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Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2002 / 14 Adar, 5762

Joel Mowbray

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Consumer Reports

The Audacity to Be Black and Conservative -- THIS afternoon, Sen. Ted Kennedy and his Democrat cronies on the Senate Education Committee may put their liberal racism on display once again at the confirmation hearing of Gerald Reynolds, whom President George W. Bush nominated to head of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. Reynolds' crime? He has the audacity to be both black and conservative, a mortal sin in the eyes of Kennedy and Company.

Reynolds has waited patiently for the better part of a year for the opportunity to respond to the often-ludicrous attacks that have been lodged against him. Critics have brazenly attempted to smear him by distorting his record, even resorting to outright fabrications. In the end, however, the charges won't stick because Reynolds is too thoughtful and articulate to be reduced to a mere caricature.

So-called civil rights groups have primarily assailed Reynolds for his supposed opposition to affirmative action. But Reynolds supports affirmative action, just not racial preferences. When I interned at the Center for Equal Opportunity, he was the first person to teach me the crucial distinction. Affirmative action, he noted, was originally intended to increase recruitment of minorities but had been bastardized by the left, becoming a racial spoils system that perpetuates race-consciousness.

Reynolds' position is not extreme in the least. He supports President Bush's plans for affirmative access and outreach to expand opportunities for minorities in educational admissions. His views are actually in sync with the mainstream of public opinion. Americans inherently want fairness, which is the essence of Reynolds' belief system. True affirmative action promotes opportunity while still embracing colorblindness, whereas racial preferences treat people differently according to color of skin, while having the unintended consequence of stigmatizing beneficiaries.

Realizing that attacks on affirmative action grounds would not be enough to sink the nomination, opponents have enlisted the help of feminists by setting up a straw woman over Title IX, which mandates gender-equality in athletics. Last summer, Kennedy's office put out the word that Reynolds opposes Title IX and would "soften" enforcement, even though Reynolds has never said anything publicly on the issue. In fact, from past conversations I have had with him, I have every reason to believe he would fulfill his duty to uphold existing law.

Considering that opponents have to stoop to making up charges out of whole cloth, one has to wonder, what's the real reason leftists are targeting Reynolds? He is a victim of what Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once dubbed "the new intolerance," the attempt to castigate and ultimately silence any black American who dissents from the traditional civil rights establishment. Reynolds stirs up so much resentment because he dares to stray from the leftist orthodoxy that all people of color must hew to the liberal line.

It is a testament to Reynolds' strength of character that he has steadfastly refused to allow leftist elites to define, intimidate, or silence him. But this refusal is precisely what makes him such an anathema to Kennedy and his minions.

Liberalism is the last refuge of racist scoundrels. It focuses solely on skin color, to the exclusion of all other human characteristics. No matter what someone of color has accomplished, he or she is still classified first and foremost as a member of a racial group.

Depending on which minority group to which one belongs, the left expects, no demands, that that person conform to a predetermined, monolithic worldview. But Reynolds does not fit the stereotypes upon which leftist philosophy is based, which is why leftists, white and black alike, deem him to be a traitor to his own race by virtue of his conservative beliefs. It's a shame that opponents are so blinded by their contempt for what Reynolds represents that they have failed to see the person he is.

Reynolds is a skilled attorney, who has experience both in private practice and public policy. As legal counsel for Center for Equal Opportunity, he exposed the race-conscious admission policies at various universities. As president of Center for New Black Leadership, he strongly advocated community-based affirmative action that helps people in need, without regard for color of skin. As a person, Reynolds is an "education father," with a 7-year-old daughter in a charter school and a wife who heads up the parents' association.

If Senate Democrats can look past Reynolds' skin color and grant him a fair hearing, they will undoubtedly vote to confirm him because of his impressive track record and immense talent.

The real question is: Will they?

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© 2002, Joel Mowbray