Anti-Affirmative-Action Advocate Ward Connerly: What's He Up to Now

What has anti-affirmative-action activist Ward Connerly been up to lately


His latest legal effort to get an anti-affirmative-action ballot passed in Missouri fell apart after legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union; He’s also facing more legal issues as a civil-rights group, By Any Means Necessary, seeks to overturn a portion of California’s Proposition 209.

But the usually outspoken Connerly has been relatively quiet. His opponents, including the American Association for Affirmative Action and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are sure he’s going to surface again soon.

Connerly spoke with DiversityInc on May 14, 2010, and these were his comments.

About his anti-affirmative-action activities: “We are not as active in pursuing initiatives this election cycle as we have been in the past. That does not mean that we have retired from the initiative ballot. There will be a ballot in Arizona this November that is almost identical to the ones we have had in the past, and we’ve started an effort in Utah. Missouri is not dead. We bowed out of Missouri because the language that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan drafted was prejudicial. When we went to court, the judge ruled that it was prejudicial but he didn’t have the ability to change that language.”

About his increasing efforts to ask Americans to not declare their race: “Our emphasis is really on trying to get the nation to think less about the issue of race. It’s an obsession with our country we’re going to have to get rid of the government even asking people to make a declaration about their race these racial categories don’t make any sense.”

The founder of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), Connerly is best known for leading the charge against affirmative action over the past 15 years. Considered by many as the man behind Proposition 209 (which banned consideration of race and ethnicity by public institutions in California), he has been responsible for a number of successful anti-affirmative-action campaigns throughout the United States.

Connerly seemingly will not rest until he removes affirmative action completely. He was forced to withdraw his latest challenge in March to place anti-affirmative-action initiatives on the Missouri ballot when the ACLU charged that the initiative was fraudulently designed. The recent victory for the ACLU was another stepping stone in efforts to stop Connerly’s crusade.

“I think it was a continuation of what has been a successful campaign against his fraudulent and misstated aims of misrepresenting what affirmative action set out to achieve,” says Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “Hopefully, this trend will continue. Maybe people have become disenchanted with his allegations or him benefitting financially from these programs. The case in Utah actually might have been even more significant. I call into question his motives and methods. He likes to cherry-pick which states he wants to target. He thought there were nothing but white people out in Utah and therefore it would be easy; however, he still was unable to get the anti-affirmative-action ballot initiatives there.”

Prior to the Missouri withdrawal, Connerly was faced with another opponent of his anti-affirmative-action drive. Berkeley, Calif.based civil-rights activist group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a portion of Proposition 209. Not the least bit concerned, Connerly thinks the ballot measure will withstand the challenge presented by BAMN based on a lack of merit. When asked by BAMN of his views regarding the lawsuit filed, Connerly said, “I don’t think it has any legs.”

Despite the latest challenges, Connerly continues to campaign for ballot initiatives from Arizona to Missouri.

Only time will tell if Connerly’s persistence will lead to more successful attempts to eliminate the country of affirmative-action programs. “I’m hopeful that we can continue to discuss race and affirmative action, but it’s important that we do in an honest manner in order to educate others,” says Parker.

In early February, following a mockery of Black History Month in which students of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), took part in what was called the “Compton Cookout,” racial tension was at an all-time high on the La Jolla campus, where the event actually took place. There were several protests and rallies led by the Black Student Union (BSU), which led to the university realizing they had to address this issue.

Connerly, a former regent of UCSD, didn’t respond until UCSD and BSU came to an agreement to improve race relations at the university. “Personally, I think it’s distasteful for the university, under duress, to sit down with a group of students representing racial interest and agree to their demands,” Connerly said.

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