ACRI Ballot Initiative (Arizona): Student Columnist Defends Initiative Proposal

A student opinion columnist for the Arizona Daily Wildcat favors the American Civil Rights Institute’s (ACRI) initiative proposal to end affirmative action in Arizona (column titled “Racism by Any Other Name“). [Note: For my previous posts on Arizona’s anti-affirmative action initiative proposal, search on Arizona in the search box on the left column.]

The writer writes his column as if social minorities in the United States are in control of social institutions in Arizona. If this were the case, his column would be persuasive.

Reality, though, vehemently contradicts the writer’s assertions. Contrary to the opinion of student writer, power is not measured by wealth alone. The social group that has the most people possesses the most power. As a result, there is no question that Whites have the most power in Arizona and the United States. Whites are, by far, the largest racial group.

Arizona (population: 5,130,632 (2000 Census) [NOTE: high number of “some other race”])

Race Percentage of population Number
White 75.5% 3,873,611
Black 3.1 158,873
Native American 5.0 255,879
Asian 1.8 92,236

 

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

 

Thus, neither situation in Zimbabwe nor in Malaysia is equivalent to the United States’ obligation to correct the damage done by its slavery institution. For more information on Zimbabwe, see an article by Dr. Chika A. Onyeani in The Black Commentator.

For Malaysia, see a Reuters article. The purpose of affirmative action in Malaysia is to help the impoverished majority population, the opposite of the goal of the United States, which is to help those who are not part of the powerful majority.

While Bumiputera [ethnic Malays and indigenous people] wealth went from just over 2 percent in 1970 to about 19 percent in 2004, Malays, who make up more than half of the population of 26 million, are still the poorest racial group — well behind the minority ethnic Chinese, who hold about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

ACRI’s anti-affirmative action proposal is not needed in Arizona. The small non-White population needs assurances that their ability to live will be respected.

The Futility of “Colorblindness” (Part 5): Clarence Thomas & His Troublesome Role Model John Marshall Harlan

I have written my critique of John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v Ferguson before. Harlan’s view of “colorblindness” is indifference not racial justice. Thus, it is unfortunate, yet predictable, that Clarence Thomas, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, would glorify Harlan in an article in the Wall Street Journal.

I will reiterate my view.

Justice Harlan’s Dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson

Justice John Marshall Harlan, in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), stated 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.

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.

Harlan’s dissent is, at best, racially indifferent to the plight of Blacks, certainly not an opinion to admire in the slightest.

The reason why I had to repeat this argument is that in the Wall Street Journal, Thomas stated that he views the flawed Harlan as a role model. However, Thomas edits out a troublesome sentence in order to try to convince the public to agree with him (emphasis mine).

It is the Plessy dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan to which Mr. Thomas points for an example of a Justice putting his personal predilections aside to keep faith with the Constitution. Harlan was a Kentucky aristocrat and former slaveowner, although he was also a Unionist who fought for the North during the Civil War. A man of his time, he believed in white superiority, if not supremacy, and wrote in Plessy that the “white race” would continue to be dominant in the United States “in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power [. . .] for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.”

 

“But,” Harlan continued, “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 its citizens.”

 

That, for Mr. Thomas, is the “great ‘But,'” where Harlan’s intellectual honesty trumped his personal prejudice, causing Mr. Thomas to describe Harlan as his favorite justice and even a role model. For both of them, justice is truly blind to everything but the law.

The way Thomas explains Harlan’s statement of white supremacy is that Whites will remain dominant as long as they follow the Constitution and the idealized view of “colorblindness” (that all people would be treated fairly regardless of their skin color). This is the view Thomas expresses in the interview with the Wall Street Journal.

But the part of Harlan’s dissent edited out by ellipses (“So, I doubt not, it will continue to be”) changes the meaning of the sentence and directly contradicts Thomas’s statement. In reality, Harlan did not separate his personal prejudice from the opinion. With the edited statement added, Harlan was actually observing that White supremacy would never go away and the Supreme Court would not challenge it (provided the society did not implicate the exact words of the Constitution).

Moreover, ideal “colorblindness” is impossible in the United States where one race (White) is the clear majority and controls all of the power in society.

The views of Mr. Harlan or Mr. Thomas are definitely not opinions to be admired in the slightest.

The Futility of “Colorblindness” (Part 4): Rev. Jeremiah Wright & Race in the United States

A Washington Post article reported on how a Virginia church handled the issues surrounding Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons (featured in the media and on YouTube).

In the article, a church member opined that the racial history in the United States was bad, but now it should be forgotten (emphasis mine):

[Karl] Heeter said that he has not focused on the controversy surrounding Wright’s comments and that he didn’t hear [Senator Barack] Obama’s speech. But he said the country doesn’t need to revisit its ugly racial history. “I’m not saying it wasn’t horrible, but we need to get over it,” he said.

 

As such, he doesn’t see the need to talk about racial differences in church. “I don’t see any point in stirring it up in an area where there don’t appear to be any problems,” he said.

Presuming you have not suffered the injustice and inhumanity (central to Rev Wright’s sermons), it is rather cavalier (for those who have not suffered systematic anti-Black discrimination) to tell those who have endured the burden to forget.

Tim Wise, an anti-racism author and activist, wrote about a conversation he had with a White male college student. Wise relates to the reader that the college student expressed a similar opinion to Heeter (above). Wise also describes how the racial discrimination in the past of the United States still has effects in the present day (emphasis mine):

[…] “Yes, we used to have a problem with racism, but that’s in the past and we need to move forward.”

 

That was cliche number two: this time objectively absurd and highly relevant to our discussion, which concerned what obligations (if any) the United States has to rectify the legacy of institutionalized white supremacy. Perhaps reparations for its victims? Perhaps affirmative action? Perhaps both, or neither?

 

“We should do nothing,” he explained, because — and I’m sure you can guess the rest — he “wasn’t even alive when all that happened, and shouldn’t have to pay for what others did.”

 

Cliches within cliches, all piled upon one another like driftwood, floating on an ocean of white denial, searching for a home in the minds of the self-proclaimed innocent–those who are apparently convinced that the past has no bearing on the present, that history ended sometime around 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and that inertia is only a property of the physical, but not socioeconomic universe.

 

But of course, the evidence of the past’s lingering grip on the present is all around us. Thanks to overt racism in housing markets, for example, which all agree ruled the day for the better part of the last century, white families were able to accumulate assets and wealth at a time when people of color were severely limited in their ability to do so.

It is tough to get progress when society is unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of anti-Black discrimination in the United States.

Post script:

Also, in the Post’s article, a church member mentioned a safe space would be needed to engage in racial discussions:

Frank Bertrand, the church’s lay leader, said the country has been ready to have a frank discussion about race for more than a generation. Yet he acknowledged it would be difficult to bring it up without setting parameters. People are more inclined to speak openly if non-threatening questions are asked and they know “what to expect and what the objectives are,” he said.

Tim Wise wrote an interesting article on the insistence on safety when discussing racial issues.

Although it isn’t usually made explicit, this admonition about the importance of safety is almost always really about making white people feel safe. After all, people of color rarely feel safe discussing race amongst members of the dominant group, and it’s pretty unlikely that a simple sentence calling for civility would change that. Black and brown folks know that race is a touchy subject, and yet they engage in race dialogue (whether formal or informal) as a matter of survival: they have to do it, safe or not, because the alternative is to continue neglecting an issue that is far too important to their everyday lives.

It also is important to consider the demographics of the United States. The vast majority of the population is White, a fact that is often understated.

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

 

ACRI Ballot Initiative (Colorado): Group Submits Signatures to Colorado Sec’y of State

According to the Rocky Mountain News, Ward Connerly, the leader of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), announced that his group had gathered enough signatures to get on Colorado’s ballot.

[Ward] Connerly was in Denver to announce the submission of 128,744 signatures on petitions to place the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative on the November ballot. The group needed to collect 76,047 valid signatures, which must be verified by the Secretary of State’s Office.

 

Connerly was joined at the Capitol news conference by former state Sen. Ed Jones, a Republican from El Paso County, Valary Pech Orr, who is a supporter of the initiative, and state Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs.

Connerly mentions that he does not believe that racism is ended even though he supports the ballot initiative essentially to end affirmative action in Colorado.

And Connerly said that even though he supports the measure, he doesn’t believe racism has been eliminated from society and that it goes beyond whites and blacks.

 

“Nobody has a franchise on discrimination,” he said.

I believe Connerly’s statement understates the negative effects of his ballot initiatives. Clearly the recent discussion of Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons and Senator Barack Obama’s speech outlining the still salient issue of discrimination contradicts Connerly’s statements.

I disagree with Connerly. I have written a previous post critiquing Connerly’s methods in defending the unacceptable status quo.

Related note:

ACRI’s ballot initiative (#31 in Colorado) is now at Step 10 in Colorado’s initiative process. The next step is the verification of signatures.

ACRI Ballot Initiative: Direct Democracy Fails When Citizens Feel They Are Ignored By Initiative Process

Professor Marci Hamilton wrote on FindLaw, about her observations of the discontent that members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) had for Ward Connerly and his ballot initiatives against affirmative action (click on the ward connerly category in the right column for my previous posts on this subject).

Among Professor Hamilton’s comments, she observed that the fact that affirmative action was forced on the population not in the social majority, the ballot initiative process worsened tensions rather than decreased them.

This was the best example I have witnessed to date of the infirmities of direct democracy. The controversy over affirmative action is obviously a social problem that is hyper-charged with emotion and that plays into deeply-held beliefs and values, and the lawmaking process that ended over one and a half years ago had not succeeded in resolving public tensions. To the contrary, it had only reinforced those disagreements and resentments. The result was a frustrated group of citizens — calling itself By Any Means Necessary in no small part because its members felt disenfranchised by the routine means by which the process operated.

I agree with Professor Hamilton. The ballot initiative process cannot work for social policies like affirmative action where the people outside the social majority do not have the power to prevent the passage of an initiative which is not in the social minority’s interest. I wrote the following in a previous post.

In general, ballot initiatives should be limited to non-controversial items with broad general applicability, for example, approving library bonds, and similar items. Issues that potentially deprive vulnerable citizens of human rights must go to the state legislature.

 

The American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) initiative campaign in several states is unfair to people who are not members of the dominant social group (see my related posts here). The actions sought in ACRI’s ballot initiative has a profound negative impact on a vulnerable portion of the total population.

Jeremiah Wright: Full Context of Remarks on YouTube

Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright has been the focus of extraordinarily unfair criticism this week for certain statements made during sermons.

It happens that the news organizations selected statements of Rev. Wright that were dramatic and removed the context of his statements in his sermon.

The fortunate thing about the Internet is that it provides a medium for research and discussion. There is a site on YouTube that now provides the part of the sermon that gives context to Rev. Wright’s statements that were displayed on the news programs.

Here is the sermon that includes Rev. Wright’s “God Damn America” statement with the other part of Rev. Wright’s sermon that provides context for his remarks.

There are other videos at the YouTube site for Trinity Chicago that also provide context for Rev. Wright’s televised comments.

For example, Rev. Wright in speaking of the chickens coming home to roost was actually referring to a statement made by an ambassador featured on a Fox News program.

The condemnation of Rev. Wright is unwarranted and unfair.

ACRI Ballot Initiative (Oklahoma): Challenge Filed Against ACRI Initiative in OK Supreme Court

According to the Tulsa World, ten voters in Oklahoma challenged the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) ballot initiative against affirmative action. One contested issue is the signatures collected by the ACRI’s petition sponsors.

Chuck Thornton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma, said the signature-gathering process for the petition is rife with errors.
[…]
“When equal opportunity and the civil rights of our residents are at stake, it is critically important that the electoral process is fair, transparent and honest,” Thornton said.

He expressed confidence the petition would be thrown out of court because of faulty signature-gathering.