The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will appear on November’s ballot. Now that the state Supreme Court has decided not to hear allegations that MCRI petition circulators deceived voters into signing petitions, it is clear that the strategy of trying to keep MCRI off the ballot with charges of fraud failed. Those who believe MCRI is bad public policy – a broad group that includes both Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her likely Republican challenger, Dick DeVos – will need to convince the public to vote it down. As groups like Students Supporting Affirmative Action and One United Michigan campaign against the proposal, appeals to the broad range of uncontroversial programs the proposal could potentially endanger have become a common approach. These arguments may be politically expedient, but MCRI opponents also must not neglect the core of the issue – the moral arguments supporting affirmative action.
The list of programs MCRI could affect is long, and reminding residents that the debate has an impact beyond college admissions is important. Concerns about its threat to everything from shelters for battered women to prostate cancer screening programs can help residents understand its potential impact in more direct ways. But these efforts to broaden the debate to encompass less controversial issues risk drowning out the more crucial principles and circumstances that make affirmative action necessary.
Despite sweeping progress since the Civil Rights Era, the fact remains that race has a drastic and morally unjustifiable impact on one’s prospects in America. In addition to de facto segregation and income gaps, racism remains a very real factor in American life. Studies using pairs of r