Vote NO on Proposal 2

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October 15, 2006


BALLOT LANGUAGE  of Proposal 2 on November 7, 2006


The proposed constitutional amendment would:


                    • Ban public institutions from using 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. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.



                    • Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)



Should this proposal be adopted?






Despite the high sounding title called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,  Proposal2  would bar public institutions from using affirmative action.

The use of affirmative action is not federally unconstitutional, since its use was upheld in the University of Michigan law school case (2003)to provide diversity. Affirmative action is not a quota system.  Quotas were declared unconstitutional in the University of Michigan undergraduate case.

Social injustice

We usually think of injustice as   individuals or corporate crimes, but there is a larger form of injustice that devolves from our social customs and mores. The easiest way to identify social injustice is to examine the lack of opportunities and social benefits. When these are found in identifiable groups of people, then we have found social injustice.

Two areas of social injustice are found in the education and employments practices in relation to race and gender.



Ralph, an African American, recently told me that he inquired about a job over the phone and was invited to come in. When he got there he was abruptly told, “Oh, we filled that position”. There are thousands of stories like this.

Even though our founding documents state that all are “created equal”, that is an ideal rather than reality. After all, slaves, (mostly Africans) were considered property and were counted for census purposes as three/fifths of a person. Of course they had no rights. They certainly weren’t equal. Legally, this has changed, but culturally it is far from ideal yet.

In my lifetime, black Americans were lynched with impunity. White people mailed postcards of lynchings to relatives and friends. Hideous as this sounds, I saw these postcards at the Wright Museum in Detroit.



Women, too, are subject to injustice because of our social customs.  The Maxim, “a woman’s place is in the home” is long enshrined in our patriarchal heritage in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Very few women are at the heads of major corporations. Even when they do achieve high status, they are plagued with guilt. Madeline Albright, in her book Madame Secretary, said she constantly fought the guilt of pursuing a career while raising her children.

This maxim is deeply rooted in our social psyche and sacred documents.

The bible says, You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him." (Exodus 20:17) This verse is the basis of the commandment, “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife.” Notice the reason: his wife is his property. It  is hard to change attitudes that are enshrined in our documents, even if they are misunderstood and misapplied.

                        The Center for the Education of Women (CEW) studied the results of Proposition 209, a virtually identical proposal in California, and found some startling results:

1)     hiring of women college professors dropped dramatically, although it has increased in the ensuing years to pre-Prop 209 levels.

2)     Hiring of women contractors in the skilled trades dropped dramatically also.

3)     Scholarships and fellowships for women and minorities were reduced

Based on the lawsuits that followed the passage of Prop 209 in California, we could see the loss of many ethnic or gender based programs eliminated. These could be programs for boys or girls in elementary school, college programs to prepare people in non-traditional professions such as men as elementary school teachers, and public services provided for gender or ethnic based situations, such as safe houses for victims of domestic violence.

Supreme Court Justice David Souter asked the question in the UM cases, “what is the difference between race/gender preferences and those given to students of alumni or athletes. Should those be illegal also? No.

Some argue that affirmative action is reverse discrimination, that is, discrimination against the majority race and gender. In the United States,that is the white male. When the white male has had control of the game, whether that be housing, education, or job opportunities, then it is time to level the playing field. Affirmative action is just one tool in the effort to level the playing field and end social injustice, based on race or gender.

Governor Jennifer Granholm and her Republican opponent, DickDeVos, are both opposed to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. So are the Michigan Catholic Conference, Planned Parenthood, the Triangle Foundation, the League of Women Voters, and major corporations.  Can all these disparate people and groups be wrong? I think not. Please vote NO on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

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