The City of Tucson's blatant 7 percent bid preferences are now over.by Ward Connerly
The concept commonly known as "affirmative action" in America has a noble beginning. Originated during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history - the "civil rights" era - affirmative action was launched in 1961 to usher in a policy of nondiscrimination.
By the mid-1960s, affirmative action had been transformed into a series of policies and programs whose purpose was to increase the number of "minorities" in the public workplace, in public contracting, and in public college enrollment.
Throughout its history, it has been widely acknowledged that affirmative action, as it was evolving, could not endure. In fact, at frequent times following its creation, even members of the United States Supreme Court, while affirming the continued use of race as a constitutional approach in certain areas of American life, strongly suggested the day would come when affirmative action would have to yield to the fundamental principle of equal treatment for all Americans without regard to race or color.
A prominent Arizonan, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, opined in 2003 that "a core purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to do away with all governmentally imposed discrimination based on race. Accordingly, race-conscious ... policies must be limited in time. Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle."
For the appropriate time to end race preferences in Arizona, "that time is now," the Arizona Republic so eloquently put it in one of its editorials. By a 60-40 percent margin, the people of Arizona concurred on November 2, 2010.
Now, with the election behind us, the process of applying principles of true equality to the public sector of Arizona life must begin in earnest. As one who has been involved in all five of the statewide ballot initiatives in America that have ended race preferences, I believe it might be useful to address some of the criticisms and concerns expressed before and in the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 107.
First, there are those who suggest some sort of "right wing" effort underway to "turn back the clock" on equal opportunity in Arizona. Construing Proposition 107 as part of some "anti-ethnic" conspiracy is blatantly false, especially when one considers that an identical initiative passed in the blue states of California, Michigan and Washington by margins of 55-45, 58-42 an 59-41, respectively.
The fundamental pillars of American society are freedom and the principle of equal treatment for all without regard to the color of our skin, our gender or our ethnic background. People flock to our nation from all around the globe in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families based on these principles. Implicit in these principles is the belief in the concept of individual merit.
Some fear that applying colorblind government will have the "unintended consequence" of erasing "diversity" at the university and in the workplace. That fear is misplaced, first because "diversity" involves more than skin color and ethnic background; and second, if we accept the premise that "civil rights" belong to all of us, regardless of skin color, then diversity must necessarily be secondary to equality.
This does not mean that the university and other institutions are forbidden from casting a wide net when they recruit. To the contrary, such strategies are encouraged by the spirit of 107 to ensure that nondiscrimination is occurring.
University of Arizona President Robert Shelton is correct when he states there are race neutral methods of pursuing "diversity" within the legal framework of 107 and we offer our assistance to him in the pursuit of that objective. A simple solution to enable many so-called diversity programs and scholarships to continue is to expand their access to all, without regard to race or gender. As a matter of equity and fairness public funds should not be used to discriminate. This prohibition also applies to private funds routed through the University.
On the other hand, explicit preferences in contracting, such as one being implemented by a major Arizona municipality, cannot survive the demand of 107 for equal treatment. Such contracting bid preferences must be terminated. In their place, however, nothing forbids a municipality from "casting a wide net" among small businesses by assisting with the removal of procurement obstacles that confront small business owners of all ethnic and gender backgrounds.
As one who traveled from one end of Arizona to the other - and all parts in between - I can attest to the goodwill of those who voted in favor of 107. Their motives are pure and their faith in the principle that all of us are "created equal" is now a constitutional dictate of Arizona.
In 2011, we will observe the fiftieth anniversary of "affirmative action." It has served a useful purpose during its existence. But, like many government creations, the dynamics of a vibrant and creative society such as America have made government-sanctioned discrimination an unacceptable cure for the disease of racial discrimination. We must now live out the American creed of equal treatment from our government for all of our people.