Interview by Karina Rollins
With the Supreme Court expected to repeal racial preferences in higher education at the end of this month, Defend American Ideals recently chatted with Ward Connerly, nationally renowned advocate of equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, sex, or ethnic background.
The man who chaired California’s Proposition 209 campaign in 1996—which enshrined a ban on racial and gender preferences in public employment, contracting, and education in the Golden State’s constitution—Connerly has led a national movement to pass similar measures throughout the country. To date, nine states have banned racial and gender preferences via ballot initiative, legislation, or executive order.
We asked the equality champion and former University of California Regent about the state of racial and gender issues in America.
Q: How do you see race relations in America today?
Ward Connerly: President John F. Kennedy ended racial discrimination in America through Executive Order 10925—which called, in part, on government contractors to “take affirmative action” to ensure government employment without regard to “race, creed, color, or national origin.” Kennedy believed that race has no place in American life or law—he wanted a colorblind society.
His successor President Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, carried the baggage of the South and was vulnerable to calls to “do something for the negro.” He took Kennedy’s executive order and added goals and timetables to provide a path for blacks to enter American society. These artificial timelines took us off course, leading gradually but surely to the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) absurdity that we have today. I’ve been trying to tell my country that we’re really off course from President Lincoln’s idea of being created equal.
The requirement of goals and timetables created a quota mindset that has evolved into a higher level of race consciousness throughout the country. Although discrimination against black people has largely been erased in public employment, discrimination against other demographic groups, especially white men, is arguably on the rise and, because of political correctness, rarely challenged.
Q: What do you expect from the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college and university admissions?
Connerly: This decision could very well end the era of race preferences in America. If that happens, Americans of any color will be, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., free at last. I think the Supreme Court will rule to end affirmative action in higher-education admissions.
For decades, the Supreme Court has been complicit, if you will, in the country’s violation of the ideal of equality, enabling the country to move from slavery to Jim Crow to “diversity” and now to “equity.” The Court is aware of what it has done, especially the damage to our ideals by the Grutter [v. Bollinger] decision in 2003, which allowed the use of race as “one of many factors” in the interest of achieving diversity in university admissions. If ever a decision was “wrongly decided,” that was it. There is no question in my mind that Justice [Clarence] Thomas, who is the senior Justice, realizes what was done and would like to correct it. We shall see!
Q: What about the proposed slavery reparations for black Americans—do reparations stand a chance?
Connerly: No, I don’t think so. The California legislature has been studying the issue—policymakers know that reparations are not doable: The money is not there. Reparations are immoral. If the Democrats continue to push for reparations, they will look like idiots. The people will defeat it. Governor Gavin Newsome recognizes this reality.
Certainly, the push for reparations could come in other forms, such as free tuition for descendants of slaves, which could gain traction among the public. The true believers will feel betrayed that cash payments are off the table, and the issue will not die because the reparationists have not accepted the idea that we are all created equal. Nor have they accepted the idea of black people embracing the Constitution and not seeking special treatment.
This approach is in the same vein as Jim Crow—it’s an affirmation that black people are outside the law. Americans should recognize that this is immoral, and that it is immoral to give reparations to anyone—whether to black people, to Asians, to women, or to gay people (which include many white men), or any number of other groups, all of whom have suffered differing measures of discrimination in the past. Who pays whom?
The basic problem, although there are many others, that I have with reparations is that they would prolong the sense of victimhood that black people need to dig themselves out of. Ending affirmative action is a major step in that direction, and to replace it with reparations would be a very serious mistake. While I doubt that many elected officials want to approve reparations, the mere possibility of such an outcome is damaging, as many black people will be disappointed when, after much consideration, they are rejected, as they should be.
Q: Tell us about the damage done by the “defund the police” movement.
Connerly: The obvious damage—fewer police, emboldened criminals, more crime—is reversible through a change in policy. The headline-grabbing smash-and-grabs in stores, and vicious assaults on innocent people in broad daylight, have even led progressives to realize that their anti-police movement has gone too far. So, the current state of affairs could change with the next election—policies and their effects often swing back and forth like a pendulum.
Education on the other hand, with its long-lasting effects on young people, is a different matter, and it’s harder to bounce back from the woke indoctrination.
Q: What, then, is your assessment of critical race theory being taught in schools?
Connerly: Critical race theory (CRT) is divisive and racist—but the value of CRT is that it has heightened citizen engagement. For decades, we as a country have been on autopilot about our values. And we currently have no real leaders like John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr.
With elementary school kids now being taught that they are either oppressors or victims due to the color of their skin, parents around the country are noticing that something is wrong—they don’t like it, even if they don’t understand it all. CRT is still largely isolated, being taught and applied in a few crazy zones, so there is a window of opportunity to stop it. Some Americans are starting to reclaim their values, and if this trend continues, we can put an end to CRT indoctrination in the country’s schools.
Thank you, Ward Connerly, for your words of wisdom.