Sunday, November 12, 2006

Affirmative Action Banned in Michigan

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Asian American Village Acting Editor

The controversial Proposal 2 to ban Affirmative Action in Michigan passed by a wide margin, becoming the third state, after California and Washington, to outlaw preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin for public employment, education, or contracting purposes. The proposal and its potential to roll back years of progress for women and minorities was opposed by pretty much everyone--Republicans, Democrats, business, labor, social and religious organizations--except the Ku Klux Klan.

The Detroit Free Press reports, “With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 58%, or 2,129,506 people, voted yes on Proposal 2 and 42%, or 1,538,520 voters, opposed it.” Although pre-election polling was very unreliable because people did not want to appear racist, Proposal 2 was generally supported by white voters who felt that affirmative action was not fair to them and their families.

Dave Waymire, spokesman for One United Michigan, the major opposition group to Proposal 2, told the Detroit News, "Sadly it appears that voters have been deceived by a fraudulent campaign … that serves to divide Michigan and ignores the culture of inequity that divides our state and country….We are the most segregated state in the country and we are the most segregated metropolitan region in the country. That fact is a major impediment to our growth. If we don't overcome that, the state and region will continue to drift. This ballot proposal makes it hard to overcome those important serious racial differences."

With the passage of Proposal 2, the enrollment of black, Hispanic and Native American students at the University of Michigan is expected to drop from 12-14 percent of the student body to about 4-6 percent. In a statement released Tuesday, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman states: “Regardless of what happens to Proposal 2, the University of Michigan will remain fully and completely committed to diversity. I am determined to do whatever it takes to sustain our excellence by recruiting and retaining a diverse community of students, faculty and staff." Coleman also stated that the university would explore all legal options available to defend the university’s admissions practices.

On Wednesday, UM President Mary Sue Coleman addressed the University of Michigan community: "Together, we must continue to make this world-class university one that reflects the richness of the world. I am standing here today to tell you that I will not allow this university to go down the path of mediocrity. That is not Michigan. Diversity makes us strong, and it is too critical to our mission, too critical to our excellence, and too critical to our future to simply abandon." See Coleman’s full statement.

The next step for supporters of affirmative action and opponents of Proposal 2, including The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and the University of Michigan, will be the courts as they challenge the legality and constitutionality of this amendment.