29 Oct 1996 African-American Group Supports End of Racial Preferences: California Civil Rights Initiative Defended; Endorsed by California Members, Including a Former Black Panther
Diversity should be achieved through non-discriminatory outreach efforts, not preferences or quotas for special groups, says the African-American leadership group Project 21. Project 21’s California members say that the California Civil Rights Initiative (Proposition 209) seeks to achieve this goal by prohibiting the state from using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to determine who should be favored or discriminated against by the state with respect to public employment, public education or public contracting.
“The arguments made by many minorities for maintaining racial preferences show a complete lack of confidence in their abilities,” says Project 21 member James Coleman, a former Black Panther, who participated in a debate on the topic at Southwest College in Los Angeles last week. “It is as if no black person has ever achieved anything without the help of government. I get the feeling that the whole future of the black race is dependent upon state-based racial policies when I talk to opponents of Proposition 209. ” Coleman, a California resident, has been involved in the struggle for civil rights all his life. He attended the 1963 “I Have a Dream” Civil Rights March in Washington at the age of ten and participated in protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, later becoming a conservative.
“Opponents of Proposition 209 are suffering from a superiority complex,” says Project 21 member C. Mason Weaver, a California resident and businessman. “They honestly believe they are superior to ‘minorities’ but because of their kindness they want to make sure they don’t abuse their superiority. If they had their way, I would be placed on the Endangered Species list, captured and tagged. I would be preserved in a zoo somewhere, taken care of, and provided for.”
Critics of Proposition 209 have charged that passage would allow discrimination against women because of a clause that includes an exception that allows the state to take gender into account in certain circumstances. For instance, male prison guards would not be allowed to conduct body searches of female prisoners. Proponents of Proposition 209 counter this argument by saying that this same prohibition appears in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and that it has no effect on the equal protection clauses of the California State Constitution.
“I fully support the goals of the California Civil Rights Initiative,” says Project 21 member Jesse Peterson, President of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny. “Quota-based affirmative action is now and has always been a racist, destructive policy. Proposition 209 is designed to eliminate quota-based programs, not positive affirmative action programs.”
A recent Los Angeles Times poll showed Californians support Proposition 209 by a margin of 54 to 31%. Due to the popularity of the initiative, opponents have sought to diminish its popularity by attacking its most prominent supporters. Ward Connerly, a black Sacramento businessman and University of California regent who has led the crusade to pass Proposition 209, has been attacked by a California State Senator, who claimed Connerly is “lacking ethnic pride” and “wanting to be white.” Former Communist Party candidate and professor Angela Davis encouraged students in her class to harass Mr. Connerly. Connerly has also received numerous death threats.
Project 21 is a leadership group that promotes the views of African-Americans not traditionally represented by the leaders of the civil rights establishment. For an interview with a Project 21 member, contact Arturo Silva at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected]