Starting today, supporters of the Michigan
Civil Rights Initiative will begin collecting signatures to put the
proposal to ban government use of what these supporters refer to as
racial preferences on a statewide ballot. Promoted by University of
California Regent Ward Connerly, who is in Farmington Hills today
to kick off the signature-gathering drive, the MCRI seeks to
eliminate racial considerations from all state programs and
spending. State-funded schools and contracts would operate under
strict obligations to completely disregard race or ethnicity in all
hiring and admissions practices. While it claims to be a fair
solution to racial prejudices in both education and government, the
initiative’s supporters unquestionably are aiming their guns
at what is more commonly referred to as affirmative action. In
their haste to create a colorblind society, Connerly and his
supporters ignore that race is still a very significant factor in
this country.

Kate Green

The University community must consider the value and
vulnerability of affirmative action and remember why it is worth
fighting for. Connerly proposes that once government programs
become officially colorblind, white and minority students will
achieve parity with each other naturally. Beyond buzz words, the
initiative actually says very little. The MCRI says that
affirmative action is not the answer to racial disparity and wishes
to do away with it, yet offers no alternative. It sees equality as
an inevitable result in a society which has moved beyond racism and
racist boundaries. It asserts that racial equality must result from
a colorblind system yet ignores the experiences in California and
Washington, two states that adopted Connerly’s ideas
wholesale. Minority enrollments in the state universities of
California and Washington have plummeted.

America must still dream of equality because we have not
achieved it yet. Blacks make up a vastly disproportionate number of
America’s poor, its prisoners, its impoverished urban
population and its low scorers on standardized tests. No amount of
wishful thinking will make these truths otherwise.

As a university, we owe it to ourselves to gather the broadest
range of outlooks and experiences possible. As citizens, we owe it
to each other to ensure that every man, woman and child in America
gets fair and equal treatment. Today, not all men, women and
children do get that fair and equal treatment. Affirmative action
acknowledges that we have a problem as a society — a problem
experienced by some citizens and shared by all, and it must be part
of any strategy to solve that problem. Wishing failed to create
equality in California or Washington, and it will do the same here
in Michigan as well. Remember that before signing the petition.

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