NAACP Opposes California Initiative To Bar Racial ClassifyingHOUSTONThe NAACP voted last month to oppose a ballot initiative that would bar the state of California from classifying residents by race.The resolution to oppose University of California regent Ward Connerly’s “Racial Privacy Initiative” and similar ballot measures was approved by delegates at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual convention in Houston. The initiative would bar state and local governments from recording race in everything from educational achievement to whether a city’s police force is as diverse as its population (see Black Issues, June 20).“We intend to stop it before it spreads across the country to other states,” says Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP’s California state conference, which oversees local branches. The initiative will appear on the March 2004 ballot. The NAACP resolution denounced Connerly’s proposal as “bad public policy for California and a bad precedent for the nation,” and opposed the initiative and all similar acts. A lack of racial data would make it impossible for many agencies and the public “to understand the positive or negative impacts of their policies or programs on ethnic communities including in the area of education, delivery of public services and public assistance,” the resolution said. Connerly champions the initiative as the next step toward a “colorblind society.” He has said that gathering race data does not help people, and certainly cannot prove discrimination. A spokesman for Connerly downplayed the vote. “The NAACP needs to re-examine its position back in the mid-20th century when it was against racial classifications and officially sanctioned racial distinctions,” says Kevin Nguyen, executive director of Connerly’s Sacramento, Calif.-based coalition. “For them to reverse course 50 years later betrays their current goal of pure political power accumulation instead of freeing people from these restrictive and arbitrary boxes.”At a keynote speech at the NAACP convention, board chairman Julian Bond had harsh words for Connerly. “Ward Connerly, affirmative action’s poster child, is at it again,” Bond said. “You remember he was the fraud behind California’s anti-affirmative action initiative, Proposition 209. Now con-man Connerly is behind the deceptively titled ‘racial privacy initiative,’ which would ‘eviscerate civil rights enforcement.’“As long as race counts, we have to count race,” Bond said. “What Ward Connerly will do — unless the voters of California stop him — is to institute the denial of different outcomes dictated by race. We have to work to defeat this dangerous initiative.” If ratified by the NAACP’s national board of directors in October, the vote will become the association’s official policy.
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