07 Apr 2000 Civil Rights or Political Wrongs?: Government Agency Improperly Weighs In Against Colorblind Justice
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are appalled at the politicization of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in forcing a "poll vote" to condemn colorblind college admissions and state contracting in the state of Florida. Project 21 members see this rush to judgement as detrimental to reforming race-based policies and a cheap shot at supporters of reform.
Last November, Governor Jeb Bush (R) unveiled the One Florida plan, which orders Florida universities and government agencies to discontinue their affirmative action requirements. In the case of public universities, admissions policies were changed to guarantee admissions to the top 20% of each high school graduating class regardless of race. This policy appears to be working. According to a study by the Tampa Tribune, minority enrollment has increased 18% since racial preferences were abolished. As for government contracting, Minority Business magazine reports, "Bush’s plan has strong procurement accountability features to ensure that minority contractors have a fair shake at state contracts."
"The Civil Rights Commission has turned the concept of what the civil rights movement was all about. The goal was supposed to be colorblind justice. When that happens, why do they object?" said Project 21 member Reginald Jones. "If there are special rights for some, there are not equal rights for all. The ideas promoted by the Commission might have been relevant in the 60s, but not in the year 2000."
In what insiders call "a political ploy," the eight Civil Rights Commission members (six Democrats and two Republicans) were asked to participate in a poll vote on April 6 to approve to approve a 10-page statement condemning the One Florida plan. The statement calls the plan an "unprovoked stealth acknowledgment that… segregation will never change" and says "Florida should keep affirmative action unless forced to abandon it."
Commission votes are normally held in open session with 30 days notice, and the Commission has only conducted a poll vote of this nature once before in the last five years. Commission staff director Ruby Moy, however, said that Chairman Mary Frances Berry "believes that this statement needs to be released quickly in light of its timeliness and the fact that events are moving rapidly in this area." On April 7, a hearing will be held in Tallahassee, Florida on a lawsuit filed against One Florida by the NAACP and the National Organization for Women.
"Our government should not be used to promote the goals of special interests. These people must think African-Americans are either unwilling or unable to compete," said Project 21 member Kenneth Flowe. "My nephew in Orlando will soon be applying for college. I would put his mind up against any other Floridian and expect him to be competitive. Governor Bush has come up with a plan in which all Floridians can compete without barriers. What could be more colorblind and fair than that?"
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.