Blacks who say NO to affirmative action

African-American support for Proposition 209 should serve as a cautionary reminder: More blacks are joining the conservative sea change in the U.S.

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Published November 18, 1996 9:23AM (EST)


most people assume that California's anti-affirmative action measure, Proposition 209, which was pushed by California governor Pete Wilson and Bob Dole in a campaign bankrolled by the state's Republican Party, passed because angry white males voted for it.

What this ignores is the fact that slightly more than one out of four
blacks who cast a ballot voted for the initiative  slightly higher than
the percentage of Hispanics who supported it, but less than the 39 percent of Asian-American voters who voted for it, according to exit polls
reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Opponents of 209 insist that blacks who supported it were "racial traitors," confused by its deceptive language or misled by Republican trickery. These explanations overlook
the deeply conservative strain in the black community. Many blacks
agree with those who argue that affirmative action, like welfare, discourages incentive and unfairly stigmatizes blacks. They are convinced that they achieved their success in business and the professions through hard work and ability, and
are particularly insulted when whites claim they got ahead because of color, not competence.

Such sentiments have been fueled by a new wave of black radio commentators, writers, academics and politicians. They oppose not only affirmative action, but welfare,
abortion and government spending in general and advocate school prayer,
more police and prisons, and "personal responsibility."

Early warning signs that more blacks were joining the growing
conservative sea change emerged during the debate over the nomination of
Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991. A USA Today poll found that
nearly half of the blacks surveyed at the time supported self-help and
not government quotas. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National
Committee, claimed that 25 to 45 percent of blacks called themselves
"conservative"  a fair prediction of the anti-affirmative action vote
by blacks in California.

One key reason for the shift is rising black prosperity. Since the 1970s
the number of black managers, professionals, technicians and government
officials has increased by 52 percent. A sizable percentage of them now claim they are pro-life, pro-school prayer and anti-gun control. As more than one analyst has
argued, middle-class blacks are more likely to be solid patriots than

There's another reason that more blacks define themselves as conservatives: African-Americans may vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic party, but they have always  through their churches, social organizations, political and economic associations  embraced programs of self-help, business development, law
and order, and religious and family values. The NAACP, the Urban League and other mainstream civil rights organizations always waged their fight for jobs, education, civil rights legislation and political representation within the tradition of American reform. Their recent national conventions have emphasized self-help programs, personal responsibility and family values.

Many blacks will continue to vilify other blacks who think that
affirmative action  and indeed all government programs  are lose-lose
propositions whose time has long since past. But if the black vote
against affirmative action in California is any indication, their ranks
are likely to grow.

) Pacific News Service

Quote of the day

Death chat

"Want to talk about torturing to death? I have a kind of fascination with torturing till death ... I want to surrender completely. I want to die."

 a message posted by Sharon Lopatka in a bondage and discipline chat room. Lopatka's asphyxiated corpse was later found buried in the front yard of Robert Glass, a computer analyst "with a good work record." (From "A fatal step into twilight" by Daphne Merkin, U.S. News & World Report, November 25 1996.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a contributor to Pacific News Service and the author of "The Crisis in Black and Black."

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