to remove “race” as a factor in our interactions with government. Doing so would still leave a large spectrum of other factors to work with.
We must render help to those who need it, period, without institutionalized thinking that, because the one needing it is a certain racial or ethnic group, they can’t succeed otherwise.
Ward Connerly, who spoke at the Arizona press conference, has been a lone and tireless proponent of equal treatment under the law, which can only occur when the law itself isn’t biased in favor of one group, or against another, due to race. It’s not that he is against helping those who need help. The issue is what help do we provide, and under what assumptions are we offering it?
As a country, America started on the self-evident premise that all are created equal, but didn’t implement a social structure to reflect the principle of governmental race indifference. Today many opponents of race neutral governance will wax philosophic about equal treatment being a good idea, but don’t think we’re ready to put it into practice. Since the tables appear to have turned with respect to which race is “favored” and which is not, they are “okay” with the status quo. Yet, their arguments in favor of race preferences have been so thoroughly unsupported by the facts, many have shifted their justification for continuing the policies to the desire for “diversity.”
Here’s a news bulletin: America is diverse; one of the most diverse cultures with significant population and social structure on the planet. People will always group themselves into enclaves. Our only real responsibility is to remove arbitrary barriers to achievement that are based on false assumptions, and to help all who wish to enter new worlds of experience on the basis of their own desire, commitment, dedication, and need.
As a regent of the University of California, Mr. Connerly spearheaded the successful passage of the first ballot initiative banning racial preference practices — Proposition 209 — in 1996. He has since been vilified by some as though he were an enemy of black people and “fairness,” when in fact, he is simply trying to turn the promise and spirit of equality on which the United States was founded, into actual practice. The founding fathers were right; we are equal. It’s about time we affirmed it.
Jesse Jackson is famous for introducing the mantra “I Am Somebody!” he encouraged members of his Operation PUSH organization to say at their Saturday meetings. While it’s hindsight now, he might have had a much greater impact if he exhorted them to say, “I Am EQUAL!” instead.
Of course, you’re somebody. We’re all somebody; everyone. The greater truth is that we’re equal; to others, to the challenges that life presents to us, and in our responsibility to discover what’s worthwhile inside us, and share it with others. Yet, it’s not something you proclaim without living it. It’s difficult to live it on a collective basis, when laws that assume inequality, if different racial backgrounds are involved, before examining the facts to be presented, are positioned as sacred arbiters.
No race-biased legislation will ever inspire an individual to excel, nor will it ever change an individual’s quality of life. However, when we think that beneficence comes from outside ourselves, it is possible that legislation can falsely be credited for an individual’s success. Some people will think “the legislation did it” or made it possible, and not the individuals. That’s what we’re dealing with now.
A generation of children has grown up not experiencing any of the injustices that brought the civil rights movement about, which itself was about equal treatment, not social reparation. They’re being told by many educated people that race-based preferences are needed without even allowing them to see what they can do for themselves on their own… without encouraging them to believe that they can succeed, irrespective of the social or political climate. In effect, these kids are learning to grow up emotionally and psychologically crippled, thinking their racial affiliation is a stigma, when in fact, it is not. It’s really time for the charade to end, and self-acceptance to begin.
The opponents of race-based policies and practices are right about one thing; we will never achieve a color-blind society. But this discussion has never been about being color-blind. It’s easy enough to see who and what a person is on the exterior. This has been about acknowledging and respecting the human spirit that animates each. It begins as we acknowledge, love, and respect self.
As for the press conference, I also brought my video camera. You can watch it for yourself.
Playing time: 21 minutes
Ward Connerly is sometimes portrayed in the media as a menace to society, while “bitchin’ and ho’in” hip/hop artists, who continue to be founts of poisonous thought, are lionized.
Why are intelligent ideas feared, and idiotic ones accepted, even preferred by so many?