By now its clear that racial and ethnic preferences, disguised as affirmative action, do little to solve the underlying causes of the achievement gap that limits opportunities for blacks and Hispanics. So it is welcome news that Ward Connerly, who heads the American Civil Rights Institute, came to Phoenix today to announce Super Tuesday initiatives to end racial preferences in multiple states, including Arizona.
Patterned after California's Proposition 209, the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative would ban the power of state and local government to discriminate or grant preferences on the basis of race, color, or ethnicity in contracts, employment, or education. Connerly led successful efforts to pass similar initiatives, against powerful opposition, in Washington State and Michigan.
The problem here is real. Arizona's public universities appear to use race and ethnicity to determine eligibility for scholarships and other programs. The Tucson Unified School District has a quota system that keeps minority schoolchildren out of certain magnet schools. Local governments reportedly use preferences in government contracts. Arizona even has separate court systems for Hispanics and non-Hispanics charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
By contrast, when states are forbidden to separate citizens on the basis of race, they are forced to confront the real problems contributing to the racial divide. After Prop. 209, for instance, the University of California at Berkeley started providing tutors to boost the academic performance of inner-city youngsters---now that's true affirmative action.