National NOW Foundation Times  >> Spring 2008 >> Article

Opponents of Equal Opportunity Determined to Protect Their Privilege

By Melody Drnach, NOW Foundation Education Vice President

The right wing is at it again, gathering signatures in Colorado, Missouri, Arizona and Nebraska to place anti-affirmative action initiatives on the ballot in November. For months, Ward Connerly and his band of anti-opportunity crusaders have been working overtime to make sure that the anti-woman, anti-affirmative action initiatives have enough qualified signatures to get on the ballots. Connerly himself is a multi-millionaire who was awarded government contracts as part of affirmative action outreach, and then he turned around and led the successful fight to ban affirmative action at the University of California in admissions, employment and contracting. That was just the beginning.

Connerly founded the misleadingly-named American Civil Rights Institute to "educate the American people of the harms of race preferences." The organization touts "significant victories in California, Washington and Michigan" and targets the November election as the "Super Tuesday for Equal Rights to bring our nation one step closer to realizing the promise of the 1964 Civil Rights Act color-blind government."

If enough verified signatures are collected by the summer deadline, voters will face a relentless fall campaign of misinformation and thinly-veiled racism designed to turn back affirmative action and equal opportunity programs for women and minorities. These efforts to roll back individual rights and opportunities often use deceptive titles like "Civil Rights Initiative." In Colorado, a substitute amendment with language that makes clear the true intent of the initiative is making its way through the formal process.

These anti-affirmative action initiatives seek to eliminate:

» Programs that help women achieve pay equity with men;

» Programs that encourage women to enter fields where they are underrepresented and could earn higher wages;

» Outreach efforts and other programs that inform women and minorities of opportunities to bid on and earn public contracts;

» Programs that encourage female and minority students at the elementary and high school level to excel in reading, science and math; and

» Scholarships and programs that encourage women and minorities to enter medical, science and engineering careers.

Affirmative action programs are part of our collective determination to end gender and race discrimination. Until we have fully eradicated the dual and vicious costs of racism and sexism in our society, we must press for programs that affirmatively address the disparities that result from centuries of white male privilege.

Until we reach full social, legal and economic equality throughout our society, NOW and NOW Foundation will continue our work to protect and defend affirmative action programs across the country.

Oklahoma and Missouri Initiatives Fail

Oklahoma voters will not face a ballot initiative to ban the use of racial, ethnic and gender preferences by public colleges and state and local agencies. Anti-opportunity forces filed a motion to withdraw their own proposal because they had not gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, according to local press accounts.

More good news: In Missouri, Ward Connerly failed to turn in the necessary signatures to place an anti-affirmative action initiative on the state ballot in November.