Equal Treatment Under the Law

Activist Ward Connerly sees end of affirmative action on the horizon

Ward Connerly /
December 6, 2012

Ward Connerly says the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas may help kill racial preferences once and for all.

The court’s impending decision in Fisher, in which a white woman sued the University of Texas for using race as a factor in admissions, follows several state referenda rejecting racial preferences in higher education and the workforce.

Oklahoma voters banned such practices on Nov. 6 by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent. Bans also have been passed over the years with similar majorities in states, including 60-40 in Arizona, 59-41 in Washington, 58-42 in Michigan and Nebraska, and 55-45 in California.

Connerly, founder and president of the American Civil Rights Institute, spearheaded the movement to ban affirmative action. He explained his opposition to racial preferences in an interview with the Free Beacon and suggested President Barack Obama’s reelection means it is time to scrap such programs once and for all.

Connerly saw an "enormous difference" between the standards for black, Latino, and Native Americans and those for Asians and whites while serving as a regent for the University of California for 12 years. A ‘C’ student would have better chances than a ‘B’ student, depending on his race.

The Civil Rights Act "guarantees to all Americans equal treatment under the law, not preferential treatment," Connerly said. "There’s no question that affirmative action represents preferential treatment."

Connerly said that preference has outlived its purpose. "The whole premise of affirmative action," he said, "is that we live in a largely racist society. … That notion is profoundly rejected when the American people elected a brown-skinned guy."

"That action—and that action alone—ought to dispel the accusation of institutional racism," Connerly said.

Connerly is not a supporter of the president.

"He has polarized us into the haves and the have-nots," Connerly explained, and "he has demeaned a lot of people in the process."

He also defended Sens. John McCain (R, Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (R, N.H.) from accusations of racism for criticizing United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. "The argument that Ambassador Rice is getting a raw deal because of her mixed ancestry is ridiculous," he said.

"She made statements that, at the time, were problematic and later proven false," he said. The fact that those statements were made weeks before a critical election made it "perfectly justifiable to ask if she made them in order to support the president."

"Anyone following the careers of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte knows that these people are not racist," he added. "There’s nothing to support that."

Additionally, he said, affirmative action has hurt the black population of the United States. "I think it’s prolonged this legacy that black people are inferior—that we are incapable of carrying our own weight," Connerly said.

"Race preferences, while they might have been justified at some point in time, have outlived their usefulness and they’re beginning to reverse their effect," he said. "We’ve got to get rid of race preferences."

Connerly expects the Supreme Court to rule against racial preferences.

"I don’t believe they would have heard the Fisher case if they were not prepared to act in it," he said. He expects them "to strike the allowable use of race if not to eliminate it altogether."