Jessica Bassett, St. Louis American, December 24, 2008
On Nov. 4, amid all of the excitement surrounding Barack Obama’s election, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit struck down a Pentagon Program that included five-percent set-aside contracting for companies run by racial minorities.
On that same day, Nebraska voters supported the anti-affirmative action initiative on their state ballot by a margin of 58 to 42 percent. By doing so, they joined voters in California, Washington and Michigan, who voted to ban affirmative action programs in previous years.
After four decades of affirmative action, Obama’s historic candidacy itself has been seen by some as proof that such programs are no longer needed.
“It would be a big mistake for people to look into the White House and see a beautiful family there and say that the struggle is over,” said George Curry, a journalist and affirmative action expert. “The proof that we don’t need affirmative action is when major corporations and higher institutions represent our composition in society.”
[George] Curry, author of The Affirmative Action Debate, said one problem with affirmative action is that most people fail to accurately define the issue.
“Affirmative action has never been just for black people,” Curry said. “One could argue that white women have benefited more from affirmative action than any minority group.”
President-elect Obama has called traditional affirmative action “absolutely necessary.”
In his speech on race in Philadelphia back in March, he made clear that America needs some form of affirmative action to address the legacy of discrimination in this country.
The fight to save affirmative action programs in The Show Me State will continue well into 2010.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office announced last week that it had approved a proposed initiative to ban affirmative action programs in education, public contracting and employment for circulation again throughout the state.
The so-called Missouri Civil Rights Initiative—sponsored locally by Tim Asher, but with the national support of Ward Connerly—could have as late as May 2010 to gather signatures for the November ballot.
Connerly, a wealthy California political operative who is black, has spent millions in out-of-state spending in an attempt to amend Missouri’s constitution. He and Asher failed to turn in signatures on time to qualify their initiative for this year’s ballot.
Connerly also targeted four other states: Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona and Oklahoma. As in Missouri, he failed to gain enough qualified signatures to make the ballot for Arizona and Oklahoma. His initiative was barely defeated in Colorado, but passed in Nebraska.
If successful, Connerly’s ballot measure would cut off government funding for programs offering preferential treatment based on gender or race.