Affirmative Action attacked in Florida
Three years ago California voters approved Proposition 209, a retrograde measure that ended Affirmative Action programs in public college admissions and in government hiring and contracts. The rationale was that minorities should not be given any 'special preferences' but should instead compete on an equal footing with others.
One result: one of the first things that happened at Berkeley's law school after 209 passed was that a scholarship fund funded completely with voluntary alumni donations that the donors themselves earmarked for "minority students" was frozen. A second result: students at predominantly black and minority high schools with NO Advanced Placement (AP) courses have to compete with white middle class students with many AP courses.
Ward Connerly, the wealthy black activist that managed to get Affirmative Action overturned in California and Washington, has come to Florida to try to accomplish the same here by putting state constitutional amendments on the 2000 ballot via citizen signatures. He is very skillful in his language and sounds just fine on the surface. His group is called the Florida Civil Rights Initiative.
A recent news article quoted a FCRI signature collector: "If they're black, I say it's to stop discrimination by the government. If they're white, I say it's to ban Affirmative Action.". But what can we expect from the people who used Dr. Martin Luther King's name and face and "I Have a Dream" speech in their pro-209 ads until the King family threatened to actually file suit? One man at an anti-209 meeting in California, looking at these Dr. King ads the other side put out, shook his head and asked "Isn't ANYTHING sacred to these people?"
The 'Florida Civil Rights Initiative' only addresses 'race-based' Affirmative Action, not gender-based Affirmative Action, so obviously concern about the fairness or unfairness of Affirmative Action is not the issue. This is clearly a divide and conquer tactic which attempts to separate white females from people of color of both genders. But if we get united, we won't be conquered.
A coalition of groups has been formed: FREE-Floridians Representing Equity and Equality-to counter this anti-Affirmative Action campaign. An initializing meeting was held in Orlando on July 31. Among the groups participating are the NAACP, Florida NOW, the AFL-CIO.
FREE will meet in Gainesville on September 22, at 6 p.m. at the Wilhelmina Johnson Center, 321 NW 10th St.
Emily Browne is President of Gainesville Area National Oragnization for Women (NOW).
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