Affirmative Action Foe Fires Back at Lawmaker's Insult

By Marc Morano | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

CORRECTION: Corrects description of Rep. Dingell.

( - American Civil Rights Institute Chairman Ward Connerly, a black man who has successfully fought raced-based policies in California, responded to Congressman John Dingell's appeal to stay away from the state of Michigan by calling the congressman "narrow-minded and venomous."

Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, had written a letter July 9 urging Connerly to "go home and stay there." Connerly is currently promoting a new ballot initiative that would prohibit states from forcing citizens to declare their race and forbid states from collecting racial data on citizens.

Connerly led California's successful Proposition 209 in 1996 that ended the state universities' race-based admission policies. Dingell, who is white, is a supporter of affirmative action.

Connerly's July 21 response to Dingell defied the congressman's demand that he stay away from Michigan. Connerly wrote Dingell that "as a full-fledged American citizen," his visit to the state of Michigan "is not contingent on your invitation.

"Arrogance does not begin to capture the essence of a United States congressman advising an American citizen to refrain from participating in the affairs of his government," Connerly wrote.

Connerly called Dingell's original letter to him "narrow-minded and venomous," and he said Dingell "ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to 'go home and stay there.' How dare you!"

In Dingell's July 9, letter, he bluntly told Connerly to "go home and stay there, you're not welcome here.

"We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators," Dingell wrote.

"We reject your 'black vs. white' politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history," Dingell added. But Connerly called Dingell's attack reminiscent of "southern segregationists."

"Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of state's rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans," Connerly wrote.

"Have you learned nothing about 'civil rights' from that horrible chapter in our nation's history?" he added.

Connerly cited Dingell's status as the longest-serving congressman currently in office and noted that he only serves the 15th Congressional district of Michigan and "nothing else."

"Longevity has a way of creating delusions of grandeur, and I believe that has happened to you," Connerly wrote.

Connerly also noted that Jesse Jackson, not a resident of Michigan, was planning a visit to Benton Harbor, Mich., the recent site of civil unrest. "Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to [Jackson] demanding that he 'go home and stay there'?"

Nationally syndicated columnist and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams blasted Dingell for his "ignorance and the patronizing attitude" toward Connerly.

"Dingell's letter was condescending. He does not want to have a real debate on the issue," Williams, an African-American, told

Williams praised Connerly's response and explained that liberals in America "are afraid of him" because he is a "free thinking independent."

"They are not afraid of Jesse Jackson and the [civil rights establishment] because they can put them in boxes and control them, but Connerly cannot be bought and sold, so therefore he cannot be controlled," Williams explained.

Dingell's office had no additional comment when asked about Connerly's written response. "Mr. Dingell's letter to Connerly speaks for itself," Michael Hacker, a spokesman for Dingell, told

Williams believes that Dingell's treatment of Connerly will fire him up. "Dingell's letter should serve as an impetus for [Connerly] to do it even more because it shows him the kind of ignorance he is dealing with in his state," Williams said.

Listen to audio for this story.

E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.