Student of Color Enrollment Down at GVSU

Student of color enrollment at GVSU is down 30% in the first class admitted under the requirements of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2.

The Grand Rapids Press published an article today that cites recent numbers from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to show that freshman enrollment by students of color is down by 30%. The article cites various officials at GVSU–West Michigan’s largest four-year college–who charge that the decline is due to the 2006 passage of the anti-affirmative action ballot proposal known as Proposal 2. Under Proposal 2–which bans the used of racial preferences in admissions–GVSU had to eliminate its Bret Price Awards scholarships that gave four-year full-tuition scholarships to students of color who met strict academic requirements. According to the article, this year recruiters are able to offer only $3,000 a year to students coming from certain urban schools and are unable to directly target students of color for recruitment.

Ward Connerly Speaks on Proposal 2 in Deposition

In a deposition taken as part of a lawsuit aimed at overturning the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2, Ward Connerly–the primary financial backer of the ballot initiative–admits that he knew that the proposal would likely result in less students of color in Michigan universities.


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.

Q. Okay.

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.

Q. Okay.

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 —

A. Okay.

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 —

A. Wrong.

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?

A. 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.

Trial Sought in Proposal 2 Case

Last Monday, the group By Any Means Necessary–which was active in the fight against Proposal 2 in Michigan–submitted a brief to US District Judge David Lawson explaining that a trial is needed to determine whether or not affirmative action is a system of “preferences” or an effective means of desegregation. Proposal 2 was an anti-affirmative action ballot proposal known as the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” that was passed by voters in 2006.

In a summary of the case, BAMN said that their argument centers around four factual points:

“(1) whether affirmative action programs are the only means for keeping the universities desegregated, (2) whether the universities’ admission criteria without affirmative action are irremediably discriminatory against black, Latina/o, and Native American students, (3) whether Proposal 2 was an intentional attempt to exclude minorities from the state’s universities, and (4) whether Proposal 2 has relegated racial minorities to a Jim Crow procedure for securing relief from the discrimination that they otherwise will face in university admissions.”

Interestingly, in a deposition filed in the case, Proposal 2’s backer–Ward Connerly–admitted that he knew the likely consequences of banning affirmative action:

“In the deposition taken by BAMN on October 24, 2007, Connerly said that he knew before proposing Proposal 209 in California that the California K-12 educational system was highly unequal and that this contributed to the lower adjusted grade point averages of black, Latina/o and Native American applicants to the University of California. He admitted that white students are given an advantage when test scores are used in an admissions system that does not consider race. Connerly also admitted that he knew beforehand that Proposal 2 would drive down the number of minority students at selective schools–and that there was nothing the admissions officers could do to stop it. Moreover, he admitted, that was the result he wanted–in order to administer what he called “tough love” to minority students.”

BAMN is arguing that Connerly’s admissions make it clear that Proposal 2 was “an intentional effort to drive underrepresented minorities out of the University of Michigan and the state’s graduate and professional schools.” BAMN is asserting that Proposal 2 is illegal on various grounds, including the Fourteenth Amendment because it:

“…prevents a white majority from (1) passing laws that intentionally exclude racial minorities from education, or (2) imposing more onerous political burdens on racial minorities when they attempt to win passage of programs that they hope will eliminate or lessen the problems caused by racial discrimination.”

Oral arguments will be heard in the case on February 6 in the Federal District Court in Detroit.

Anti-Affirmative Action Legal Group Threatens Litigation against GRPS

The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm based in Sacramento, California, wrote a letter to the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) earlier this month asserting that the City and the Schools are in violation of Michigan’s Proposal 2. The letter states that because the City and the Schools give preference to “disadvantaged” business enterprises and because they use race and sex to determine whether a business is “disadvantaged,” the two entities are in violation of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2.

The letter cites a recent legal opinion by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox that determined the City of Grand Rapids was in violation of Proposal 2 and argues that this opinion, while specific to the City’s practices, is equally applicable to the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ program. The Pacific Legal Foundation threatened legal action, arguing that “the practice must stop or the City and the school district will be exposing themselves to potential litigation, with significant possible financial liability for taxpayers.” According to the Grand Rapids Press, the Grand Rapids Public Schools have suspended their program in light of Attorney General Mike Cox’s opinion.

The Pacific Legal Foundation is part of a network of rightwing legal organizations that have campaigned against affirmative action in recent years. According to its own website, the Pacific Legal Foundation has taken a leading role in defending California’s anti-affirmative Proposition 209. In addition, the Pacific Legal Foundation has been active in the fight to re-segregate public schools in the United States, repeatedly challenging policies that promote integration and racial diversity. Among the cases that the organization has been active in is a recent challenge to the historic Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.

The Pacific Legal Foundation was founded in 1973 and has used the courts to advance a rightwing agenda, taking on cases attacking affirmative action, attacking environmental protections, and advancing the interests of businesses. It has been partially funded by conservative foundations and has received money from corporations, including $110,000 from Exxon Mobil since 1998. The Foundation has received funding from many of the same foundations that have funded Ward Connerly and his anti-affirmative action campaigns around the country.

This is not the first time that rightwing organizations have stepped in to support Proposal 2. Shortly after the passage of Proposal 2, the Center for Individual Rights intervened to overturn an injunction delaying implementation. During the campaign for Proposal 2, the racist Council of Conservative Citizens and the Ku Klux Klan were among the few groups publicly endorsing Proposal 2.

Civil Rights Commission Releases Examination of Proposal 2 Impacts

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has released a new report analyzing how state programs, agencies, and departments will be impacted by Proposal 2. The report also makes a series of recommendations as to how the state can take concrete steps to ensure that diversity in state programs.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released an initial examination of the impacts of Proposal 2. The report was prepared in response to an order from Governor Jennifer Granholm to determine how Proposal 2, which bans affirmative action programs in the areas of government contracting, employment, and education, will change the way the state programs operate. The Commission’s investigation spanned three months and included meetings with seventeen state departments, six state agencies, and the Michigan Council for University Presidents, as well as a review of state statues and best practices in other states. In addition to examining the impacts of Proposal 2, the report made recommendations for how the state of Michigan can continue to promote diversity and equal opportunity with compliance to the law.

Of the forty-five state programs reviewed by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, eight (or 18%) may be in jeopardy because of the passage of Proposal 2. These programs–which include Collective Bargaining Agreements, the Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs, Foster Care, Higher Education Programs, Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Businesses, Minority Student Grants, Single Business Tax Credit, and Special Needs Adoption–may be at risk because they reference race, sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin when defining the program’s scope or eligibility criteria. Additionally, of the seventeen state departments and six state that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission met with, only the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ) use affirmative action programs that grant “preferential treatment” in employment or contracting decisions. Such criteria are required by MDOT and the DEQ in order to continue receiving federal funding. In both cases, the Commission believes that the programs can survive. The eight state programs that are currently facing potential “jeopardy” could be preserved by expanding the program’s scope or using race and gender neutral terms, while the MDOT and DEQ contracting can likely remain intact because Proposal 2 should not apply to any program receiving federal funding. Of course, some of these particulars will be need to be worked out through the legal system, as much of the language contained within Proposal 2 remains vague and unclear.

The report also offers an analysis of what the passage of Proposal 2 could mean in economic terms if proactive policies to maintain diversity in Michigan’s economy are not implemented. The report states that while 1.1 million people will leave Michigan between 1995 and 2025, there will be substantial growth over the next twenty years in Michigan’s minority populations. These populations–for a variety of historical reasons pertaining to racism and other forms of oppression–are “overwhelmingly underrepresented” in higher education according to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The Commission’s analysis argues that if these populations had the same access to higher education in Michigan, total personal income in the state would be $3.9 billion higher and there would be an additional $1.4 billion in tax revenues. However, if this issue is ignored, workforce skills will not keep at a pace consistent with growth in high-tech sectors and the overall income of Michigan residents will decline over the next twenty years. The private sector has recognized the fact that minority populations in the state have $600 billion in purchasing power and that one-third of all new entrants into the workforce are people of color and has consequently responded with affirmative action programs and have provided monetary support to encourage higher education among people of color to increase both cross-cultural competency among their workers and also to supply the needs of their workforce.

The report makes a number of recommendations to ensure that the state of Michigan maintains diversity and economic growth despite the limitations on affirmative action programs enacted by Proposal 2. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s recommendations are made in four broad categories–“Legislative,” “Public Employment,” “Public Education,” and “Public Contracting.” The recommendations include having the legislature enact provisions that would disqualify petition drives from the ballot if widespread fraud was found, as was the case with Proposal 2, define the term “preference” as “a decision based solely on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin,” and to develop programs that examine and address the wage gap in Michigan where women earn an average of only 67 cents for every dollar that men earn. In the area of employment, the report urges the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to expand its outreach to minority, women, and ethnic organizations by not relying solely on web-based and “traditional” job posting venues. The CSC is also encouraged to maintain statistics on employment based on gender and race in order to better focus outreach programs, in addition to developing an updated Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) plan. The Civil Rights Commission calls for the K-12 education system to redefine and expand programs designed to address the achievement gap between students from different backgrounds while also calling for the formation of a consortium of higher educational institutions that would help ensure that institutions work together to promote diversity and economic growth. In the area of contracting, the Commission calls for the establishment supplier diversity programs based on consultation with federal programs. All state agencies are further encouraged to develop a “Diversity Strategy Plan” that would identify qualitative benchmarks for evaluating diversity and providing a means by which to analyze efforts on a yearly basis. Agencies are also encouraged to develop written outreach programs to enhance diversity in their educational, contracting, and hiring decisions.

Read the Full Report

Campaign Finance Reports Show Majority of Proposal 2 Funding came from Outside Michigan

A review of data from campaign finance data filed with the Michigan Secretary of State shows that the majority of funding for the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 came from out of state, in addition to showing yet another tie to between the Intiative and the racist right.

A review of records contain in Michigan’s campaign finance disclose database shows that the majority of contributions to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative came from individuals and organizations outside the state of Michigan. The committee attached to the ballot proposal received $1,425.263.47 in cash contributions and $299,157.13 in in-kind contributions in the 2006 election cycle. While it has always been clear that the Initiative was supported and brought to Michigan by the conservative California businessman Ward Connerly, who has been the public face of similar proposals around the country and who plans to bring anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives to other states, the campaign finance records reveal how exactly how much money came from out of state sources.

In the 2006 amended post-general report, numerous donations came from out of state contributors. Of this, $14,000 came from a George Daniels of Orlando (he contributed $65,001 overall), $5,000 from Nedrick McCune of Costa Mesta, California (he contributed $29,500 overall), and $5,000 from Stuart Millheiser Trust. While more than half of the total number of contributions in the period came from residents of Michigan, the majority of the larger donations came from out of state sources. An earlier finance report from this year shows that Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Coalition contributed a staggering $728,562.01 to the campaign in cash, as well as $15,784.62 in in-kind contributions. Another prominent entity on the right, the Center for Individual Rights, contributed $217,518 in in-kind contributions. That report showed a significant number of contributions coming from outside of Michigan, especially those of higher dollar amounts. A campaign finance report from 2005 does show at least one large donation from Grand Rapids, with Robert Browne of Timcor contributing $50,000 to the campaign. In 2005, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was charged with laundering donors’ money through he American Civil Rights Coalition to disguise the real source, although that complaint was eventually dismissed by the Secretary of State’s office who ruled that individual donors to the American Civil Rights Coalition did not need to be listed on a contributions to a committee in Michigan. A look at records of contributions made to the American Civil Rights Coalition in Michigan’s Campaign Finance database show that the overwhelming majority of the money was listed as coming from either the American Civil Rights Coalition or Ward Connerly. The American Civil Rights Coalition’s contributors have included prominent rightwing funders and ideologues including Joseph Coors, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Hume of Citizens for America and the Heritage Foundation, and Bush family supporter Harlan R. Crow. Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute has also received $5.1 million in funding from prominent far-right foundations including the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Richard Mellon Scaiffe Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.

A review of the campaign finance data reveals yet another tie between the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and the racist right. The database lists a contribution from John Tanton, one of the major players in the racist anti-immigrant movement. Tanton has been active in a host of groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). While Tanton’s contribution of $200 was small compared to the total amount of money raised, it is part of an overall pattern of support for Proposal 2 by the racist right. The Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group, campaigned for the passage of Proposal 2 and eventually took credit for its passage. Two different sub-groups of the Ku Klux Klan–the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan–endorsed the Proposal and collected signatures to place it on the ballot and did voter outreach. Ward Connerly himself had his own controversies with the racist right, with a photo of Connerly shaking the hand of a white supremacist leader being publish and Connerly praising the Ku Klux Klan for standing against affirmative action<. Even after the passage of Proposal 2, ties to the racist right continue to emerge, with a lawsuit overturning an injunction to delay implementation of Proposal 2 being filed by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization that has received funding from the Pioneer Fund, an organization that has funded research that attempts to “prove” the genetic inferiority of African-Americans.

White Supremacist Leader Discusses “Victory” of Proposal 2

Last month, the leader of the Michigan chapter of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens group appeared on a prominent racist radio show to discuss the Council’s alleged role in the passage of Proposal 2.

Last month, John Raterink, the leader of the Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (a white supremacist group), discussed the role that he believes the Council of Conservative Citizens played in the passage of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 (or the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative) on a racist radio program broadcast out of Memphis on AM radio and the internet. While Media Mouse reported last week that the racist right in Michigan has been emboldened by the passage of Proposal 2, Raterink’s comments are worth considering for what they say about the Council of Conservative Citizens’ political strategy, the strategy of the racist right in Michigan, and the entities that supported Proposal 2.

John Raterink discussed the passage of Proposal 2 on a radio program called The Political Cesspool, a show that is heavily promoted by the national Council of Conservative Citizens and Stormfront (one of the largest online white supremacist websites). The Political Cesspool, which broadcasts seven nights per week on WLRM 1380 AM out of Memphis, Tennessee, regularly features representatives of a variety of groups from the racist right. Among those who have appeared on the show include Canadian fascist Paul Fromm, Jared Taylor of the American Renaissance, numerous members of the Council of Conservative Citizens, Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, Dr. Michael Hill of the League of the South, and prominent anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald. The show has also featured former presidential candidate and prominent conservative Pat Buchanan, who has himself become an increasingly strong advocate of racism and white nationalism. The Political Cesspool’s mission promotes the concept of “America first,” English as the official language, and “cultural and national integrity” – a statement that is very much akin to the “European heritage” code words that the more discrete segments of the racist right use to describe their politics. Indeed, on the day that Raterink appeared on the show, its hosts were decrying “illegal” immigrants who “want to commit genocide against American culture” while also heavily promoting an upcoming two-part interview with the racist teenage musical duo, Prussian Blue.

In the interview with John Raterink, the hosts played up the role that the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) played in the passage of Proposal 2 and described it as a “big victory” for their version of the conservative movement. Raterink explained that the Michigan CofCC began organizing early on and was initially excited that the Initiative was coming to Michigan, as his group “saw it as an opportunity to make things better for our children.” He went on to say that they were not sure how it would fair at the polls, especially in light of the opposition of One United Michigan and the group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), whom Raterink claimed is a domestic terrorist organization according to the FBI. He also explained that almost everyone–politicians, churches, and businesses were against the initiative so it put the Council of Conservative Citizens in a unique position to be the main public advocate of it. Of course, Raterink neglected to mention the fact that the other organized entity supporting Proposal 2 was the Ku Klux Klan, another prominent racist group in Michigan. In response to a query about where the ban was at, Raterink told the hosts that it was still being litigated but that he had confidence that it would not be struck down as it has the support of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox, who was one of the only politicians to support the measure. Raterink said that while the left used intimidation to scare people and cited unsubstantiated incidents such as the alleged ransacking of the capital “by communists,” a knife being pulled or implied on Jennifer Gratz of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Jennifer Gratz, and the ransacking of the Board of Canvassers, the left ultimately assisted the organization by driving supporters to the CofCC. Raterink, who at one point described the Civil War as “the war of northern aggression,” said that the Council became “somewhat of a household name” during the struggle and that they successfully used letters to the editors as a means of building support for the Proposal 2. Of course, this was not quantified in any meaningful way.

Much was also made of an editorial written by John Raterink that appeared in the Kalamazoo Gazette on December 6, 2006, an editorial that originally appeared on the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens’ website and later in the Citizen Informer, the newspaper of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Raterink explained to his radio audience that the purpose of the article was to present an analysis of “why the Republicans got their tale whipped.” In the editorial, Raterink praises his group’s work and articulates a theory that the Republican Party’s loss in November was a failure to listen to the values of “Middle America,” which Raterink sees as being a grassroots sort of conservative populism opposed to the “neocon agenda.” Raterink’s editorial argued that those conservatives have been sold out by the Republican Party and that the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative shows what they can accomplish if they organize outside of the Republican Party. Raterink expanded on these comments on the Political Cesspool, asserting that there is not a clear line between Democrats and Republicans and that the Republican support of outsourcing and global empire has hit workers in Michigan particularly hard. He asserted that Dick DeVos, the former CEO of Amway (Alticor), could not relate to “Joe Six Pack, blue collar” and that the Republican Party is no longer speaking to them.

In a sense, Raterink provided a fairly astute analysis of the potential for racist movements to achieve successes in the United States. The majority of those living in the United States have been left behind by the Democratic and Republican parties. Indeed, many theorists have argued that the racist and fascist right has an advantage in the current political climate, as those groups articulate a clear vision of what they want, and while rarely accurate, assign blame to specific entities. By contrast, the left in the United States has no clear vision, and more troubling, makes no serious appeal to those displaced by the current system. The racist right, including groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, have been successful in taking issues such as immigration and affirmative action, over which there is widespread confusion, and using them as a tool for building a grassroots infrastructure to support organized racism. Groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens have been particularly adept at this strategy, as they eschew the more overtly racist practices such as wearing Klan costumes or Nazi uniforms, and instead articulate a more subtle form of racism that talks about “heritage” and “identity.” Of course, at their core, these groups are quite racist and must be confronted and exposed by the left. While their current influence is always debatable, left unchallenged these groups will grow.

Federal Court Overturns Injunction Delaying Proposal 2

A federal appeals court lifted an injunction yesterday that had delayed the implementation of Proposal 2 at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Michigan State University. A three judge panel on the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal law does not warrant providing an extension “in the absence of any likelihood of prevailing in invalidating this state initiative on federal grounds.” The delay until July 1, 2007–sought by the universities to complete the current admissions cycle–was supported by Governor Jennifer Granholm and Attorney General Mike Cox. Cox was one of the only politicians in the 2006 election to openly support the passage of Proposal 2. The group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), who has another lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposal 2, is considering appealing Friday’s ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in light of the fact that the ruling was based exclusively on written briefs without oral testimony.

The injunction was overturned as a result of a lawsuit filed by a conservative legal firm called the Center for Individual Rights on behalf of Eric Russell, a University of Michigan applicant. The Center for Individual Rights has a long history of working to eliminate the gains of the Civil Rights movement by attacking various affirmative action programs in the courts. This effort began with a 1992 challenge to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy that sought to balance gender in radio, defending California’s anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 in the mid-1990s, and initiating in 1998 challenging the use of race in admissions at the University of Michigan in two cases–Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger–that would eventually go to the Supreme Court. The organization, founded to provided a conservative counterpoint to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has intervened in a number of other cases and has worked to prevent college campuses from barring military recruiters, has defended professors accused of sexual harassment in light of “overly expansive harassment regulations,” has filed lawsuits designed to challenge “political correctness” on college campuses, and has defended a CUNY professor who argued that African-Americans are less intelligent and less law-abiding than other races. The organization receives most of its funding from conservative and libertarian foundations and in the past received funding from the Pioneer Fund an organization that has heavily funded “research” aiming to show the alleged genetic inferiority of African-Americans.

Delay Granted in Proposal 2 Legal Case; Connerly Plans Campaign in other States

On Monday, a delay in the implementation of Proposal 2 was granted to three universities who filed a legal motion earlier this month requesting that they be exempted from having to comply with Proposal 2 by its December 22 implementation date. The delay will allow colleges and universities in Michigan to complete their Fall 2007 admissions processes under their pre-Proposal 2 policies. At the same time, Michigan cities are also working to understand how Proposal 2 will change their operations, with Grand Rapids discussing changes in contracting policies on Tuesday. A policy in place at the City of Grand Rapids that required contractors whose services cost more than $10,000 to have an affirmative action policy will be dropped because it is now unconstitutional. Equal Opportunity Director Ingrid Scott-Weekly says that “the reality is women and minority contractors will probably lose ground” due to Proposal 2. The City of Lansing has filed a lawsuit asking to be granted an extension on complying with Proposal 2, arguing that it cannot complete an audit measuring compliance with Proposal 2 and changing policy by the December 22 deadline. In related legal news, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP have filed a lawsuit seeking a “declaratory ruling” from the United States District Court in Detroit stating that “Proposal 2 does not ban programs that use race or gender as part of the decision-making process in any manner whatsoever” based on the Supreme Court’s 2003 view that it is constitutionally permissible for universities to consider race and gender as one of many admissions factors.

As universities and cities in Michigan alter policies to comply with Proposal 2, Proposal 2’s out of state backer, Ward Connerly, announced that his campaign is exploring the possibility of pursuing bans in nine additional states. Connerly is scheduled to visit Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah to evaluate prospects for ballot initiatives banning affirmative action in those states. In a press conference last week, Connerly explained that he intends to pursue a state-by-state strategy for banning affirmative action nationally. Like in Michigan, Washington, and California where proposals to ban affirmative action have been passed, Connerly will target a portion of the twenty other states that allow petitions for ballot proposals to be placed directly before voters and is looking at the possibility of placing anti-affirmative action measures on the ballot in multiple states for the November 2008 election. It was also announced last week that Jennifer Gratz, the woman who claimed that she was denied admission to the University of Michigan because of affirmative action policies and later ran the fraud-laden Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) campaign, will join Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute and will organize against affirmative action full time.

Fight to save affirmative action continues

Despite the passage of Proposal 2, activists continue to organize to protect affirmative action in the state of Michigan, with multiple lawsuits aiming to prevent the implementation of Proposal 2.

Due to the importance of continuing efforts to fight the implementation of Proposal 2, Media Mouse has reprinted this article by Diane Bukowski of the Michigan Citizen.

DETROIT — Last week, Michigan voters banned affirmative action. Many believe the ban will further disenfranchise Black and minority students, workers and contractors. Proposal 2 was passed by a 58 to 42 percent margin on Nov. 7. Yet, civil rights activists say the fight isn’t over.

Activists are waiting for the results of a pending lawsuit and have filed an additional case to ensure affirmative action continues.

“We believe Proposal 2 violates the 14th Amendment [which guarantees equal rights] as well as the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the University of Michigan case,” said attorney Shanta Driver of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). In the 2003 U-M Grutter case, the Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action to ensure diversity at U-M’s law school. Driver believes the only way to enforce the Civil Rights Act is through affirmative action.”

Earlier this year, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) along with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Operation King’s Dream filed a lawsuit which is still pending in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The lawsuit charged that Prop. 2 reached the ballot through “racially targeted” voter fraud.

The original ballot proposal, sponsored by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), bans all so-called “race and gender preferences” in state and local government hiring, contracting, and school admissions. Many of those who signed the MCRI petition testified that they were lied to by circulators claiming it supported affirmative action.

“If we succeed at the Sixth Circuit,” said Driver about the pending case, “Proposal 2 would be tossed out. It should never have been on the ballot. A federal judge has already ruled that it was based on massive fraud.”

Driver and attorney George Washington also filed a second suit Nov. 8 asking the federal courts for immediate injunctive relief blocking Proposal 2’s implementation, on behalf of BAMN, the Rainbow PUSH coalition, numerous students, six union locals, and the Defend Affirmative Action Party, a University of Michigan student organization.

“We now have the state of California [as an example] and the effects Proposition 209 had there to use in our arguments. Where affirmative action programs are ended, we end up with the state allowing discrimination against Black and minority students, workers and contractors to exist,” said Driver.

Studies since the passage of Proposition 209 in California in 1996 have shown that it drastically cut the already small number of Black and Latino students at state universities, as well as the number of contracts going to Black and women-owned firms.

Driver said Prop. 2 was on the ballot with the support of Democrats and Republicans–both parties needed significant voter turnout.

“The referendum process is currently being used with complete cynicism by both parties to increase voter turn-out,” said Driver. “Instead of being used as part of a democratic forum to bolster the gains of the civil rights movement, it is being used to turn them back. Twenty years after Brown v. the Board of Education, if there had been referenda held in southern states to overturn Brown, they would have succeeded.”

She also said the question of civil rights cannot be decided in the isolation of a voting booth, where voters can secretly take advantage of their white privilege, but must be dealt with under a social and transparent process.

Defendants in the second suit include newly re-elected Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who also received an overwhelming vote of 56 to 42 percent. As chief executive, she is responsible for its ultimate enforcement, although she campaigned against Prop. 2 and filed an amicus brief in the voter fraud case.

In a statement, Granholm said, “I am sad and disappointed voters said yes to Proposal 2. Passage of Proposal 2 eliminates some of the tools we have used to promote diversity and create equal opportunity in Michigan, even though diversity and equal opportunity are critical goals for our state.”

Granholm issued an executive directive for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to begin an immediate investigation of the possible effects of Proposal 2 including its impact on “the ability of the State of Michigan to compete within the global economy.” The Commission, which found massive voter fraud in the collection of signatures by the MCRI after four hearings earlier this year, will report back 90 days after the investigation begins.

Max McPhail, spokesman for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which was funded by wealthy right-wing businessman Ward Connerly and numerous right-wing foundations said the passage of Prop. 2 is a “huge step forward for our state.”

McPhail is no relation to the City of Detroit’s General Counsel Sharon McPhail, who represented Mayor Kilpatrick as a party in the voter fraud suit.