Ward Connerly has tried to end affirmative action programs in California. His Proposition 209 was passed by voters in 1996. Prop. 209 ended state government preferences based on race and gender. On February 16, Connerly received a payback for that and his more recent work: $250,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
An African American, Connerly is a Sacramento businessman and University of California Regent who founded the American Civil Rights Institute. His second state ballot measure was called the Racial Privacy Initiative, or Proposition 54. It would have banned many California agencies from gathering ethnic and racial data. Connerly’s message to voters this time? The best way to achieve racial justice is to end government documentation of racism. Voters defeated Prop. 54 in October 2003, when they also elected Arnold Schwarzenegger over incumbent Gray Davis in a gubernatorial recall vote.
The Bradley Foundation, a $680 million philanthropy based in Milwaukee, also funds the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). A non-profit educational organization, the PNAC has been shaped by neo-conservatives. Two of these neo-cons are in the Bush administration: Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They are co-founders of the PNAC. Neo-cons paved the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Editor of the Weekly Standard, PNAC Chairman William Kristol began clucking for a U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1997.
As the U.S.-led war on terror continues in Afghanistan and Iraq, the racial class conflict surges at home. Consider this. Sour job opportunities for blacks and Latinos connect with the poverty draft of the U.S. military. Wherever America’s armed forces are present, blacks and Latinos are over-represented. They are also the last hired and the first fired in the labor market. Jobless rates for blacks are twice that of whites. Latino unemployment is nearly double the white jobless rate. Abroad, blacks and Latinos, with working-class whites, are the foot soldiers of U.S. imperialism. Connerly’s lust for racial injustice feeds the empire.
He met Bradley’s criteria for “achievements consistent with the mission statement of the foundation.” That mission? “The promotion of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions” said Michael W. Grebe, president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation.
Grebe uses the word liberal in the sense of free-market liberalism. That is, countries and peoples freely pursuing their self-interest in the world market. Thus freed, we are supposed to prosper. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of the free market will make it so. Do not worry.
By contrast, New Deal liberalism spawned during the Great Depression of the 1930s saw government intervention on behalf of regular people. The Social Security system is one popular example. The GI Bill after World War II is another example. Connerly sidesteps that program of affirmative action. Why? “Theoretically available to all veterans, in practice women and black veterans did not get anywhere near their share of GIbenefits,” author Karen Brodkin Sacks writes.
Connerly got name recognition as California’s military bases closed and unionized jobs declined in the 1990s. That trend helped to spur Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant initiative aimed mainly at Latinos that state voters approved in 1994. Meanwhile, the state’s prison population boomed. Blacks and Latinos who were surplus workers got locked up at rates that far exceed their proportion of California’s population. Jail and prison building boomed. Construction for higher education stalled.
Connerly helped to pave the way for capital’s agenda of profit growth. Prop. 209 fit with commercial pacts like the NAFTA that began to urbanize some rural folks in Mexico. Consequently, some of them have been coming to California to find paid work.
This process has worsened employment opportunities for those on the lowest rungs of the state labor market, blacks and Latinos. They have scant protection from such foreign job competition. Contrast their situation with that of medical doctors who practice in California. They earn high wages largely due to the federal government limiting the number of foreign physicians who can practice in the U.S.
For Connerly, choosing racial injustice is opting for political correctness.
His stance turns the color line upside down. To that end, he has had some success making victims of the racial division of labor into victimizers of California’s general population. Thus Connerly’s payback from the Bradley Foundation.
Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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