Connerly began his campaign against racial preferences almost 20 years ago. In 1993, Governor Pete Wilson appointed him to the University of California (UC) Board of Regents, and Connerly soon realized UC used racial quotas in admissions. He led the campaign to get Proposition 209 — a measure that would bar the government from granting preferences to and discriminating against individuals or groups in employment, contracting, and education on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin — on the state ballot.
On November 5, 1996, 54 percent of Californians barred their government from using racial preferences. Connerly moved on to other states. In 1998, 58 percent of voters in Washington state passed a similar measure. In 2006, 58 percent of voters in Michigan did the same (although the Sixth Circuit overturned the law last year). In 2008, 58 percent of Nebraska voters chose to end the practice in government. In 2010, voters in Arizona barred preferences by nearly 60 percent. On November 6, 2012, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to bar the government from treating people differently in employment, contracting, and education based on race.
Eliminating racial bean-counting in government is a righteous cause, and I hope advocates don’t lose heart because of the accusations against Connerly. The fight continues. On February 13, the Ninth Circuit — which recently overturned a California voter-approved law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman — heard oral arguments in a lawsuit against California’s Proposition 209. Although the measure became law 15 years ago, groups still challenge it. A race-neutral government must deeply annoy them.
The accusations against Connerly undoubtedly confirm the worst opinions of him and possibly refute the best. Like Gratz, however, I remain committed to the mission, which is bigger and much more important than one man. The government has no business bestowing and denying benefits to individuals based on the color of their skin. Blacks, Hispanics, and other preferred minorities might benefit now, but the government has the power to harm these groups as well.
Individuals can hold whatever biases and prejudices they wish. Who cares? Humans perceive reality, and that will never change. But laws and government policy must be colorblind. A colorblind government limits the impact of personal biases and prejudices.