- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

Ward Connerly is challenging the residents of California with colorblindness with his Racial Privacy Initiative, a ballot measure that would end the notation of race on state-government forms.
Mr. Connerly, seen by many as a pioneer of colorblindness for his hard work on the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, which outlawed racial preferences in California government programs, turned in 980,283 signatures April 19 for his latest effort.
The privacy initiative states: "The state shall not classify any individual by race, ethnicity, color or national origin in the operation of public education, public contracting or public employment."
Criticism for the plan has come from several angles. Republicans say it would remove the primary way to gauge success among minorities, while Democrats say it would conceal racial discrimination and eliminate affirmative action.
"This business of seeing how well we are doing seems to suggest that in every venue of our lives, there is to be a proportional representation whether in a boardroom or a basketball court," Mr. Connerly said. "Things turn out differently than government people would like to see them, though. There are only certain people, for example, who are interested in being firefighters."
He added that the issue of race is needlessly and hypocritically the key measurement of qualification in some circles.
"In California, there is a clear possibility that if someone is gay they may be looked at differently than someone who is straight or the same thing for someone who is Jewish," Mr. Connerly said. "But we don't ask people what their religion or sexual preference is. This business of race is a false construct."
The Racial Privacy Initiative campaign, with 1,100 paid solicitors and thousands of volunteers, cost $2 million.
The campaign will wait to see if the measure will appear on a state ballot in November or in March 2004. The date depends on the verification process. Election officials have until June 24 to verify the signatures and place it on the November ballot.
If they cannot complete the process by then, the measure would be moved to 2004.
Opponents of the Racial Privacy Initiative are primarily in the government sector, said Carl Gutierrez-Jones, an English professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who heads the Affirmative Action and Diversity Research Project at the school.
"This new proposal from Mr. Connerly sounds a lot like censorship," Mr. Jones said. "What he is proposing, if it were to pass, will hurt a lot of research and make it impossible to track how certain programs are working."
Mr. Jones said that, for example, Hispanic students have not been faring as well as others at public universities in the state. Passage of Mr. Connerly's measure would make it impossible to track that "until it is too late and we see the results of that failure," Mr. Jones said.
Mr. Connerly said his support has been largely grass-roots, adding that Republican leadership in California has been "conspicuously silent."
California Republicans "have allowed themselves to be co-opted by this concept that they must be diverse and inclusive," Mr. Connerly said. "They believe that in order not to alienate minorities that they must remain silent."
A spokeswoman for the California Republican Party said the issue went before the entire party delegation at a recent conference.
"They simply chose not to endorse it as a whole body, not the leadership," Karen Hanretty said.

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