Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ward Connerly in Green Valley discusses the term "African-American"

Prop. 107 leader makes GV push


By Karen Walenga
Green Valley News
Published: Saturday, October 23, 2010 9:01 PM MST

While watching TV together, Ward Connerly and the uncle who helped raise him in Washington state heard Connerly called an “African-American.”

Uncle James made it clear to his nephew, a nationally known advocate of equal opportunity, that Connerly was an American.

“You never been to Africa and you ain’t going,” Uncle James told him.

Connerly shared that anecdote and more with about 60 members of the Republican Club of Green Valley/Sahuarita when he spoke in favor of Proposition 107 Friday morning at Friends In Deed.

The proposition, the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, would amend the state Constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.

Opponents say that it deceptively claims to “level the playing field,” even though they say no level playing field exists in educational programs, jobs, and businesses where girls, women and people of color are under-represented.

They say passage of 107 will eliminate many programs that support academic progress and improved student achievement, and that state employers are already prohibited from considering race or gender in hiring practices.

But Connerly, founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute, disagrees that it will hurt minorities. His national, not-for-profit organization focuses on educating the public about the need to move beyond race and, specifically, racial and gender preferences.

Author of “Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences” and “Lessons from My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of Our Character,” he has gained national attention as an advocate of equal opportunity regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background.

California victories

During his tenure as a University of California regent, Connerly took aim at race-based admission preferences and was the public face of a 1996 ballot initiative in which California banned race and gender preferences in state-funded programs and institutions.

Since then he has led successful efforts in Washington, Michigan and Nebraska to make the practice illegal in state and city hiring and university admissions, and now has brought the fight here.

Connerly told his Green Valley audience that his Uncle James was a salt-of-the-earth type of man who insisted Connerly shine his own shoes, wash the car and mow the lawn, thereby keeping his feet planted on the ground and showing respect for himself and his neighbors.

Connerly, born in 1939 in Leesville, La., said his father left home when Connerly was 2 and his mother died when he was 4. He then went to live with his aunt and uncle in Washington state.

Although they faced discrimination when visiting in the South, Connerly learned that there is no room for self-pity, even if someone discriminates against you.

“You rise based on your own preparation,” Connerly said. “You accept the cards you are dealt” instead of focusing on how someone else is treating you.

“Be the best you can be,” he said. If you focus on what others think of you, you can miss opportunities.

“Race seeps out of every pore of the body politic. I abhor discrimination, but I am not obsessed with it,” Connerly said.

“We are not free if we are not equal. We are wards of the state.”

No comments: