Civil Rights In Michigan By Betsy Newmark
John Fund looks at the efforts by proponents of affirmative action to try to block the amendment banning the use of discrimination by race, sex, or color in government contracts or school admissions. Even Sandra Day O’Connor, author of the Grutter decision that allowed the University of Michigan to use diversity in admissions decisions has stated that the vote on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was an acceptable thing for the people of Michigan to do.
Justice Sandra O’Connor, who sided with Ms. Gratz but wrote the opinion in Grutter, issued some cautionary language that supporters of affirmative action should heed: “The court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” After noting that institutions of higher education in California and Washington were pursuing alternatives to racial preferences, she urged that “universities in other states should draw on the most promising aspects of these race-neutral alternatives as they develop.” Just last week, the now-retired Justice O’Connor was asked her opinion of MCRI’s approval. She replied that it was “entirely within the right and privilege of voters” to enact a ban on racial preferences.
But that is now how supporters of diversity are responding to the vote on the initiative.
Michigan voters struck a blow for equality this month, when 58% of them approved an amendment to the state constitution banning racial discrimination in public universities and contracting. Almost identical measures have previously passed by similar majorities in California and Washington state. That means the original meaning of the 1964 Civil Rights Act–that racial discrimination of any kind is illegal–has won reaffirmation in three liberal states, none of which have voted for a Republican for president since 1988. Supporters now plan to carry the fight to other states.
From the outraged cries of affirmative action diehards, you would think the dark night of fascism was descending with the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Mary Sue Coleman is president of the University of Michigan, which has already spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars defending its racial preferences in courts. She addressed what Tom Bray of the Detroit News called “a howling mob of hundreds of student and faculty protestors” last week. “Diversity matters at Michigan,” she declared. “It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow.” Echoes of George Wallace, who in 1963 declared from the steps of Alabama’s Capitol: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Since the reason that universities think they have to put a thumb on the scale to admit minorities is that they would not have enough qualified applicants otherwise, it would seem that the fault lies in the preparation of those minorities for college rather than ajusting the finish line for them. Support charters and school vouchers and other school reforms and offer auxiliary college preparation for them. Bring the students up to the level required rather than lowering the bar.
As Fund says, we’re a long way from the original meaning of the Civil Rights Act.
We’ve come a long way since 1964, when the late civil rights hero Hubert Humphrey stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that if the civil rights bill contained “any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there.”
Four decades later, supporters of racial preferences imposed by government agencies are blocking legal efforts to establish the color-blind society that Martin Luther King envisioned. Dr. King’s dream is alive in Michigan, and in other states, but a large number of people seem interested in stirring up a nightmare of massive resistance. Such efforts are likely not only to only fail, but to harden the public’s opposition to divisive racial quotas.
This content was used with the permission of Betsy’s Page.