By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a pro-affirmative action group that has organized protests and filed lawsuits around the country seeking to defend affirmative action from rightwing efforts to eliminate, has released a transcript and video of an October 2007 deposition of Ward Connerly. Connerly, who has been the primary backer of the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 in California and Proposal 2 (the Michigan Civil Rights Initative) in Michigan, was deposed as part of a lawsuit filed by BAMN to overturn Proposal 2 in Michigan.
The 76-page deposition is worth reading, as Connerly makes it clear that he knew the consequences of Proposal 2’s passage–a decline in enrollment at state universities in Michigan by people of color–based on the consequences of Proposition 209 in California. Similarly, Connerly says that he was aware that Proposition 209 would have this effect. Beyond that, the Connerly’s comments are consistent with what he has said in the past downplaying the historical legacy of discrimination, downplaying the existence of racism, and claiming that African-Americans are not working hard enough to compete with white students.
However, it is his comments of the potential impacts on Michigan and how the campaign for Proposal 2 was organized that are probably the most interesting to our readers. As such, we have excerpted the majority of his comments here.
Connerly speaks about how Proposal 2 in Michigan would have the same effect of eliminating many affirmative action programs in the state:
Q: …so when you came to Michigan to bring the proposal to, you knew the same result would occur in Michigan, did you not?
A. I did.
Q. And you knew that in Michigan the Supreme Court had found that the policy being used by the University of Michigan in Grutter was legal at a federal level; isn’t that true?
A. For those who wanted to use it.
Q. And if you got a state ban, you knew that even those who wanted to use it wouldn’t be able to use it, didn’t you?
A. I knew that, but I also knew that the only way we’re going to close this academic gap between black and Latino on the one hand and Asian and white on the other, is not to keep papering over it with preferences, but to apply the tough love that’s necessary to get black and Latino students up to the bar. That was a value judgment then, it’s a value judgment now.
Q. Mr. Connerly, there was no question in your mind when you brought Proposal 2 that the University of Michigan would be virtually resegregated as the University of California Berkeley and UCLA have; is that not true?
A. I did not bring Proposal 2. I supported Proposal 2, but I did not bring Proposal 2, that’s a mischaracterization of the facts.
Q. When you supported Proposal 2; is that correct?
A. That’s correct.
Q. That was the outcome you wanted; is that correct?
A. No, that wasn’t the outcome I wanted. I wanted to be sure we could get black students and Latino-American students that were not performing well academically on a path to performance. I believe we will not do that as long as we perform the remedies that you obviously support and that is preferences. That does not solve the problem. They patch up the problem, Ms. Driver, they don’t solve the problem.
Connerly talks about his role in supporting Proposal 2 and the role that Michigan’s demographics had in impacting the vote and the decision:
Q: Did you believe when Proposal 2 was proposed in Michigan, you knew that the vast majority of voters in the state of Michigan were white; is that true?
A. As they are in most states.
Q. And, in fact, previously when you went into the
state of Washington you said that you in part went into the
state of Washington because the majority of voters were white?
A. That — when Ms. Foster, Heath Foster said that,
that is not something that I said.
A. That is not something that I said. I was invited to the state of Washington. I went there. We did not select — I did not select the state of Washington because it was white. That was not an accurate attribution on her part.
Q. Okay. And you selected the state of Michigan because the University of Michigan had succeeded at the Supreme Court in Grutter; is that correct?
A. I was invited to the state of Michigan and I went there with the expressed purpose of availing ourselves of that opportunity that the court allowed of its decision of Grutter and Gratz.
Q. And you knew the majority of voters were white?
A. How could one not know if one studies the facts?
Q. You knew that in California overwhelmingly white people had voted for proposal 209 and overwhelmingly black people and other minorities voted against it; is that correct?
A. Sure, I knew that.
Q. And you knew that had been the case in the state of Washington as well; is that not correct?
A. I knew the demographics.
Q. And you knew that in Michigan, because it was 83 percent white that if there was the same outcome and there was an overwhelming vote by white people for it and an overwhelming vote of black people against it, the proposal would still pass?
A. It would be reasonable to conclude that.
Q. And you went into Michigan knowing, therefore, that you were putting white people in the position of banning the only programs that the University of Michigan had said, the one program the University of Michigan said it needed to maintain an integrated and diverse student body; is that correct?
MR. FOUTZ: Objection. Lacks foundation. Assumes facts not in evidence, also calls for speculation.
THE WITNESS: I have this abiding faith that black people can also be convinced that treating anyone differently because of race and skin color is wrong.
MS. DRIVER: Q. It’s a little different —
A. I had that faith then, I have it now.
Q. It’s a little bit of a different question what I’m asking. I’m not asking about —
A. I know, but it’s a loaded question that you’re
framing on your terms.
A. I want you to understand my answer.
Q. I understand your answer. Let me go back to my question. You knew when you went into Michigan that you were putting white people in the position of being able to eliminate what the University of Michigan had argued in the Grutter case at the U.S. Supreme Court it had to have to maintain an integrated and diverse student body?
MR. FOUTZ: Same objections.
THE WITNESS: I knew that the people of Michigan, the people of Michigan, who include Arabs, who include, quote, whites, many of whom are Arab, who included blacks, Latinos, that the people of Michigan would vote, not that I would be putting whites in the position, as you characterize it, of eliminating this one precious program.
Q. But white people were 83 percent of the elected?
A. I don’t see it, maybe you do. I don’t see them as white people who are going to the polls to vote. They are people of Michigan going to the polls to vote. BAMN and others, I would add, did more to call attention to race and the race of voters than we ever did.
Q. Mr. Connerly, when you were a part of the leadership of the campaign —
A. I was not a part of the leadership of the campaign.
Q. So I don’t misspeak again —
Q. How would you characterize your role in securing the passage of Proposal 2 in Michigan?
A. Helped to raise most of the money that financed the campaign, probably 90 percent of the funds that were raised I in one way or another helped to raise by calling people and urging them to support it. I was there whenever they needed me and asked for advice on how do we deal with this idiotic issue about the Ku Klux Klan that you in a sleazy fashion raise and being there, being available as they needed my counsel.
Q. And you knew that in the campaign to get Proposal 2 on the ballot that black signature gatherers were paid to lie to voters —
Q. About —
A. That’s your characterization, that is wrong.
Q. You knew there was a report by the civil rights commission targeting voter fraud; isn’t that true?
A. I’m aware of that. I also knew it was wrong, that we were not involved in any kind of targeted voter fraud.
Q. And you knew that there was a decision by a federal court judge, Judge Tarnow, that found that Jennifer Gratz and others involved in the campaign clearly either knew or were disingenuous in their presentation of the ways in which black signature gatherers were lying to people to get signatures?
MR. FOUTZ: Objection. Lacks foundation. Assumes facts not in evidence.
THE WITNESS: I did not believe then and I do not believe now that there was any voter fraud in the Michigan campaign. There was a disagreement about the use of the term affirmative action. They were saying, many of these signature gatherers, that affirmative action could be maintained as I understand it in the aftermath of the election about Proposal 2, that is true. It can be maintained. Socioeconomic affirmative action, race-neutral outreach could be maintained. There was a charge that the term civil rights was being misappropriated.
Q. Mr. Connerly, you, yourself said affirmative action is race preference s in at least one if not more interviews; isn’t that true?
A. I said in several interviews that affirmative action has become coterminous with race preferences the way it’s being used.
Q. When people are saying the term “affirmative action” they mean what you would call race preferences; isn’t that true?
A. I can’t say what all people mean.
Q. But that’s what you meant; isn’t that true?
A. When I used the term, and if you’ll look, I went to great pains to say this campaign will not end all affirmative action. I said that ad nauseam.
Q. But you knew that the average voter would think exactly what you thought, that the term affirmative action and the term race preference are one; isn’t that true?
A. That is precisely why I went to such great efforts to say that this will not end all affirmative action.
Q. And so you knew when those petition gatherers were going around and saying these programs are for affirmative action, they were lying, weren’t they?
A. Ms. Driver —
MR. FOUTZ: Objection. Objection. Lacks foundation. Assumes facts that are not in evidence. We’ll go with those for now.
THE WITNESS: I had not one idea of what the signature gatherers were saying to people, not a clue. I wasn’t involved in that phase of the effort.
MS. DRIVER: Q. But if they were saying that your ballot measure that Prop 2 was for affirmative action, you would say that that was a lie; isn’t that true?
A. No, I would not. I would say, yeah, make sure you’re careful in how you characterize this because there are certain forms of affirmative action that will be preserved. It’s for a certain kind. It is not for certain other kinds.
Q. And you knew when those signature gatherers were saying this would help black students get into college, that they were lying, didn’t you?
A. I —
MR. FOUTZ: Objection. Lacks foundation. Assumes facts not in evidence. Calls for hearsay and speculation.
THE WITNESS: I don’t know what they said to people. I wasn’t there.
MS. DRIVER: Q. But you knew it would not help black students, in any event, it was not going to help black students get into the University of Michigan to eliminate affirmative action.
A. We didn’t eliminate affirmative action.
Q. Eliminating affirmative action programs that took race into account as a factor in the admissions process, which was the University of Michigan’s system, you knew that eliminating that, which is what this law was conceived of to do, was going to lower, not increase, the number of black students that were admitted at the University of Michigan; isn’t that true?
A. I also thought, however, that in the fullness of time it would help.
Q. How long?
A. To change.
Q. How long did you think?
A. I don’t know, maybe ten years.
Connerly admits that the passage of Proposal 2 has made it difficult for the University of Michigan to maintain a diverse student body:
Q: To have them there, to have black students at the University of Michigan, you now know is extremely — it has been made much more difficult by the passage of Prop 2, hasn’t it?
A. Until we cure — until we and they correct that academic gap, yes, it is more difficult.
Q. So they won’t be there to give that perspective —
A. They are there. They may not be there in the numbers that you would like, but they are there.
Q. They’re there in too small numbers, aren’t they?
A. Is that really a question or what? I don’t know if it’s a small number.
Q. It is a question.
A. When they earn the right to be there, and I don’t care what the standard is, make sure it’s the same standard for everybody.
Q. This isn’t a color-blind society, is it, Mr. Connerly?
A. I’m not trying to make it a color-blind society, I just want our government to be color-blind.
Connerly also responds again to the role of the Ku Klux Klan in campaigning for the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and his controversial comments that praised the Ku Klux Klan:
Q. Okay. Because you’re saying — let me ask a different question. When the white people in the south in the Brown era defended segregation by saying it’s just the way things are, people choose to live together, white people choose to live together and we don’t have any problem with it and all of that, they were defending segregation, correct?
Q. And when Trent Lott was praising Strom Thurmon, he was asserting that being for segregation, and you say this about him, didn’t necessarily mean that he was a racist, even though the segregation that Strom Thurmon supported included white people making arguments that it was just free association?
A. Let me share with you an experience that I’ve had, which has helped to shape my tolerance, if you will, on this issue.
My wife is of a different, quote, race than I am. When we married in 1962, my in-laws objected to that marriage. They had come from Oklahoma, one from Oklahoma, one from Idaho. Their view is God had made the races differently and it was God’s will that the races remain separately, separate. Not that one was inferior to the other, it was just the way that God intended it. He made horses and sheep and human beings and they were supposed to be separate. By the time they died, these two people, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, were the only parents that I had. To suggest that they were racist did not fit with the people that I grew to know. They grew up, Ms. Driver, at a different time, at a different place, different perspective, wrong perspective. It wasn’t that they were racist, it was just the way they had been raised. They had subsequently came to change that view and I still believe that people can change.
So I don’t rush out and say he’s bad, he’d bad, he’s a racist. Shun him. My view is, as I said in Michigan, if the Ku Klux Klan has changed their view, those on your side can portray me as a guy who is supporting the Ku Klux Klan, no, not at all. They’re a hateful group. What I’m saying is if they’ve changed, God bless them. We want them to change. We should work every day of our lives to change them.
Q. Nothing changed about their position, Mr. Connerly. They knew that the passage of this proposal would mean the exclusion of black students from the University of Michigan and they supported that outcome?
A. I’m not supporting the Ku Klux Klan, I don’t know about the Klan, you probably know more about them than I do because you’ve done the research. I have nothing to do with them. They are not part of our campaign. I’m explaining to you about my issue about this issue of segregation and there are people who believe in it who may not necessarily believe that blacks are inferior, just that blacks or any other group for that matter ought to be separated from others because that’s the way God intended it. Flawed, very wrong, inherently a wrong philosophy.