August 18, 2005,
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary or BAMN, for short is just as angry as its name suggests. In recent years, this radical group has done everything in its power to keep out of the hands of Michigan voters the decision on whether their state will continue to allow racial preferences in its public-hiring and college-admissions practices. And, true to its name, BAMN has employed tactics that are shameless, ruthless, and unrelenting.
The official focus of BAMN’s wrath these days is the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a proposed amendment to Michigan’s constitution that would put an end to public-sector racial preferences in that state. BAMN is terrified at the prospect of a democratic vote taking place on this issue, because polls have repeatedly demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of Michiganders agree with MCRI’s notion that the state should treat all individuals equally, regardless of their race. A 2004 Detroit News poll found that 63 percent of Michigan’s citizens supported MCRI, with only 24 percent opposed. Other polls have found the gap to be not quite as large, but still significant.
When they failed to sway public opinion, BAMN turned to the courts, filing no less than four lawsuits which quibbled with the MCRI petition on the basis of baffling minutiae such as font and paper size. Although state judges ultimately ruled against BAMN in all four cases, the stalling tactic worked: Tied up in legal battles, the MCRI petition failed to make the deadline to get on the ballot for the 2004 election.
The petition’s supporters rebounded quickly. In January of this year, they submitted over 500,000 signatures well over the required number of 317,757 to the state Board of Canvassers to get the measure on the 2006 ballot.
In response, BAMN has only re-intensified its efforts. On July 19, BAMN bused in a teeming crowd of protesters to participate in an anti-MCRI demonstration at the statehouse in Lansing. During the demonstration, some of the less scrupulous BAMN protesters stormed into a nearby cafeteria and proceeded to loot it. The cafeteria called the State Plate is owned and operated by Patrick McGlinchey. In an interview with NRO, McGlinchey, who happens to be blind, estimated that the protesters who “stampeded” into his cafeteria caused him to lose between $300 and $500 worth of food and beverages. The Detroit Free Press later reported McGlinchey’s loss at approximately $600.
NRO attempted to get BAMN’s side of the "Plate" story. Donna Stern, the East Coast/Midwest coordinator of BAMN who had been present at the demonstration, however, declined to comment. She explained, “I’m not really interested in talking to anyone from the National Review,” because “anything you write is going to be extremely slanderous.”
BAMN truly does believe that it is deceptive for opponents of racial preferences to call themselves civil-rights advocates. But the MCRI ballot and petition language could not be any clearer: It says plainly that the state and its agents “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” This text is on the petition that was freely signed by hundreds of thousands of Michigan’s citizens. The only deception comes from BAMN itself, whose spokesmen would have you believe that such equality under the law is incompatible with civil rights. The now-famous phrase “affirmative action” originated in 1965 in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Executive Order 11246, which required government employers to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” Notice that “without regard” bit at the end. What would BAMN have said about that?
Despite BAMN’s obstinacy, there is cause for optimism about MCRI’s chances of getting on the ballot. The Michigan courts have reliably ruled in favor of MCRI in the past, and they now have plenty of time to adjudicate the matter before the 2006-election deadline. Then, finally, Michigan’s citizens might get the chance to enter the polling booth, tune out the radicals, and decide for themselves how they define "civil rights."
Anthony Dick is an associate editor at National Review.