Ward Connerly: He Is America's Most Ardent Proponent of Colorblindness, a Successful Grassroots Political Leader, and a Bold Thinker on Questions of Race, Education, and Government Policy. (Live with TAE)
Californian Ward Connerly vaulted to national prominence in the 1990s as the most visible and articulate leader of the Proposition 209 campaign, which in 1997 outlawed racial discrimination or preferences in all decisions by the state of California. Since then he has continued to shake up the political establishment with his adamant calls for colorblindness in public policy.
A businessman and regent of the University of California, Connerly has recently turned his attention to passage of a Racial Privacy Initiative, which would end nearly all use of racial classifications by the government. He views this as the next step toward his dream of a society where skin color is truly irrelevant.
TAE ran a long, illustrated extract from Ward Connerly's autobiography, Creating Equal, in our June 2000 issue. This February, Connerly spoke with TAE senior editors Karina Rollins and Eli Lehrer in Arlington, Virginia.
TAE: What are the biggest problems facing young black Americans today?
CONNERLY: The problems that face black Americans are really no different from the threats that face all young Americans. I would sum them up this way: How do we preserve a culture in which every American citizen is treated as an equal without regard to his race or color?
TAE: Is it easier to be a white person in America than 5 black person?
CONNERLY: Maybe, but that really should not be important. It certainly is a lot easier for a black person growing up today than it was 40 years ago. But that didn't stop blacks 40 years ago from overcoming their problems. And they didn't do it alone; the nation grew with them.
There is no obstacle in the way of any black kid or Latino kid today that is insurmountable. A lot of things that we present as barriers for black people are barriers that are created by expecting the worst. When you expect the worst you get it. So I don't think that the challenges facing black people once they step outside the prism of blackness are any greater than they are for anybody else.
TAE: There now exists a sizeable, reasonably well-off generation of African Americans who have never faced legal discrimination. Is this group eventually going to conclude that affirmative action is no longer needed, and how soon do you think that might happen?
CONNERLY: There is indeed a sizeable black middle class, and also a sizeable group of very wealthy blacks that we don't know much about--people who are flying around every day in their own private jets. But there's still an element of political correctness that stops black Americans from making the next jump and saying, "We don't need affirmative action." That won't happen until the cultural and political waters are warmer for them to say that.
Today's successful blacks have taken advantage of opportunities that were there. They were prepared, worked hard, and made it. But it's not yet fashionable among blacks to say that. If you do, the wrath of the "professional" blacks--people for whom being black is their profession--will come down on you. If you're the CEO of a big company, you don't want Jesse Jackson and the Congressional Black Caucus ragging on you every day. So you just roll over--and let the Connerlys of the world do the dirty work.
TAE: So what do you think a modern civil rights movement should focus on?
CONNERLY: A modern civil rights movement should focus on making sure that every American understands that civil rights are not just for black people. They're for everybody. I think it's time for the conservative movement to conduct a friendly, or perhaps a hostile, takeover of the civil rights movement. We're at the point right now where the most productive leadership on civil rights is already being led by conservatives.
The next step, I think, is to articulate the absolute importance of deregulating race. Getting it out of the equation. Getting to the point where you no longer have to ask me about black people. …