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Hidden Stillness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Oct-19-06 11:52 PM
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LWV Forum on Prop 2 and Affirmative Action
I attended a forum of the League of Women Voters on the issue of Proposal 2, the attempt to kill affirmative action laws in Michigan, on Thursday evening. The LWV does not ususally endorse candidates or ballot issues, but they have taken a stand against this one. This was a very informative and clear-headed presentation of things, and happily, a good-sized crowd was there. Interestingly, the speaker who was supposed to have given the talk against Proposal 2, Marilyn Hobbs of One United Michigan, a coalition of groups fighting the proposal, cancelled 3 days ago. She is employed in the Dominos' Pizza Legal Department, and is a member of Dominos' "Diversity Team." A member of the local League of Women Voters gave the talk, and there was informational literature, and a DVD called "Affirmative Action--Access and Opportunity" also played for the audience.

There were about three general areas of thought covered by the presentation here: 1) A brief consideration of what the work world was like before Affirmative Action laws, (types of jobs available to groups, with specific examples, "the glass ceiling," "steering" and other housing discrimination, women cut out of the social networks necessary to corporate promotion, etc.), and how progress has been made with A.A. laws; 2) An explanation of Proposal 2, who is behind it, and what it has done to California and Washington State, where they have already fallen for it; and 3) Some testimonials and other facts, showing that not only are Affirmative Action laws good for all of society and the economy, but that they elevate the standard of living, and actually attract the kinds of high-level technical businesses and jobs of the future, and of the modern, diverse world.

Before Affirmative Action, which was a series of anti-discrimination measures developing during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, with additions during the 1970s and since, discrimination was blatant and not easily fought. The burden was on the plaintiff, with almost impossible-to-meet criteria, and a presumption that businesses could do whatever they wanted to as their "right." New anti-discrimination laws codified the promise of equality and fairness for all, and introduced as a principle of law, that idea that citizens had rights of equal access in the workplace and other public institutions. Since then, blacks, women and many other groups have made a lot of progress that they would never have made before, because they now have the weight of the law behind them.

There is still a need for Affirmative Action statutes. According to Michigan United, "In Michigan, women earn just 67 cents for every dollar men earn and African American households earn 39 per cent less than white households." Women are just over 50% of the population, yet are only 30.6% of all doctors, 29.2% of all lawyers, 10.8% of all engineers, and just 1.8% of all carpenters. Black, Asian and Hispanic students are still severely under-represented on college and university campuses, and the number has plummeted in California and Washington State after the removal of Affirmative Action protections. There is still bigotry and discrimination, and so despite progress made by all groups, there is still a proven need for anti-discrimination laws. Proven cases of discrimination, hate crimes, hate speech, and other acts, still occur, and the multiple victims of these things would have no recourse if not for Affirmative Action laws. They are the basis for the challenge.

Who is behind Proposal 2, the attemptto kill Michigan's Affirmative Action protections? A group of millionaires in California is bankrolling someone named Ward Connerly, as another one of these marauding, pseudo-"local," Nationally-organized Republican efforts to rip apart every shred of law and corporate regulation (my opinion). The tactics of the campaign are simple and drearily familiar: huge amounts of money spent on disinformation, confusing and even contradictory wording of the ballot proposal itself, so people who were against it will mistakenly vote for it, and lies about what Affirmative Action is. One tactic is to pretend that "there is no discrimination anymore, it is not needed," which unfortunately is false, that it "discriminates against white males," by "hiring unqualified blacks over more qualified white males." This is a particularly evil lie, because so many have fallen for it. No unqualified person can qualify for an Affirmative Action job, and no one can be hired above a more-qualified non-A.A. applicant. The stories about the "unqualified black person who got the job" are clearly false, because how could anyone possibly have known who was hired as the actual replacement unless a lawsuit was filed, revealing it? With multiple hires and moves going on all the time, all of it unknown to the other applicants, it is impossible to point to anyone as "the one who took" any other particular person's job.

The ballot initiative is worded deceptively: "A proposal to amend the State Constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or National origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes." This tricks many people who seek to end discrimination, so they may vote for the proposal on the basis that it will promote equality. The propaganda of these anti-Affirmative Action (heavily-funded) groups, is that they seek a "color-blind" society, where there will be no "preferences" and all will be judged "individually." It is the preferential treatment of white males that brought us here, as well as the preferential treatment given to cronies, campaign contributors, friends and family, star athletes and children of alumni, etc. Preferential treatment was the original problem that Affirmative Action laws sought to address, leveling the playing field and expanding opportunity. It is a remedy to preference, it is not a "preference."

The proof is what happens when A.A. laws are banned. According to the League of Women Voters of Michigan, Michigan United, and the coalition of One United Michigan, the evidence is clear. All programs designed to help racial minorities, women, or poor people attend college, or get into fields of employment where their particular groups had never been before, were killed as "discriminatory," because they focused on one group. Further, all such programs would be threatened, according to one of the handouts of literature, quoting from Supporters of Civil Rights and Affirmative Action, anything that targeted disadvantaged groups: apprenticeship programs, training programs, summer job programs, minority business enterprise programs, fair housing and lending programs, gender- or racial-minority- based educational or career programs, support services. Further, domestic violence programs could be banned, as they are gender-specific (League of Women Voters), as would all targeted attempts to end discrimination of any kind.

There was also a DVD played at this event, called "Affirmative Action--Access and Opportunity," showing the very wide range of support for A.A. legislation, from Gov. Granholm and Michigan Democrats, to the UAW and even the fascist Chamber of Commerce. The DVD made it clear that anti-discrimination and diversity-promoting laws elevate the workforce, expand opportunities for good-paying jobs with skills, actually raise the standard of living by raising educational levels and skill of workforce. The regions that have and enforce Affirmative Action type laws, have higher general standards of living, and more advanced technologically-based economies, than do those areas still trying to turn the clock back, and take away citizens' rights. One statement read by the speaker from the LWV summed up the more general social good of A.A. laws:

From the UAW, referring to the U of M case, "For while it is absolutely necessary to ensure racial equality through workplace policy and law, the goals of racial equality and harmony will never be fully achieved unless individuals are able to work well and forge relationships with the many diverse members of today's workforce and other institutions. And, in the experience of the UAW, when workers successfully do so, the result is an ability of people to work and learn together in a productive and dignified manner."

Affirmative Action laws are themselves the mainstream, as many groups--from racial minorities, to older people, from the disabled to the largest single beneficiary, women--use and need these laws, and would lose all the progress they have made if these laws were removed. We as a Nation, further, will fall behind the rest of the world, if we do not continue to protect the rights of all citizens, and ensure an educational system and workforce that has all the collective diversity of the world itself. Susan W. Kaufmann, Center for the Education of Women, University of Michigan: "Redevelopment of the Michigan economy from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy will require a highly qualified and technologically educated workforce, in which women's talents and skills will be indispensable. Full access to opportunity strengthens not only women, but also their families, communities, and the state." There is also much more information at Citizens Research Council, / .

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Hidden Stillness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-20-06 12:14 AM
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Correction: that web address I was given is not right. That should be / .
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