Monday, February 16, 2009

Right to Speak, Wrong Ideas: On Ward Connerly Speaking at UWM

On Wednesday, Ward Connerly is scheduled to speak at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in another stop on his crusade against affirmative action. The Constitution allows people to speak their minds and Mr. Connerly has a right to speak his. Mr. Connerly is the man behind California Proposition 209, an anti-affirmative action referendum that passed in 1995.

“The ACLU of Wisconsin and its ACLU Student Alliance (ACLUSA) at UWM believe that the best way to respond to Connerly is to counter his speech with more speech,” said Angela Lang, UWM student and President of the university’s ACLU Student Alliance. “While ACLUSA members may be in attendance to observe, the ACLU is urging all students who may be offended by Connerly’s position not to heckle or otherwise disrupt his speech. We do suggest that they let others know how wrong Connerly is on affirmative action”

Since 1995 Connerly has spent his time spreading myths about affirmative action. We’d like to clear some of those up in advance of his visit.

Inequality and unfairness still exist in America and we still need deliberate remedies for everyone to have a fair chance.

Ideally, everyone in America would start out with an equal chance to succeed. Connerly falsely assumes this is the case when in fact, women and minorities continue to face discrimination in housing, poverty, glass ceilings, access to good schools, higher education and in the workplace. Others in society benefit from privileges like wealth and family connections, even parental literacy rates vary making some children less prepared for school and less likely to succeed in school as a result.

“Mr. Connerly would like people to believe that we have achieved some fictitious level of equality in America where white men are now discriminated against as a class,” said Christopher Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Connerly wants us to believe that the reason people do or don’t succeed is purely in their will to do so. We disagree profoundly. In fact, affirmative action helps to offset barriers that unfairly block the pathways of qualified Americans who are fully able to succeed. In so doing, it promotes equal opportunity in an otherwise unequal society. Affirmative action benefits families, businesses, coworkers, communities, and our entire society. It is not a “quota” system, nor is it ‘preferential treatment’.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin’s Student Alliance at the UW—Milwaukee can be contacted at