DETROIT, The following is a statement issued by Detroit Branch NAACP President Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony:
We are here to acknowledge and to applaud the decision to uphold diversity in the State of Michigan by the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Today's ruling which reverses the decision in Michigan to end Affirmative Action is indeed a victory for the people all across this State. It is important to remember that this fight to maintain affirmative action and equal opportunity was thrust upon us by many persons who did not even live in the State of Michigan. Led by California Businessman Ward Connerly and a group of California businessmen under the guise of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, (better known as Proposal 2) it was indeed a gross Civil Wrong.
We stand here today representing One United Michigan that worked in coalition five years ago fighting the battle to maintain diversity and Affirmative Action in the State of Michigan. This Coalition was made up of over two hundred organizations, Democrat, Republican, Independent, business, corporate, labor, faith based and grass roots. All of us believed then as we still do now, that diversity is what has made America great. Equal opportunity is what continues to make America strong.
The ruling of the Court today indicates very clearly that the State of Michigan cannot place an unjust and impermissible burden on African Americans and women inside this State by virtue of the U.S. Constitution and in particular the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
The 14th Amendment guarantees that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Further, the equal protection clause within the 14th Amendment strengthens the very intent of the Amendment to guarantee and provide opportunities for all people.
The decision in Michigan on November 7, 2006 placed a gross burden on African Americans, Latinos and women to access the doorway to higher educational opportunities. At the same time it did not place an equal burden on the access to students who have an athletic, legacy, musical, economic, veteran or geographical particularity. In other words, the Court has reasoned and decided that if one is to disregard race and gender which ultimately leads to the discrimination of minorities and women in determining entrance into colleges and universities, then it must also employ the same standard to students in the previous categories that were identified earlier. One cannot section off a particular segment of the community and burden them with the shackles of discrimination and lack of access to opportunity without utilizing the same standards for everyone else.
We believe that this ruling gives renewed hope to the people that there is still a benefit to struggle, to organize and to work for the rights of all people. I am reminded of the comments in a Detroit News editorial dated March 5, 2006, which stated,
"Yes you heard before that diversity is a key to doing business in a global economy but the so called Civil Rights Initiative could also pose high problems for companies headquartered here that operate not only in Michigan but also throughout the world. They need to hire all kinds of workers, women, Blacks, Asians, Gay people and aren't anxious to see supply lines to their workforce cut." The Detroit Free Press recorded on June 15, 2006, "there is nothing civil or right about the dangers buried in this the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and the attempt to erase the importance of gender and yes racial equality in hiring and education."
Former President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, Richard Blouse, said, "this proposal is a step backwards. Diversity, affirmative action and other outreach programs are needed in Southeastern Michigan and across the State." Finally, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the deciding vote in the U.S. Supreme Court decision to extend Affirmative Action for another twenty five years which was announced on June 23, 2003, said, "in order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry it is necessary that the path to leadership be visually open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity."
While this battle has been won we know that there are those who still seek to wage a war against diversity and equal opportunity for all Americans. Let it be known that we are still as determined to maintain our vigilance for diversity and equal opportunity regardless of who they next send to fight this war. We understand very clearly that there are those who come not to unite our nation on the basis of diversity and equal opportunity but rather they seek to divide us on the basis of misguided information and racial polarization. We stand together to see our nation go forward and not to be turned backward.
The Detroit Branch NAACP is the organization's largest branch. It holds monthly meetings that are free and open to the public. For more information please call (313) 871-2087 or visit www.detroitnaacp.org.