In January, a campaign began in Michigan to prohibit racial preferences. The campaign for the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” (MCRI), is led by executive director Jennifer Gratz. Her name may sound familiar because she filed one of the lawsuits against race preferences in the University of Michigan that led to the Supreme Court decision last year upholding a narrow use of race by universities in admissions decisions.
Barbara Grutter, who filed the other lawsuit, is also involved in the campaign.
Another architect for the MCRI is former University of California Regent Ward Connerly, who is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute. In 1996 Connerly spearheaded the ballot initiative (Proposition 209) that ended racial preferences in California, and in 1998 he helped with a similar ballot initiative in Washington state (Initiative 200). Both initiatives passed overwhelmingly; Prop. 209 won by a margin of 55 to 45 percent, and I-200 won by a margin of 59 to 41 percent.
The first part of the MCRI states: “The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
The second part states, “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
The initiative is creating controversy, of course. Back in July, Connerly was famously told to “Go home and stay there” by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. More recently, when Grutter went to speak to members of the Michigan State University College Republicans Feb. 25, she was booed at, hissed at, shouted at, and called “a front for racism” among other things. One student who came to shout down Grutter told MSU’s State News, “It’s really crucial to make sure the MCRI doesn’t make it to the ballot. Things are going to start picking up definitely after this.”
For the initiative to be added to the November 2004 ballot, however, supporters must collect nearly 318,000 valid signatures before July 6. According to Connerly, writing in National Review online, “the most recent statewide poll reveals that, if the election were held today, MCRI would pass by a margin of 63 to 37 percent.”
Information about the MCRI is online at www.michigancivilrights.org
Jon Sanders is associate editor of Carolina Journal.