MCRI News and Commentary
Jan. 26, 2004

News Clips about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
January 18, 2004 thru January 25, 2004

Michigan voters want affirmative action ban
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

By Charlie Cain and Mark Hornbeck / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Last known link to original story:

          "Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in the case against U-M's affirmative action policies, answers some of the 200 to 300 e-mails about the case she receives daily.

          "At the start of what promises to be an emotional clash over racial preferences in Michigan, voters clearly side with advocates of a ballot proposal that would ban affirmative action in government hiring and college admissions, a Detroit News poll shows.
Be sure to ALSO see:
01-14-04 MCRI News

          "When read language from a petition on the affirmative action issue, 64 percent of poll respondents said they favored the ban [against racial preferences and quotas]; 23 percent were opposed [to equal treatment under the law without regard to race, gender or ethnicity].

          "The News' survey of 400 registered voters was conducted Jan. 7-12 by Mitchell Research & Communications of East Lansing.

          " 'Affirmative action should be banned because we're all Americans; we shouldn 't be classified by race,' said poll participant Marvin Taylor, a retired Ford worker from Southgate.

          "Thomas Diggs, a Detroiter in the information technology field, will vote against the proposal if it gets on the ballot. Earlier this month, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative started circulating petitions to place the issue before voters on Nov. 2.

          " 'Affirmative action is an integral part of today's society and will continue to be until the issues we wrestle with along racial lines are resolved,' Diggs said.

          "A poll breakdown shows support for the ballot initiative cuts across age groups, gender, religion and union and nonunion households. The proposal is supported by about two-thirds of voters in the suburbs and outstate, but is opposed 47 percent to 42 percent in Detroit.

          "Survey respondents were split along racial lines, with 67 percent of whites in favor and 19 percent opposed, while a small sample of black voters showed 47 percent opposed and 45 percent in favor.

          "Respondents of all party affiliations backed the affirmative action ban, but the proposal won far more support among Republicans (77 percent in favor) than Democrats (51 percent in favor). Among independent voters, 59 percent supported the initiative.

          "News pollster Steve Mitchell said the numbers indicate that if the affirmative action prohibition gets on the ballot, it probably will win.

          " 'Opinions on this issue are very deeply held, and I think it will be very difficult to defeat this if it gets on the ballot,' Mitchell said. He said he expects the support is even stronger than the poll indicates.

          " 'Generally, there's about a 7 percent fudge factor on racial issues because people don't like to tell pollsters an answer that might be perceived as racist,' he said. 'I think support could actually be as high as 70 percent.' Diverse opinions

          "Jennifer Gratz, executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, was encouraged by the poll results.

          " 'Poll after poll tell us that people don't want racial preferences, they want to be treated fairly and they want to be treated equally,' said Gratz, a 26-year-old University of Michigan graduate who was a plaintiff in the case against the school's affirmative action policies decided last summer by the U.S. Supreme Court.

          "The high court ruled that using race as a factor in the law school application process was a constitutional means of achieving diversity. But in a split decision, the court struck down the school's undergraduate admission process that gave extra points to students of color.

          "Retired Brigadier Gen. Mike Rice, former deputy director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said he expected poll numbers to indicate support for the constitutional amendment before the education campaign begins. Rice heads a coalition of business, government, academic, civil rights, labor and other groups opposed to the amendment. The coalition is making an all-out effort to keep the issue off the ballot.

          " 'It points out that we have a lot of work to do in educating folks,' [General] Rice said. 'We need to tell voters just don't sign something because somebody puts a clipboard under your nose in a shopping mall.'

          "Opponents say the affirmative action ban will lead to consequences most voters haven't considered. For example, it would be difficult for a municipality to diversify its police force to reflect the makeup of the community, Rice said.

Demonstrators march

          "On Monday, about a hundred demonstrators marched in frigid weather at U-M in support of affirmative action. Cyril Cordor, a local organizer for the group By Any Means Necessary, charged that promoters of the ballot proposal are using deception to gain signatures. The way the petitions are worded, Cordor said, Michiganians might not realize they're being asked to turn back the clock on racial progress.

          " 'It doesn't even use the words affirmative action,' said Cordor, a 22-year-old senior from Detroit. 'That's why there's a legal battle to get the petition (language) changed. Our emphasis is to keep it from getting on the ballot.'

          "The Michigan effort was launched by University of California Regent Ward Connerly, who won passage of a similar plan in his state and in Washington state. Both sides plan to spend millions on a TV ad campaign."

Affirmative action supporters honor MLK Day with renewed coalitions

Last known link to original story:

          "Mounting opposition to an anti-affirmative action initiative affirmed its support of race-conscious policies yesterday as groups and lecturers across campus reflected on civil rights and the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

          "A high-spirited rally hosted by BAMN [a radical pro-quota group known by the name 'By Any Means Necessary'] and a more subdued meeting of state leaders both sought to halt a ballot initiative which would end race-conscious policies in public education, employment and contracting in Michigan. Participants in both events looked to perpetuate King’s ideals — universal civil rights and equality of opportunity.

          "... Included among the opposition [to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative] are many prominent state leaders such as U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and state Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), along with various school administrators, ministers, political activists and student group leaders. Yesterday’s holiday brought these coordinators together in the Michigan Union in an attempt to create an organized opposition to the amendment proposal propagated by MCRI and its sponsor Ward Connerly, a University of California regent and chair of the American Civil Rights Coalition.

          " 'We have to do what we can as public officials to make clearer our opposition to this effort. It’s very appropriate on Martin Luther King Day to initiate this effort locally,' [state Sen. Liz] Brater [D-Ann Arbor] said during the meeting.

          "The purpose of the meeting was to develop a coherent opposition message, brainstorm outreach methods, garner funds and start educating the public on the issue, one student activist said. When discussing their message, most of those at the meeting focused on broadening the misconception that affirmative action only benefits blacks. Incorporating white women — who were originally, and arguably still are, the program’s greatest beneficiaries — was of primary concern to many of the state’s leaders.

          "Deborah Dingell, Rep. Dingell’s wife, emphasized the importance of informing Michigan residents that the amendment will have implications for women in sports and business. Echoing this sentiment, a private practice attorney in Ann Arbor said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) should publicly declare her support for affirmative action. Stabenow’s regional manager for southeast Michigan Barbara McCallahan, who was present at the meeting, promised to take the information back to the senator. State Rep. Ruth Ann Jamnick (D-54th district) also stressed that residents need to "remember white women" and agreed with one participant’s suggestion that Gov. Jennifer Granholm should make her position on the initiative more public. Reaching out to residents was also a significant concern at yesterday’s meeting.

          "The challenge of expanding resistance [to color-blind Michigan policies] to the rest of the state figured most prominently, though most of those present operate out of southeastern Michigan. 'We have to build a coalition — which will not be hard in this area — in the whole state,' Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje said. Deborah Dingell, who is also vice president of corporate relations for General Motors, stressed reconnecting with the business community.

          "After the [June 23, 2003 U.S. Supreme] Court decision this summer [which endorsed subtle use of racial quotas in Michigan college admissions], opponents of the University’s [so-called 'race-conscious'] policies berated those corporations who issued amicus briefs supporting affirmative action [actually, supporting racial quotas], Dingell said. But affirmative action supporters barely thanked them, and so now businesses are more wary to offer formal support — including funding — to groups opposing Connerly, Dingell added."

For One Group, MLK Day Stands For Affirmative Action

Last known link to original story:

          "Hundreds marched through the streets in frigid winter weather Monday to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and to voice their support for [race-based] affirmative action. The march on the federal holiday that honors King came a week after a group that wants to prohibit racial preferences began collecting the signatures it needs to get the issue on the Nov. 2 ballot.

          "Marchers carried signs, reading 'Defend Affirmative Action,' and chanted, 'Affirmative action is the way -- long live the fight of MLK.'  'What's the strength of King's dream? The dream of Martin Luther King that's talked about so often?' said Luke Massie, national co-chair of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration, and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN).  'The strength of that dream is in the fact that it's our dream together.'

          "Temperatures were in the high teens and low 20s as marchers -- calling for unity among all races in the continued fight for [race-based] civil rights -- made their way through Ann Arbor and the campus of the University of Michigan.


Affirmative action battle brews anew in Michigan
By Mary Wiltenburg | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Last known link to original story:

          "It's a cold time of year to be out collecting signatures. But as Michigan's affirmative action debate heats up once again, that's exactly what opponents of racial preferences in hiring and school admissions are doing.

          "Last week, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) launched a petition drive to let voters decide whether to ban such preferences by state institutions. If the group gathers 317,757 signatures by July 6, its proposed amendment to the state constitution will appear on November's ballot.

          "Opposition to the campaign has been loud and swift. Protesters gathered at the press conference announcing the drive Monday, and within 24 hours a broad coalition of state business, labor, civic, and religious leaders were calling on constituents not to sign the petition.

          " 'This has been a divisive issue for Michigan all along,' says Brig. Gen. (ret.) Michael Rice, executive director of Citizens for a United Michigan, the group that opposes MCRI. 'It's only going to get more divisive from here.'

          "Wish they all could be California? MCRI's campaign is bankrolled and advised by Ward Connerly, a familiar figure in affirmative action cases nationwide. In 1996, Mr. Connerly, chairman of the Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Coalition, sponsored California's Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action programs in hiring, contracting, and public school admissions. Two years later, Connerly successfully promoted Initiative 200 in Washington State to similar effect.

          "The language of the Michigan petition is nearly identical to these efforts. Adapting wording from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it forbids the state to '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.'

          "Borrowing language from the Civil Rights Act is especially troubling to those who oppose MCRI's efforts.

          " 'That [wording] is just conscious, creative, shameful duplicity,' says Luke Massie, national cochair of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN).

          "Just look at 209's track record, Mr. Massie says. Minority enrollment in California's more elite public universities fell markedly after 1998 when the proposition took effect. [This is not true.  Statewide enrollment of protected/preferred minorities at all California State Universities and Colleges actually remained stable or increased after passage of Prop. 209.  Editor.]

          "(These schools did, however, rush to find other ways to boost minority enrollment, including adding outreach programs, expanding admissions criteria, and automatically admitting the top 4 percent of public high school students. By 2002, minority enrollment at these schools was showing improvement.)

          "Massie says the Michigan petition's parallel language shows MCRI is trying to dismantle affirmative action there, too. BAMN protesters plan to shadow MCRI petitioners and inform potential signers of this, but Massie says it's disingenuous of the group not to make their aim explicit.

          "This isn't the case, says Jennifer Gratz, MCRI executive director and a plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case that last June upheld affirmative action as practiced at the University of Michigan law school.

          "Ms. Gratz insists that she does support affirmative action, which she defines as 'guaranteed equal opportunity and equal access for everybody.'

          "But to her, that means that as a good student, honor society president, and cheerleader, she deserved to be admitted to the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus - her first-choice school - and not the state university's satellite campus where she was accepted instead. Gratz's claim that less qualified minority students were admitted at her expense put her at the center of the lawsuit that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

          "But 'equal opportunity and equal access' are also the goals of opponents of Gratz's petition.

          "The difference, says Daryl Smith, a professor of education and psychology at California's Claremont Graduate University, is that true affirmative action supporters realize that such goals can never be achieved without first interrupting the cycle of disenfranchisement and unequal opportunity that minority students face.

          " 'This is not introducing discrimination into the process,' she says. 'It's already a discriminatory process.'   Brown v. Board of Education dealt with that issue 50 years ago, she adds, and largely separate and unequal educational systems remain in place today.

Temporary solution

          "Dr. Smith and fellow proponents of racial preferences say they expect such measures to be temporary. The question is: How temporary?

          "Societal groups that receive temporary benefits will always evolve to depend on them, says Peter Wood, professor of anthropology at Boston University and author of 'Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.'   Farmers never volunteer to give up their subsidies, he says, steel companies don't eliminate their own tariffs.

          "Rice, on the other hand, sees racial preferences as only a step on the road to equal opportunity, but argues it's far too early to scrap such programs.

          " 'Maybe 30 years down the road we'll have evolved to this utopian state where Mr. Connerly and others believe we should be,' he says, 'but we're not there now.'

          "Rice's coalition is prepared to spend millions fighting the amendment, MCRI to spend such sums promoting it. What MCRI hopes - and what its opponents fear - is that whichever way Michigan decides the issue, other states will follow."

MCRI: Lenawee Daily Telegram Editorial: A ruse by any other name ...

Last known link to original story:

Editor's Note:  This editorial is particularly shameless and offensive in promoting the idea that "affirmative action" necessarily consists of biased racial quotas and preferences, and that those individuals and groups that oppose racial quotas (such as the MCRI) also oppose equal opportunity.  MCRI absolutely does not oppose equal opportunity, but it does support equal treatment under the law regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.  This editorial completely ignores the fact that the original, unamended Civil Rights Act of 1964 actually forbade racial preferences, quotas, targets and goals.  -- Tim Fay, Editor

          "The debate over affirmative action is swirling through the state much as it did in 2003. A Michigan campaign to let voters decide whether affirmative action [i.e., race-based quotas and preferences] should stay or go in public agencies such as universities will be watched and followed closely. We understand this is a hot-button issue, one that involves race, economics, class and a foundation of fairness, or perceived discrimination, that has stood for decades.

          "We know that rhetoric and emotion will boil over for people involved on both sides of the issue. But we are offended at the early-stage campaign tactics employed by the organizers of the petition drive to put an affirmative action question on the November 2004 ballot.

          "The group has named itself the 'Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.'  That sounds like a pro-civil rights group, or a group that might support affirmative action. [It is, and they do!  --Editor]   They do not. It's certainly a curious moniker for a group promoting a ballot question which, if it is supported by voters, would constitutionally ban affirmative action.  [This is completely untrue!  The MCRI guarantees that all Michigan citizens will be treated equally regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity.  -- Editor.]

          "Giving yourself a disingenuous name is misleading and a poor way to begin a campaign. The organizers have compounded this shifty appearance by producing a petition that reportedly does not use the words 'affirmative action,' in what some critics have called an attempt to confuse and take advantage of potential signers.

          "The woman who is leading the drive, Jennifer Gratz, was rejected from the University of Michigan law school, and has let that experience power this bitter effort to take away one of the few societal checks and balances in American culture. The U.S. Supreme Court already has decided to uphold the basic principles of affirmative action in university admissions.  [This is a completely disingenuous statement!  On June 23, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court did NOT decide to uphold the basic principles of affirmative action in university admissions.   What the Supreme Court DID do in their June 23, 2003 decision was to endorse the use of discriminatory racial preferences in college admissions. -- Editor.]

          "We have applauded their [the Supreme Court's 6/23/03] decision.  Affirmative action is by no means a perfect system, and it does create situations that can be deemed unfair.  But as the court said, until a better way to ensure that all races and sexes are treated fairly comes along, it must be protected and supported.  To deny the need for affirmative action is to deny the existence of basic inequalities and economic disparities that continue to stain our national fabric. We're happy to debate the merits of affirmative action, but let's keep the conversation, and any attempt to foil the constitution, fair and free of subterfuge. There would be immediate and long-ranging damages created by banning affirmative action. We hope the state's residents give a thumbs-down to Gratz and her group before the question even appears on the November ballot."

News clips courtesy of AADAP.ORG

Recommended Additional Reading:

Definition:  Affirmative Action

Definition:  Diversity

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