President Joe Biden’s pledge to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with a black woman suggests that his mindset is still in the 1960s, according to Ward Connerly, a civil rights leader and prominent opponent of affirmative action.
Connerly, who is black, served as regent of University of California when he led the effort that banned affirmative action in California in 1996. He successfully defended his legacy in 2020 by defeating Proposition 16, a measure that would have allowed public agencies in California to make hiring, contracting, and student admission decisions based on race or gender.
In an interview with NTD News, Connerly said affirmative action was originally meant to change a discriminatory culture in which people were forced to stay “outside the mainstream of American life” solely because of their skin color.
When President John F. Kennedy first championed affirmative action, according to Connerly, it was a temporary measure to accelerate the society’s transition to color-blindness. Under the ensuing Lyndon B. Johnson administration, however, it became something “explicitly race-conscious” and would benefit members of one race at the expense of those of other races.
“Our thinking during that period about affirmative action was that nobody was harmed. This was simply readying black people to participate in American life, just helping the people who were the intended beneficiaries with no harm or detriment to anybody else,” Connerly told host Cindy Drukier. “Well, we now know that was not what has happened: Affirmative action has become permanent. It is something that black people believe they can’t do without.”
Connerly also noted that the black community, which affirmative action aimed to uplift, has nonetheless taken a toll as many people have been convinced that they don’t have agency in their own lives.
“I can’t begin to tell you the abuse that I have suffered from black people, because I’m ‘taking away’ something that they believe they’ve earned,” he said. “It’s an insidious mindset for black people—I would never want to tell my kids, or anyone that I care about, that they don’t have free agency over themselves. And this is a terrible, terrible paradigm that we’re now faced with.”
In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announcing his retirement, Biden promised to nominate a black woman to the bench. Connerly said that suggests the president still lives in an era many Americans have already moved beyond.
“It suggests to me that our dear president just doesn’t get it. He is living in the 1960s, when we need a first black, we need a first this, first that, and we have to have a first black woman,” he said, adding that people in California “are beyond that” and have “rejected the approach” that Biden is apparently pursuing.
“There are a lot of other people that are equally qualified, even more so in some cases, than whatever hypothetical black woman he’s going to find,” Connerly continued. “I have no problem with him appointing a black woman if she happens to be the top candidate, after some sort of due diligence that that he would perform. But that’s not going to happen, because he has made a commitment.”
When asked about the Supreme Court’s decision to revisit a case challenging the consideration of race in admissions at Harvard University, Connerly said the Court would have to deal with its previous rulings that are in favor of affirmative action, particularly, the 2003 decision that established racial diversity among college students as a “compelling state interest.”
“I think that they’re just going to have to say ‘We made a mistake in 2003, and the Constitution is colorblind, and every individual is entitled to equal treatment under the law,'” Connerly said.
“I have no doubt that the Constitution does not tolerate giving preferences to someone whose ancestors had a portion of African descent over someone whose ancestors were of Asian descent, to compensate for the discrimination inflicted on black people two generations ago, or three generations ago,” he added. “The court needs to look at the clear words in the Constitution, match that up against what the practices at Harvard are, and other select institutions.”
Interview by Cindy Drukier of NTD News