Ward Connerly: Suspicious Use of Deep South to Justify Injustice

I have noticed a pattern in Ward Connerly’s experience of discrimination. Distressingly, Connerly uses terms connected with the continuing Black struggle for true equality in his arguments. But his true intention is to remove the context of words so that he can use the terms to defend the status quo–retention of majority (White) institutional hegemony.

However, his arguments contradict the experience of Blacks who suffered and continue to suffer rampant anti-Black discrimination. It is irrational to assert that the experience of anti-Black discrimination leads the sufferer to support anti-Black legislation. Yet that is what Connerly is doing.

I will analyze a paragraph of Connerly’s letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm during the time Proposal 2 was on the ballot to demonstrate my point.

I was born in the Deep South, at a time when racial discrimination was rampant. I know first-hand the meaning of the term “racial discrimination.” I doubt that you can say the same. Your knowledge about discrimination was probably gleaned from history books. In days of my youth, as a brown-skinned man, I rarely heard the term, “diversity.” But, I sure as hell heard and experienced “discrimination.” And, I can tell you that the pursuit of diversity should never be an excuse for our government to sanction or practice discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, gender, ethnicity or national ancestry. That principle should be guaranteed to Jennifer Gratz, a white woman, equally as it is guaranteed to me, a black man. One should not have to be an “outsider from California” to convince you of the importance of the fundamental principle of equal treatment before the law without regard to the color of a person’s skin. This principle is deeply etched in the character of most Americans. Had you been born in America, perhaps you would have a better appreciation of this fact.

In the red sentence, Connerly begins by stating that he experienced racial discrimination in the Deep South (he was born in Louisiana). His use of the term Deep South suggests that only the South was against Black people. However, the practice of anti-Black discrimination was and is practiced nationwide.

Another error in the red sentence is that Connerly suggests that only Black people can know what racial discrimination is. Any human can understand the wrongness of preventing a person from participating in social institutions merely on account of a person’s skin color.

Regarding the dark blue sentence, diversity–the practice of seeking the inclusion of Blacks in societal institutions–is not discrimination against Whites. Watch that Connerly now mentions discrimination in general and not as anti-Black discrimination.

With the removal of the context of the word discrimination, Connerly implicitly argues that the inclusion of Black people in societal institutions (as a remedy for past exclusion of Blacks) is as discriminatory against Whites as Jim Crow (the target of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) was against Blacks. This could only be true if the races had equal numbers of people in the population of the United States. This is not the case as Whites outnumber Black people 6 to 1.

United States (population: 281,421,906 (2000 Census)

Race Percentage of population Number
White 75.1% 211,460,626
Black 12.3 34,658,190
Native American 0.9 2,475,956
Asian 3.6 10,242,998

 

In the green sentence, Connerly’s claim of equality between Blacks and Whites sounds good in theory but it does not exist in reality. The fact is that Jennifer Gratz is White in a 80.2% White state (Michigan). She never experienced societal exclusion based on her White skin. Every part of Michigan’s societal institutions are dominated by White people.

However, Black people, who are a distinct social minority, need assurances that Black people can participate fully in societal institutions.

Connerly’s persistent reference to Granholm’s birth in Canada was insulting and irrelevant. Connerly was born in the United States but he fails to comprehend the ill effects of anti-Black discrimination in the United States.

In addition, in an interview with the Dartmouth Review, Connerly uses a similar story to justify his ballot initiative drive (similar to Michigan’s Proposal 2) in five states (note: for my posts on this issue, click the Ward Connerly category tag in the right column).

I was born in the Deep South in Louisiana in 1939, and I have seen and experienced racial discrimination in my lifetime. I think it is wrong, and that it denies our country the greatest potential from every person. When I was serving on the Board of Regents of the University of California, it was déjà vu all over again because I saw the discrimination that was visited upon Asian students at Berkeley and UCLA. As the number of Asians, the Chinese and Japanese at Berkeley especially, began to increase, the administration expressed its concern that Berkeley would become “Asian” and all that. My own view is that, I don’t care if an Asian takes every seat if he or she earned the right to be there, and so I moved to get rid of racial discrimination and preferential treatment in the UC System. One thing led to another, and so I expanded to California’s Proposition 209 and before Iknew it, I had a second activity in my life that concerned me. I really believe that everybody is entitled to be treated equally under the law by any government agency in the state. You and I don’t have a choice about whether or not we belong to the government. We’re required to pay our taxes and to be members of society, to support the government. Therefore, the government should not pick and choose who among us gets favored treatment. And all my initiatives that I’ve supported have been confined to the public sector, to the government. I don’t think private entities should discriminate, but that’s their business. But the government certainly should not.

The structure of Connerly’s response in the Dartmouth Review is the same as Connerly’s response to Granholm. It starts with Connerly’s reference to the Deep South. Then, Connerly discovers a mission to save another group from perceived discrimination. Finally, Connerly insists on his belief in equality (in spite of the reality of an overwhelmingly White population in California).

California (population: 33,871,648 (2000 Census) [NOTE: high number of “some other race”])

Race

Percentage of population

Number

White

59.5%

20,170,059

Black

6.7

2,263,882

Native American

1.0

333,346

Asian

10.9

3,697,513

 

In order to place Connerly’s statements in the green portion in context, consider Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent, in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). Harlan explained that Whites believed in White supremacy, but the Constitution prohibited the law from enforcing it and, most significantly, from protecting Blacks from the effects of White supremacy doctrines. (Note: this point is covered in this post.)

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage, and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.

The reader should realize Connerly’s unseemly tactics in his mentioning of the Deep South to justify the imposition of ballot initiatives that inhibit the fight against anti-Black discrimination.

Related link

For discussion of the opinions of Ward Connerly’s family (dissenting from his views), see the 1997 New York Times article, “Questions of race run deep for foe of preferences.”

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