Thursday, June 19, 2008

Critics' Ad Is Worse

The folks claiming to be uniters are driving me to the other side on the racial preference petition.

There's a petition drive for an amendment to the state constitution. The amendment would end racial preferences in hiring, scholarships, and contracting decisions by government agencies, including schools.

It's Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative (pro-petition) versus Nebraskans United Together for Opportunity (anti-petition).

NCRI drew criticism for its radio ad, which included references to Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and State Sen. Ernie Chambers. The Pastor Wright reference was overreaching, but Chambers is fair game. He is the most well-known proponent of racial preferences in Nebraska, though he is careful to qualify his position by saying a candidate must be qualified for the position sought.

(Note: I am trying to shy away from the term "affirmative action" because that's not neutral. "Affirmative" means "positive." The result is not positive for the candidate who performs better on a test but is passed over for the job or scholarship because a lower-performing candidate is of a preferred race. "Racial preference" is the most neutral term I can think of.)

The larger complaint that the NCRI ad is appealing to bigotry by mentioning inflammatory black leaders is silly. You can't have it both ways. When black public figures say the things Wright and Chambers say about race relations and the issue is racial preferences, well, what are the critics suggesting? Such figures can lecture white people about how bad they are, but then become invisible when the issue is racial preference to the detriment of whites?

Meanwhile, NUTO has put out an ad saying that if you sign the NCRI petition, "you could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse." Lions and tigers and bears -- oh, my! I heard it on the radio a few days ago, before I saw the story in the newspaper, and thought I was hearing a spoof ad. I was laughing at it while driving.

A populist-elitist chasm seems to be developing. NUTO is the "enlightened" elitist camp that is appalled there is even a debate about the issue. NCRI is the "lowbrow" populist camp (the people Obama trashed when speaking behind closed doors to San Francisco elitists) who are frustrated by what they consider reverse discrimination.

NUTO is making a big deal about outside money and organizations fueling the petition drive.

Outside money and organizations fueled the term limits campaign of 2000. I strongly oppose term limits, but I'm not going to whine about outside interests calling the shots in Nebraska. Proposed amendments do not become part of the state constitution unless approved by a majority of Nebraska voters. It doesn't matter where the money comes from. What matters is the message, and whether Nebraskans embrace it or reject it.

The candidacy of Obama does not resolve the racial problems produced by a century of American slavery followed by a century of American apartheid. But is a legitimate topic of debate whether racial preferences are appropriate in 21st century America. The more hysterical the anti-petition side gets, the more inclined I am to move the opposite direction.

1 comment:

OmaSteak said...

The ad from the anti-petition folks shows just how desperate they are to hold onto the state sanctioned racial/gender quota systems. The basic question one has to ask is, why are they so afraid of all decisions being based upon merit? The more a society gets away from basing any/all efforts solely on merit, the more dysfunctional that society becomes. Despite what the pro-quota folks say, racial/gender preference requirements are discrimination just of a variety they happen to directly benefit from. Nebraska should not be in the business of discrimination period. This proposed amendment is badly needed and they anti-petition "scare" ad will likely promote more signatures.