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    Distinctions by race are so evil, so arbitrary and insidious that a state bound to defend the equal
    protection of the laws must not allow them in any public sphere.
           -Thurgood Marshall, Brown v. Board of Ed (1954)

    I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by
    the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
           -The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream

    Waiting to be checked through the White House security area on the afternoon of December 19,
    1997, I thought about distances. Even though I am black and he is white, for instance, in many
    respects I felt quite close to the president I would soon be meeting. Both of us are from the South
    and from the generation that finally escaped the burdens of Southern history. Both of us are from
    painfully broken homes, and both were saved by powerful maternal figures who had, in their
    desperate struggles to keep from slipping further down in class, somehow managed to set us each on
    a course of achievement. And yet we were also very far apart, not because we were from different
    races, but because of our different views on race. And here the vast distance between us was filled
    with irony: Bill Clinton's views had led him to be praised by people such as novelist Toni Morrison
    as "our first black president," while mine had led people of Morrison's political outlook to attack me
    as "a white man with black skin."

    I also had a sense of the distance we have traveled as a nation, of what a long and tortured road we
    have walked in our search for racial fairness and how, in recent times, we seemed to have doubled
    back again on our own tracks. A generation ago, when Martin Luther King Jr. stood in roughly the
    same spot I was standing in, waiting to be ushered into the Oval Office, he brought with him a
    simple and eloquent plea for equal treatment under the law for all Americans, black and white. The
    presidents he spoke toóJohn Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, men who until reaching high office
    never really questioned the malicious racial myths of their dayóagreed with him and committed the
    government to King's great cause. But now, after almost forty years of national introspection and
    determined civic and political action had made America a different country from what it had been,
    the situation was reversed. I had come to Washington to reaffirm King's message, but I knew I
    would be opposed by a president who, although he claimed that his views had been formed by the
    moral urgencies of the civil-rights movement, nonetheless insisted that race mattered even more
    today than it did in the distant past, and that equality under the law was no longer enough.
        -Ward Connerly, Creating Equal

There was a time when public figures with significant views on the great issues of the day would write pamphlets or treatises, even short books, detailing their positions.  One thinks, for instance, of such writers as Thomas Paine and Alexander Hamilton at the time of the Founding, or in recent decades of Barry Goldwater's great book The Conscience of a Conservative, or William Simon's A Time for Truth.  These are all polemical works, meant to argue for political positions, which, though intensely personal, are uncluttered by personality.  They served an essential public service by addressing vital questions in a brief and readable form.  As a result, they were widely read and quite influential.

Today, at a time when even White House pets have bestselling memoirs, these kinds of arguments are now grafted on to autobiographical texts for no discernible reason other than to exploit the current trend in publishing.  It was with some trepidation then that I approached Ward Connerly's book, Creating Equal.  I admire him and the battle he has waged over the past decade, but I honestly expected to skim through the typically pro forma story of his life to get to the meatier sections where he would present the intellectual case against racial preference programs.  But an unexpected thing happened on the way through the boring bits; it turns out that, though much of his tale is familiar, Ward Connerly's own life experience is one of his best arguments.

As is common in American society, and only getting more so, Connerly comes of mixed racial stock : Black, White, and Native American.  He is "Black" only by the terms of the ancient and racist "one drop rule" and by family tradition; in reality his race defies categorization.  He did not meet his father until very late in life and, his mother having died, was raised first by an aunt and uncle, then by his grandmother.  His grandmother and uncle were the real formative influences on his character, both of them strict and demanding that he make something of himself.  His Uncle James in particular was a role model, asking only one thing of life : that people treat him like a man; in exchange always carrying himself like one.  Together they instilled in Connerly a burning desire to be judged on his own merit.

It thus seems natural that when, as a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Connerly was approached by a couple who had statistical evidence of the use of quotas by the UC colleges, he turned their cause into his cause.  His account of the battle for Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, and then subsequent contests in Washington, Texas and Florida, make for interesting reading, though they are perhaps not as viscerally powerful as the story of his early life.

Throughout the book, Connerly is animated by a simple timeless creed which gives the book its title :

    I celebrated July 4 1995 with a heightened awareness of the personal freedom at the core of
    nationhood.  When the Founding Fathers said that we were all created equal, they were proposing an
    audacious theory that ultimately inflamed the rest of the world.  By fits and starts, Americans had
    tried to make that theory into a reality, with abolitionism, the Emancipation Proclamation, and, of
    course, the civil rights movement, which instituted sweeping revisions of the law that have brought
    us ever closer to the fulfillment of the promise of our national life.  I felt in my heart that race
    preferences--by whatever name--were not a continuation of that progress, but an obstacle in the road
    to freedom and equality.  At best a diversion, and at worst a giant step backward, affirmative action
    preferences caused us to lose sight of the task we inherited from the Founders--creating equal as the
    only category that counts in America.

There's a deep irony in the fact that these beliefs, traceable to Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, should now make Ward Connerly anathema to the Democratic Party and to the institutionalized civil rights movement.  We have reached a sad point in our nation's history where to the inheritors of the legacy of Jefferson and King the idea of a color blind society has been transmuted into a weird kind of racism itself.  It should not have required courage to, as Connerly boldly does, advocate that race be ignored in awarding government jobs and contracts, but it did, and this demonstration of courage makes Connerly into a heroic figure, willing to brave epithets, threats and hatreds to vindicate his convictions.  This memoir, harkening back to The Autobiography of Ben Franklin and Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, partakes of the great American tradition of self-reliance and the demand that each of us be judged individually; this gives it an impact all out of proportion to what I expected.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -American Civil Rights Institute :  a national civil rights organization created to educate the public about racial and gender preferences
    -BOOKNOTES : Title: Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences  Author: Ward Connerly (C-SPAN, Sunday, April 30th, 2000)
    -EXCERPT : from Creating Equal : A Day at the White House (Ward Connerly,  Heterodoxy | February - March 2000)
    -ESSAY : In love with affirmative action (Ward Connerly and Edward Blum, May 2001, Washington Times)
    -ESSAY : My Fight Against Race Preferences: a Quest Toward 'Creating Equal' (WARD CONNERLY, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Why I'm Still Fighting Preferences in Florida (Ward Connerly, Wall Street Journal | November 18, 1999)
    -ESSAY : A Battle, and an Opportunity : Make a stand with Ashcroft (Ward Connerly, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Affirmative amnesia (Ward Connerly, Washington Times)
    -DISCUSSION : TALKING ABOUT RACE with Ward Connerly & Linda Chavez (Online Neshour, PBS, December 19, 1997)
    -DISCUSSION : Using Class Rank as a Substitute for Affirmative Action (Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -DISCUSSION : Black Business Leaders Ask: Is It Time to Set Quotas Aside? (Ward Connerly, Daniel Colimon, and Herman Cain, Policy Review)
    -ARCHIVES : Directory | Ward Connerly  A complete listing of Salon articles on Ward Connerly
    -Regent Biography: Ward Connerly (University of California)
    -ESSAY : Ward Connerly's New Cause : The man who ended affirmative action in California is pushing for a colorblind government. (Michael Lynch, Reason)
    -PROFILE : Heroes : Ward Connerly (Daily Objectivist)
    -PROFILE : Ward Connerly & the American Civil Rights Institute (A Briefing Paper prepared by Right Watch, a Project of A Job is a Right Campaign. Phil Wilayto, Media Transparency)
    -PROFILE : Ward Connerly : Black millionaire leads charge to undo civil rights legacy (J.B. McCampbell, about ...time Magazine, November-December 1997)
    -PROFILE : Ward Connerly Says... "[Al Gore] is a hateful man and I don?t often use terms like that..."  (Cris Rapp, National Review)
    -PROFILE : What Hath Ward Wrought? :  Ward Connerly holds his nose in support of Gov. Jeb Bush's plan. (Jessica Gavora, National Review)
    -ESSAY : Mister Connerly comes to Florida : Ward Connerly wants to end racial preferences in a key state. Fearing a backlash, Jeb Bush and other Republicans think he should stay in California. Are they right? (Bill Duryea, American Spectator)
    -ARTICLE : Ward Connerly visits Umass  (Isabel Lyman, May 2001, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal (Dan Seligman, Commentary)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal by Ward Connerly (Noemie Emery, Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal ( Karina Rollins,
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal (PHILIP A. KLINKNER , The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal by Ward Connerly Ward Connerly's Newest Whine :  Affirmative action's most irritating critic gripes that shelving his book with others on African American topics will hurt sales. We can only hope. (Michele Landis, Mother Jones)
    -RESPONSE : Readers React :  Read Ward Connerly's response to this article, a selection of reader letters, and Michele Landis' rebuttal (Mother Jones)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal (Christopher Rapp, American Outlook)
    -REVIEW : of Creating Equal: My Fight against race preferences (Richard Kahlenberg, Washington Monthly)

    -Citizen's Guide to the Affirmative Action Debate (Claremont Institute)
    -New Democracy Forum: Rethinking Affirmative Action  (Susan Sturm and Lani Guinier, Boston Review)
    -ARTICLE : Minority Applications to UC Rise : Education: Blacks and Latinos post double-digit percentage increases. Figures counter concerns about affirmative action's end, but also reflect changing ethnic makeup of high schools. (KENNETH R. WEISS, LA Times Education Writer)
    -ROUNDTABLE : Race in America : If there is a race problem in America today, what is it? Atlantic Unbound has invited The Atlantic's Nicholas Lemann and a panel of distinguished commentators to take up this question -- one of the central, most divisive of our time (Atlantic Monthly)
    -ARTICLE : Magazine for the Black Intelligentsia (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, NY Times, August 14, 1991)
    -ESSAY : As Goes California...  Still the leader---ominously so (John O'Sullivan, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Losing The Race Self-Sabotage in Black America. By John H. McWhorter (David J. Dent , NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY :  "One Florida"- Many Problems : Governor Jeb Bush seemed to be making progress removing race and gender  preferences-but then politics happened. (Matthew Rees, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : The Near Myth of Our Failing Schools : Ideologically inspired lamentations about the parlous state of American education mask the much more complex truth  (Peter Schrag, Atlantic Monthly)
    -PROFILE : Orlando Furioso : Harvard's contentious sociologist speaks his piece on the nation's racial dialogue: You're all wrong. (Tom Scocca, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of The Trouble with Principle By Stanley Fish (Katha Pollitt, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of A CONFLICT OF RIGHTS The Supreme Court and Affirmative Action. By Melvin I. Urofsky (Ethan Bonner, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Sovereign Virtue The Theory and Practice of Equality. By Ronald Dworkin (Alan Ryan, NY Times Book Review)
    -English for the Children : Let's teach English to all of California's children and end bilingual education by June 1998.
    -PROFILE : The Thernstroms in Black and White (Adam Shatz, The American Prospect)
    -PROFILE : The "Loyalty Trap": Glenn Loury, once a neoconservative luminary, reverses course (Norman Podhoretz, National Review, January 25 1999)
    -In Motion Magazine : a multicultural, online U.S. publication about democracy
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.
 By Michael Eric Eric Dyson