Seven years ago, Californians did what a majority of their elected representatives were too cowardly, or too depraved, to do: they voted to end state-sponsored discrimination based on the color of a person's skin. Today, Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, stands as a shield of justice, protecting individual rights in the Golden State from the racial preferences recently sanctioned by the U. S. Supreme Court in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger.
Last week, in response to the Court's ruling, Colorado Governor Bill Owens told citizens of his state that he objects to university admissions policies that judge a prospective student by his or her race, and he thinks the Court was wrong. He made clear that he would welcome a law barring race from being considered in determining who gets in to Colorado's public universities. Republican State Senators John Andrews and Jim Dyer, in turn, offered to introduce such legislation during the next legislative session.
Good for them. And good for Colorado.
The racial politics of affirmative action, since it began in the 1960s, have been defended on three grounds, all of them wrong: First, that preferences were necessary to redress historic injustices against blacks. From the beginning, though, it was difficult to understand why Americans today of all colors should pay for the wrongs of some in the distant past. And as women and other "insular minorities" were added to the categories of people who received special treatment, historical injustices became increasingly difficult to demonstrate.
The second defense came in the form of "proportionality." On every college campus, and every factory floor, the look of the student body or employee body should mirror the surrounding population. If blacks and Hispanics make up 25 percent of the population, then they should constitute 25 percent of those in college and those working in factories.
But this argument rested on the false assumption that all cultural or ethnic groups are equal in preparing their children for school or work. It was easily refuted by the common observation that in many communities Asians and Jews are tiny minorities, and yet, because of their different interests and superior test scores, their numbers in institutions of higher education are far beyond their proportion to the general population.
The most recent argument is that racial quotas in college admissions are necessary to ensure "diversity." The basic premise is that one's intellect is only skin-deep, and that having different looking people ensures different opinions on campus. Yet anyone with a passing familiarity with the American university today knows that while faculties vary in color, shape, and dress, they are almost uniformly left-of-center in their thinking.
At the heart of racial preferences is something profoundly unfair, un-American, and ugly. To see this, one need only reflect briefly on those little boxes that appear on almost any application form, where you are asked whether you are "Caucasian," "Black," "Hispanic," or if you fall under the dubious category "Other."
How did these boxes get there? Who determines which groups deserve to be singled out? And who is included in these groups? Who are "Hispanics?" How black must one be to be black?
These decisions are made behind closed doors, where the faÃ§ade of equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal protection of the laws is dropped. After being lobbied by people of various ethnicities, cultures, and lifestyles for handouts of one kind or another, bureaucrats and public policy "experts" conspire in drawing the boxes for those they choose to help, and those they choose to harm.
Of course, those same experts and the government that employs them have an interest in increasing the categories of people who receive preferential treatment. Each box represents another group who will be dependent on the favors of government, and who can be counted on to vote for liberals who will continue to expand the size and scope of government.
This is not the way free people govern themselves.
In 1776, Americans attempted what had never been attempted before—establishing a free society and a government where those who live under the laws consent to the laws under which they live. Four score and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln reminded us that government of, by, and for the people rests on "the proposition that all men are created equal." That proposition has been the single greatest cause of the rise of American freedom, happiness, and prosperity, and it stands in direct opposition to the divisive and racist policies of affirmative action.
Messrs. Owens, Andrews, and Dyer should be applauded for defending the true principles of equality and justice. If they succeed in eliminating racial preferences from university admissions in Colorado, as we did in California, Americans of all colors will be in their debt.