What Makes a Real Man: An Interview with Ward Connerly

Most Americans passively accept the policy known as "affirmative action" -- i.e., state-sponsored discrimination against their fellow citizens -- but this could never be said of Ward Connerly. Mr. Connerly, the founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute, has led the public fight against race-based hiring and promotional practices for over fifteen years. Previously, he served a twelve-year term as a member of the University of California Board of Regents. His tenure coincided with the board voting in 1995 to terminate racial preferences in regards to student admissions. His victories are numerous but none more significant than the 1996 passage of Proposition 209 in California. The release of his latest book, Lessons from My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of Our Character, is what occasioned this interview. He is also the author of Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences.

BC: Congratulations, sir, on your latest book, Lessons from My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of Our Character. It reminded me very much of Clarence Thomas' My Grandfather's Son, which you reference in your narrative. Your uncle, James Louis, was very similar to the daunting figure that still looms over Justice Thomas. Do you think that such men are extinct today?

Ward Connerly: I believe they are not extinct, but they are clearly endangered, primarily because we place so little value on being what Uncle James regarded as a "mane." Over the years, our society has essentially neutered manhood to the point that men like James Louis are made to appear to be creatures of the past. Modern-day men are expected to express their "feelings," be politically correct in what they say, and not give deference to women in such matters as opening doors for them. All of these attributes have served the purpose of reducing the stature of bigger-than-life men and diminishing their influence in their own families.

BC: James Louis was not related to you by blood. What inspired him to make the sacrifices that he did?

Ward Connerly: Uncle James always said, "Your word is your bond." When Uncle James told my mother that he would take care of me in the event of her death, his commitment became an unalienable obligation, simply because he had given his word. Moreover, James Louis seemed to thrive on being responsible. Accepting personal responsibility to feed, clothe, and house your family and take care of your dogs went to the core of who he was and of being a "mane."

BC: James would be excoriated on Oprah and The View over his stoicism in regards to emotion. He didn't go around telling everyone he loved them. Indeed, he said, "I'm here with you, ain't I?" to such questions, but was his love more legitimate due to its being tangible and not solely rooted in speech?

Ward Connerly: I believe it was. In his view, if you didn't show your love by your deeds, then there was reason to doubt it. In a sense, I believe he thought that words seemed to discount the value of his love. In short, he would have said, "Bert [his wife], if I have to tell you that I love you, I must not be carrying out my responsibilities as a ‘mane.'"

BC: Uncle James called common sense "mother wit." He had it in abundance. Do you think that the reason so many politicians and journalists are devoid of it has to do with its being so "common"? In other words, is it the exact opposite of Occam's razor, whereby they reject common sense because it is not something you need an advanced degree to express?

Ward Connerly: Well said! Politicians, journalists, academicians -- the elites, if you will -- devalue basic instincts, self-evident truths, and the traits that are common to us as human beings. They seem to believe that all life can be defined and measured by our analytical powers instead of common sense. Even animals have their own "systems" of behavior and are governed by those inherent systems. Uncle James believed that human beings do as well and that they should rely on them. To him, "too much learning" often got in the way of "mother wit."