Jewish World Review Jan. 17, 2003 / 14 Shevat, 5763

Michelle Malkin

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Next: Get rid of racial boxes | President Bush has spoken. Giving 20 bonus points to public college and university applicants just for being black, Hispanic, or Native American is "divisive, unfair, and impossible to square with the Constitution."

This is a vital step forward and away from the Clintonian social engineering regime, under which the Reno Justice Department consistently sided with the racial bonus point-givers. (For a quick refresher, Internet users, Google "Sharon Taxman," "Piscataway," and "Deval Patrick.")

But Bush's announcement is only a teeny-tiny step in the right direction. In 2001, this administration, not Clinton-Gore, backed the federal government's payment of cash bonuses to highway construction firms that accept bids from companies owned by members of certain minority groups. (See "Randy Pech" and "Adarand.")

And in his remarks Wednesday on the University of Michigan case now before the Supreme Court, Bush voiced continuing support for the Clinton-Gore-Reno fantasy that government-engineered racial diversity can and should be achieved "without using quotas" or other unconstitutional means. As examples of model programs, Bush cited public university admissions plans in his home state of Texas and his brother Jeb's state of Florida.

As I've noted before, W.'s "10 percent" and Jeb's "20 percent" plans are the same old, tired racial-preference policies disguised under the slipcover of "compassionate conservatism." Jeb's "Talented 20" program, for example, guarantees state university admission to the top 20 percent of students in every Florida high school senior class.

That percentage - that, ahem, quota - was engineered to ensure no net loss in minority enrollment in the state university system.

Although many observers have focused on the effects of Jeb's "One Florida" program for university admissions, the plan actually expands racial preferences in state hiring and contracting. Despite Jeb's ostensible commitment to nondiscrimination, he advocates "enhancement of minority business development through financial and technical assistance programs that target the legitimate development needs of emerging minority businesses, minority construction firms and minority franchisees."

In other words, more color-coded government aid.

Instead of encouraging minority businesses to compete on their merits, Jeb Bush pledged to "reduce the red tape in the minority certification process to encourage more minority businesses to become certified." But why should they certify by racial status in the first place? Because, Jeb Bush openly admitted, "My plan is not race-neutral. . . . Race-consciousness is appropriate."

The vast majority of Americans of all races and ethnicities reject race-consciousness in public life. Voters in multiracial California and liberal Washington state did just that when they passed ballot initiatives banning government racial preferences in 1996 and 1998. Nevertheless, the president (and his brother) continue to spurn one of the conservative movement's greatest, modern-day civil rights heroes, the man behind those ballot measures: Ward Connerly. Jeb Bush helped sabotage Connerly's effort to pass an anti-racial preference initiative in the Sunshine State; the president has avoided Connerly like the plague.

The victory against racial preferences in Washington state, which I witnessed firsthand, was stunning. Connerly, founder of the American Civil Rights Institute and a California university regent, helped Initiative 200 overcome slimy, deep-pocketed opposition from the business, civil rights, and media elite. It garned a whopping 58 percent of the vote, with substantial support from Democrats, independents, and women.

Connerly's latest crusade has similar wide appeal. The Racial Privacy Initiative would bar California government officials from requiring people to check off their race when they apply for a job, register for school, or have a child. It would abolish those oppressive little boxes that encourage college applicants, for example, to cram themselves into one of a litany of categories, including African American," "American Indian/Alaska native," "East Indian/Pakistani," "Chinese/Chinese American," "Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Pacific Islander," "other Asian (not including Middle Eastern)", "Mexican American/Chicano," "other Spanish American/Latino," "white/Caucasian (including Middle Eastern)," and simply "other."

Such intrusive government bean-counting for the purpose of awarding race-based bonuses, to use President Bush's words, is "divisive, unfair, and impossible to square with the Constitution." The time for Connerly's prescription is at hand: To prevent the government from boxing Americans in, throw away the boxes.

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JWR contributor Michelle Malkin is the author of, most recently, "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores". To comment, please click here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate