(Editor's note: Corrects language in the third paragraph.)
(CNSNews.com) - Desperation has set in among left-wing activists who continue to embrace racial preferences and quotas at a time when public sentiment and Supreme Court rulings are shifting in the direction of colorblind ideals, in the view of civil rights activist Jennifer Gratz.
By consistently lining up to combat efforts aimed at eliminating racial preferences that are inconsistent with the principle of equality, they are standing in the way of racial progress, she charged.
Gratz is director of research for the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), an organization that aims to get anti-discrimination initiatives onto the ballot for voters in five states in November 2008. (See Related Story)
In 2003, she successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court against the University of Michigan's overt use of racial set-asides in undergraduate admissions. She also assumed a lead role in helping to pass the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) last year despite stiff opposition.
The Michigan initiative banned discrimination on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education and contracting.
Its critics loathe it. Since becoming law, the MCRI has had a "devastating impact" on "blacks, Latinos and under-represented minorities," Shanta Driver, national spokesperson for By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), told Cybercast News Service in an interview.
BAMN's full title is the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.
The group has already filed a federal suit seeking to overturn Michigan's constitutional amendment and restore certain affirmative-action programs. An initial hearing was held Wednesday in a federal district court in Detroit.
Driver claimed that MCRI proponents engaged in "racially targeted voter fraud" to get the measure on the ballot and would likely use similar techniques to help pass future initiatives elsewhere in the country.
She argued that ballot initiatives overturning affirmative action programs have succeeded because their proponents have not been honest with voters about their true intentions.
"They are framing the debate in a way that is most dishonest and most confusing," she said. "They are using the language of civil rights to obfuscate the real outcome of these initiatives."
But Gratz said that, on the contrary, it is BAMN and others like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that are blocking racial progress.
Gratz singled out BAMN for special criticism, claiming that the organization has routinely used unsavory techniques to advance its cause.
Although its methodology lives up to its name, BAMN's value system is far removed from any properly understood notion of equality, she argued.
"Their goal is to intimidate people," she said. "They will get in your face, scream, yell, chant, throw things and make threats so people don't get involved."
She cited one episode in particular -- a 2005 Board of Canvassers meeting in Lansing, Mich., where the signatures collected for the purpose of getting MCRI onto the ballot were certified.
BAMN bussed in high school and junior high school students who stood on their chairs and began "screaming and chanting" whenever a certain signal was given, she recalled. (See Video)
"We were actually evacuated from the room," Gratz said. "There was some fear these kids would actually go through the floor."
The "hysteria" surrounding the civil rights initiative in Michigan suggests that the opposition is realizing the country is moving in a different direction, she said.
"They are reaching and grabbing for anything they can hold onto," she said. "They see the writing on the wall."
In the 2003 Supreme Court case, the justices in a 6-3 decision ruled that the University of Michigan's undergraduate admission's policies violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause since the consideration given to race extended beyond the scope of legitimate diversity goals.
Although the court narrowly decided in favor of the University of Michigan Law School in a similar case issued in the same 2003 term, it did so while attaching provisos to the use of race in admission's decisions, Gratz said. When "coupled together," a careful reading of the two rulings preclude government and university officials from "doing what they want" where race is concerned, she observed.
Gratz told Cybercast News Service she believes America is approaching the "end of an era" in race relations that could be further accelerated if the voters in five key states -- Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma -- are given the opportunity to vote on ballot measures that accurately reflect the stated purpose of the initiatives. (See Related Story)
From Driver's perspective, the stakes are high.
"We've got to stop these ballot petitions before they get on the ballot," she said. "If you are in a majority white state and you don't [prevent them from getting onto the ballot], there's an excellent chance you are going to lose.
"The history of the United States shows there's been next to no occasion in which voters faced with an opportunity to vote for white privilege or black equality have ever voted for black equality," Driver said.
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