The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a 2006 ballot proposal to end affirmative action within the state, has met firm opposition from a coalition of affirmative action supporters best known as BAMN. Working through the courts, BAMN forced the original MCRI proposal off the 2004 ballot, and has put the future of the 2006 initiative in jeopardy. Armed with dozens of affidavits attesting to fraud, BAMN has taken its case through the court system, challenging many of the signatures MCRI gathered to secure a place on the 2006 ballot. However, while BAMN’s tactics have delayed MCRI once, they are not a permanent solution: Affirmative action will only be secure when voters defeat MCRI at the polls. Unfortunately, much work must be done before such a victory is plausible.
Nonetheless, BAMN’s efforts have not been in vain. True to its name, BAMN has worked tirelessly through the courts to stop the MCRI from going to the ballot. More importantly, it has raised important concerns about MCRI by questioning and exposing the deceptive way the group gathered its petition signatures. In an affidavit she submitted to the Michigan Court of Appeals, Ruthie Stevenson – President of the Macomb County NAACP – declared she was told MCRI was an “affirmative action proposal” that was “for civil rights,” and that “the President of the Macomb County NAACP is in support of this” by a petitioner. By bringing up these issues, BAMN has – at the very least – questioned the credibility of MCRI and bought more time for anti-MCRI activists to organize their efforts.
With this extra time, supporters of affirmative action need to focus on educating the public about affirmative action. This means defeating the myths about affirmative action, publicizing its benefits and explaining the dire consequences that would arise if it were banned. The public is still misinformed about what affirmative action does, and this misinformation is the reason MCRI would easily pass if Michigan voted today.
This lack of knowledge stems from the fact that many, especially those from areas of little diversity, do not know how affirmative action really works. They do not equate affirmative action with providing a level playing field. Rather, it is looked at as a way to steal opportunities from those who deserve it on the basis of race. The truth is – as supporters need to point out – affirmative action does not deny admission to anyone who deserves it, or admit anyone who does not. There is a wide misconception that white students find it virtually impossible to gain admission to the University; a quick look around campus proves otherwise. In fact, University administrators – despite the fact that they can use affirmative action – still struggle to create a diverse student body. Supporters of affirmative action need to make it plainly evident that affirmative action is vital to promote and maintain diversity on campus.
As the cliche states: Knowledge is power. The only true way to defeat MCRI is to educate the public. BAMN’s efforts are important, but the focus must be on informing the public about the role and implications of affirmative action. At the point when the fate of MCRI is put in citizens’ hands, the public must be fully informed about the truths and myths regarding affirmative action. That way, when MCRI makes it to the ballot, an intelligent and informed public will vote it down.