Overview and Introduction
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Success! On Nov. 7, 2006 Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved MCRI (Proposition 2) by 58% to 42%!
1.1 -- Timeline of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
The Michigan Civil Right Initiative (MCRI) was announced two weeks after the
muddled Supreme Court decisions endorsing "forced diversity" as a compelling
government interest at the University of Michigan. Below are the key dates from the
beginning of the MCRI to the ultimate voter approval of MCRI.
June 23, 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court handed down twin decisions regarding the University of Michigans use of racial quotas and preferences in student admissions.
In one case, Gratz v. Bollinger, the high court ruled that Michigan's undergraduate schools mechanistic formula which awarded blacks and other selected minorities a specific number of "points" on their college applications was impermissible. However, in the other case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the court ruled that Michigan's law school's use of more "subtle" use of racial preferences was permissible.
Note: This pair of Supreme Court rulings did not require Michigan to use race as a factor in student admissions; these rulings only state that U. Michigan can do so if they choose. Predictably, the diversiphiles at U. Michigan have, in fact, chosen to continue to use more "subtle" racial quotas in their admissions process.
July 8, 2003: Formal announcement of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The announcement featured some of the leaders of the modern anti-preferences movement, including Ward Connerly, Thomas E. Wood, and Jennifer Gratz (the named plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court cases).
July 2003 thru January 2006: For the next three years, the MCRI campaign struggled to accomplish a number extremely challenging tasks on the road to getting the initiative on the ballot. They succeeded in gathering the required number of voters signatures in order to certify the initiative only to be repeatedly challenged by quota supporters that the petitions misled the Michiganders that signed them. Then the MCRI had to fight a series of very ugly and dishonest battles waged by extremist groups such as By Any Means Necessary (BAMN or, as we affectionately refer to them, the BAMNuts), as well as a mudslinging misinformation campaign waged by another pro-quota group calling itself One United Michigan.
Surveys and opinion polls conducted during this period showed that Michiganders overwhelmingly favor ending the use of racial preferences and quotas. Republican Party officials in the state rapidly distanced themselves from the MCRI campaign for fear of losing minority votes. The Democrats and the labor unions, of course, have come out in strong opposition to the MCRI, dishonestly portraying it as a "step backwards" for civil rights.
Jan. 6, 2006: After being forced by a court order, today the Michigan State Elections Board, headed by Chris Thomas, released the proposed ballot language which is to appear on the Nov. 2, 2006 ballot.
Now the State Board of Canvassers, who had previously refused to certify the ballot until also forced by a court order, is required to meet and approve the ballot language by Jan. 20, 2006.
The ballot language, presumably in final form and notwithstanding any successful challenges from the pro-quota groups, reads as follows:
|A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE
CONSTITUTION TO BAN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS THAT GIVE PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO GROUPS
OR INDIVIDUALS BASED ON THEIR RACE, GENDER, COLOR, ETHNICITY OR NATIONAL ORIGIN FOR PUBLIC
EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION OR CONTRACTING PURPOSES
The proposed amendment would:
** Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.
** Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race,color or national origin.)
Should this proposal be adopted?
2006: The Michigan
State Board of Canvassers met and approved the ballot language handed down by the state
elections commissioner on by a vote of 3 to 0. The extremist group BAMN promised to go to
court to try to remove the key phrase "preferential treatment" from the ballot.
Jan. 2006 to Nov. 2006: Stay tuned! There is lots of time between now and Nov. 2, 2006 for mischief by opponents of equal treatment who think racial discrimination is OK as long as it is directed against whites and other non-preferred groups. You can count on lots of vitriolic and misleading rhetoric from the quota pushers, if not a lawsuit or two prior to the Nov. 2, 2006 Michigan elections!
Nov. 7, 2006: ELECTION DAY! SUCCESS! Michanders went the polls and voted overwhelmingly to approve the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 2). The final vote tally: 58% of Michiganders voted YES and only 42% voted no.
1.2 -- MCRI Formally Announced (July 8, 2003)
|On July 8, 2003 Ward Connerly announced the start of a Michigan Civil Rights Initiative campaign to allow the voters of Michigan to vote directly to ban the state's use of race or ethnicity in state employment, college admissions, state contracting or any other state-supported function.||1.1
Connerly's announcement came within two weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court's fractured June
23 decision supporting the use of "subtle" racial quotas in the University of
Michigan's student admission decisions.
Joining Connerly for the announcement were Tom Wood, coauthor of California's Proposition 209 which successfully outlawed that state's use of race and ethnicity. Two of the named plaintiffs in the Michigan cases, Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter, also joined Connerly, as did Valery Pech, plaintiff in the Adarand Constructors case, as well as University of Michigan Professor Carl Cohen known as a vocal critic of politically correct racial orthodoxy.
Visit the OFFICIAL web site of the
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at:
All of these inviduals have become respected civil rights leaders in the fight for colorblind justice. All of them have fought, and continue to fight, for equal treatment under the law without regard to race, gender or ethnicity.
Immediately below is the text of Connerly's July 8, 2003 speech at the University of Michigan where he announced the launch of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Also be sure to see the remarks of Tom Wood, co-author of California's Proposition 209, following Connerly's speech at Ann Arbor.
Also be sure to visit the official web site of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at www.mcri2004.org (opens new browser window).
|[Ward Connerly, July 8, 2003]
Four days ago, we - the American people - celebrated our 227th year of independence as a nation.
We gather with family and friends to play volleyball, swim and play a game of softball,
and to barbeque hot dogs and hamburgers, and to guzzle beer.
-- Ward Connerly,
founder and chairman
Here is the text of Tom Wood's July 8, 2003 presentation at the University of Michigan:
|[Remarks by Tom Wood to the
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative kick off rally U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor July 8, 2003] --
I am happy to be here today to help kick off the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
I was the co-author and official co-proponent, with Glynn Custred, of the California Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Prop. 209, which California voters adopted 54-46% on November 5, 1996.
I will focus my brief remarks on some of the things that you and others in Michigan can expect as you look down the road, based on the California experience.
First, opponents will say that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is an anti-affirmative action measure-indeed, they are already saying it. This claim is false. The words "affirmative action" are not in the text of the initiative at all, and that feature of it was deliberate, not an oversight. In fact, Prop. 209 has come under some criticism since its passage from some who are otherwise sympathetic with its goals on the grounds that only PREFERENTIAL forms of affirmative action are prohibited by the measure.
Since its adoption, many attempts have been made in California to maintain and promote racial diversity without the use of preferences. Significantly, even Sandra Day O'Connor in the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Grutter mentions the fact that California has been a kind of laboratory for experimenting with non-preferential ways of promoting racial diversity since voters struck down racial preferences there, and the Court directs universities in other states to learn from California's experience. I do not personally support all of the race-neutral measures that California has adopted since the passage of 209, but I do support some of them. In any case, it is important to note that only one kind of affirmative action-racial preferences-is prohibited by 209 and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
The second thing one can predict is that Michiganders will be told that they can't change what the U.S. Supreme Court has already laid down in the U Michigan decisions as the law of the land. This claim, too, is false. The U.S. Supreme Court said in Grutter and Gratz that within certain limits and for a finite time, the use of race as a factor in admissions to promote racially diverse learning experiences on campus is permissible under the federal constitution. But nothing in either opinion says that this is required. One can therefore think of the Supreme Court decisions as offering an invitation to Michiganders to use racial preferences in admissions at their elite institutions of public higher education in a limited way and for a limited time if they want to. But Michiganders are perfectly free to DECLINE that invitation, just as Californians did on November 5, 1996.
In general, Michiganders who are opposed to racial preferences can take heart from the California experience.
First, we know from our experience that initiatives to prohibit racial preferences are popular. Hard work is required, and of course there are no guarantees. But a properly organized and reasonably well-financed campaign for the MCRI should win.
We also know from the California experience that the MCRI will be popular AFTER it is adopted. After the Supreme Court decisions in the U Michigan cases came down, some political writers in California have reported that some opponents of 209 have suggested relitigating 209 or even mounting an initiative effort to reverse it. I do not know if news about that has reached you here, but if it has, I advise you to dismiss it completely. It is just a lot of hot air. If anything, 209 is more popular now than it was on election day in November 1996, when it won 54-46%--in no small part because its opponents' dire predictions about what would happen if it did pass failed to materialize.
Californians are happy to have a law prohibiting preferences in their state. Michiganders should roll up their sleeves and work for the passage of MCRI here. I hope and trust that Michiganders will do that, and I have told Ward that I will do everything I can to help him and those in Michigan who step forward to lead this effort.
What you do here is of immense importance, not only to Michigan, but to the entire nation.
-- Tom Wood, co-author
of the California Civil Rights Initiative,
1.3 -- Aim for True Equality by Ending Preferences
|by Carl Cohen, Professor of
University of Michigan
This article first appeared in the Detroit Free Press Sunday, July 17, 2005. It is reprinted here in its entirety by permission of the author.
If the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is adopted by the people of Michigan in 2006, our state, and our state universities, will no longer be permitted to discriminate in any way by race or national origin.
| Will the MCRI end
affirmative action? That depends entirely on what one means by affirmative action. If one
means giving special preference to some racial or ethnic groups, as the University of
Michigan now does, then of course affirmative action in that sense will be ended. If one
means taking positive steps to ensure that all persons of all races are treated equally,
then the MCRI will give strong support to affirmative action.
For example: Have examinations and other qualifications for employment or admission been distorted by racial preference for whites? Yes, they have. Affirmative action is essential to cleanse such instruments of all ethnic bias. MCRI supports such affirmative action categorically.
|With the adoption of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, all forms of racial discrimination, including discrimination in housing and lending, would be explicitly prohibited by the Michigan Constitution. That is wholesome affirmative action.|
|"Affirmative action" has many meanings and many forms. Its ambiguity is the reason courts and legislators now avoid the phrase. But it originally meant, and should still mean, the steps we take to eliminate racial unfairness. Executive Order No. 10925 (issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and still in effect) obliges every contractor with the federal government "to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."||
|That is affirmative
action of which we can be proud, and that is exactly the force of the Michigan Civil
Three years after that executive order, one of the greatest pieces of legislation in our national history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was adopted, recognizing the need for affirmative action to eliminate all racial preferences. "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin ... be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." That's Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act. Equal treatment, not preferences. That's affirmative action as it ought to be.
Does the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative support that? Of course! That is precisely what the MCRI says: no discrimination by the state, no preferences -- no one to get more, or less, because of the color of her skin or the national origin of her ancestors.
The term "affirmative action" was later kidnapped by advocates of preference. Now, as we know, it commonly means exactly what affirmative action was originally intended to eliminate. The phrase was turned on its head. And the result is that very many people are understandably confused. Most Michiganders want to be fair, want to be inclusive and welcoming to all, want to be truly nondiscriminatory -- and we do want affirmative action in this original and honorable sense. But most Michiganders also despise preference by race.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative simply says that in our state the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution will be taken seriously. In our state, the great Civil Rights Act of 1964 is to mean just what it says. No ambiguity, no confusion. Here it is:
"The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
Is that the thrust of the Civil Rights Act, or of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative? It is the sense of both, of course!
The words are those of the MCRI; they deliberately echo, almost exactly, the words of the Civil Rights Act. To vote against the MCRI is, in effect, to vote against the Civil Rights Act.
Why would anyone do that? Why oppose such a clear statement of the principle of equal treatment? The reason can only be that opponents of the MCRI wish to retain racial preferences, now often hidden. Or they hope to introduce new preferences for some ethnic groups. They may have good motives -- as many in my university do -- but acts that are wrong are not made right by good motives.
Our governments, and our universities, are great teachers. They must not be allowed to discriminate by race or national origin. When that principle is firmly embedded in our state Constitution by the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, we will all be proud. -30-
CARL COHEN is professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and is the author of "Naked Racial Preference: The Case Against Affirmative Action". Cohen's publication of data showing Michigan's use of race in student admissions presaged two lawsuits -- Grutter and Gratz, et al -- challenging the school's racial preferences. The cases were ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last Known Link to the Free Press
publication of this article:
Additional Related Reading
Washington State Attempting to Weaken Initiative 200 1/25/04
Supreme Court's Univ. Michigan Ruling 6/23/03
Challenges to Proposition 209 Fail (archives)
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