BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Ward Connerly, author of "Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences," what do you want to accomplish with this book?
Mr. WARD CONNERLY, AUTHOR, "CREATING EQUAL: MY FIGHT AGAINST RACE PREFERENCE": Several things. I think, first of all, I want the American people to confront the issue of race. I want them to understand that race is a 19th century social construct that we're using in the 21st century for purposes of public policy, and we need to get out of that mode. Second thing is I want black people to start being more self-reliant, to realize that we can't keep looking in the past. We had a black middle class long before affirmative action; we will have one long after affirmative action. And that is my major concern: to make sure that black people break this--this cycle of emotional dependency on somebody else.
LAMB: Where do you live?
Mr. CONNERLY: I live in Sacramento, California.
LAMB: How long you been there?
Mr. CONNERLY: I've been there about 40--well, since '45, 1945, and I'm 61 years old almost. So I've been there most of my life, about
50--54 years, I guess, 55 years.
LAMB: What took you there?
Mr. CONNERLY: After my mother died when I was four years old, my grandmother dispatched me to live with an aunt and uncle, and we went to Seattle, Washington--Bremerton, actually--and lived there for about a year. And then my uncle left the Puget Sound naval yard there and went to work in Sacramento, outside of Sacramento and Grass Valley, piling lumber. And so I went to Sacramento with my aunt and uncle. Then my grandmother moved to Sacramento, and I subsequently moved in with her.
LAMB: There's a point in your book where you talk about the memory of your mother is her laying in a coffin. At what age?
Mr. CONNERLY: I was four years old.
LAMB: What did she die of?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, she died of--they said a stroke, but many members of my family believe that it was more physical abuse from my father, candidly. And she had been in a car accident and had a plate in her head--a steel plate in her head, but the official reason for dying is reported to be a stroke.
LAMB: And that memory, do you still have that today ...
Mr. CONNERLY: Yeah. Yeah. It's--I would never allow someone to go--a kid to go to a funeral of his mother where th--where there's an open casket. It is--it is something that never leaves you. You can always see that. And I can see myself holding my cousin's hand, Ora, and having myself ask Ora, `Where's--wh--where's my mother going?' And she said, `She's just going away.'
LAMB: You also tell a story about catching up with your father years later.
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes. My father lived in Leesville, Louisiana, and he left the household when I was two years old and fought the custody battle over me when my mother died. My grandmother prevailed and was made my legal guardian, but I never saw my father again until The New York Times did a profile of me, Barry Berack, and he called me one day and said, `Guess what? Are you sitting down?' And I said yes. And he said, `Your father's alive in Leesville, Louisiana. He's very ill.' And I said, `Well, that's interesting.'
And I wanted to dismiss it from my mind, but I also wanted to close the loop. And I was giving a lecture at Tulane University, and I decided that I would go and just see him, more out of curiosity: `What does he look like? What do I see in him that I might see in myself?' And I saw him and kind of closed that chapter of my life a
few months before he really--before he died.
LAMB: You confronted him.
Mr. CONNERLY: I confronted him, and I asked a few questions. I asked, `Did you ever think about me? Did you ever try to get in touch with me?' I'd written him one letter when I was in high school, when I needed some money to buy some books. The letter was never answered, but I asked him questions and all of them were no, no, no. And finally, my stepmother kind of intervened and said, `He doesn't know what you're talking about.' And so I just kind of visibly said, you know, `You're right,' and let it go. The questions were not fully answered. I wanted to ask, `Did you really beat my mother?' But I just let it go because what--what can I accomplish by verbally beating up an on--on an 83-year-old man? And I had to consciously bring myself to the point of saying, `It's over. Let loose of it. Don't--don't be angry with him. Nothing's accomplished by it.' And I closed--I closed escrow on that relationship.
LAMB: What about the combination of your mother and father? What were the backgrounds--the race backgrounds?
Mr. CONNERLY: My father was part Indian and part Irish and part of African descent. My mother was part French Canadian, part Irish, part Indian. And the--the--the African descent was on my father's side, not my mother's side.
LAMB: Now you talk about the one-drop thing here i--in the book. Why is it that if you have any black blood in you, you're a black person?
Mr. CONNERLY: I think society imposes that restraint on us, and that's why I'm so offended by the term affirmative a--African-American, because it's so loosely applied. Someone could be mostly Indian or mostly Irish, but if you have one drop of black blood, the presumption is that you want to be or that you are African-American. Black people have no choice in the matter. Others--no one presumes that you're--if your skin is white, that you're Italian or that you're Irish or Scandinavian or anything else. But if you're black, the presumption is you're African-American. And I have a problem with--I have a real problem with that. And if we're going to get beyond race, we're going to have to confront that. I think most black people don't like the term African-American, but it's been imposed on us by our society, and it's something that we, frankly, are almost incapable of--of bucking.
LAMB: Where did it come from?
Mr. CONNERLY: The term African-American?
Mr. CONNERLY: I've been told that Reverend Jesse Jackson is the one who sort of coined this term, and it has stuck ever since. I don't know. One never knows about these things, but that's the genesis of it, as far as I've been able to determine.
LAMB: Is he what you would call in your book a civil rights professional?
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes, he is. Yes.
LAMB: What does that mean?
Mr. CONNERLY: It means it's someone who earns their living dealing with issues of race. Civil rights to me are rights for everybody; it's not just rights for black people, although we tend to think when we hear the term civil rights, `Oh, that's for black people.' Reverend Jackson, to me, is someone who is professionally--it's his profession, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense necessarily, but I think that the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, Reverend Jackson, Al Sharpton--all of them are part of kind of an industry, frankly, that deals solely with race. And I haven't found many industries that like to work themselves out of business.
And it--it's a serious matter in America because we have become so polarized with people making us so conscious of race that it sort of seeps out of every pore. And I frequently think that the rank and file do not agree with those in the industry, but our voices can't drown out those who are in the--in the industry.
LAMB: Why did you use the Chris Rock quote about Jesse Jackson, and what was it?
Mr. CONNERLY: When I was on the "Chris Rock" program, Chris Rock beat up on me, frankly, by--by saying that I was the only black man he knew that didn't hate white people. And then he went on to say that midgets and--and bald people need--need--need affirmative action. At the end of the show, however, Chris Rock said that, `I agree with you. I agree with you half--I agree with half of what you say,' and we talked about that. But during the show, Chris Rock said--or another show involving Jesse Jackson, he said, `Reverend, what is it that you do? What do you do to earn a living?'
And it was a poignant question because it kind of revealed what I'm talking about with this civil rights professionals. The--it's an industry. And Chris Rock is able to get away with that because it's humor, and everyone laughs at it, but beneath that laughter is a very substantive question, not only directed at Reverend Jackson—he has--certainly has a right to do what he does and--but one needs to understand the motivation and--and the consequences of someone who is constantly prodding and asking people to be conscious of their--quote, "their race."
LAMB: Wh--what was your reaction when Jesse Jackson called you `strange fruit'?
Mr. CONNERLY: First of all, I wasn't sure what he meant. I'm--I'm a fan of--of jazz, and I remember the Billie Holiday song about strange fruit, about black people being lynched and twisting in the wind, and I wasn't sure whether that was a death threat or whether he was saying I should be lynched or--or what. But my reaction was that it was—it was an inappropriate phrase, but, frankly, I didn't know what he meant. To this day, I don't know what he was--whether--whether his motives were pure or whether he was suggesting foul play that should be visited upon me or--or what.
LAMB: Toni Morrison called you `a white man in black skin.'
Mr. CONNERLY: No, no. Toni Mor--I was saying that those like Toni
Morrison would call me a--a--a black man--a white man in black skin.
LAMB: It says, `Bill Clinton's views had led him to be praised by such people as novelist Toni Morrison as our first black president, while mine had led people of Morrison's political outlook to attack me...'
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes.
LAMB: `...as a white man in black skin.'
Mr. CONNERLY: Right.
LAMB: What--the--but you do have another quote by a congressman--Congresswoman Brown saying you're a `freak of nature.'
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes. I think that she was saying that--that I am a black man who doesn't comport with--with the--the mold and, therefore, I'm a freak here. I'm--I'm supposed to think black, whatever that means; whatever the conventional thought is of black people, I'm supposed to go along with that. And throughout my effort to restore what I regard as a fundamental American principle, I've had to endure these attacks from the civil rights professionals: that I'm an Uncle Tom, I'm a sellout, I'm a freak of nature, I'm a house slave, I'm a puppet of the white man.
All of these things are suggesting that all black people are supposed to think alike. Our society would not tolerate that if it were somebody who was white hurling that kind of invective at somebody. We'd say that they're racist. And, yet, these folks can get away with that, with no one challenging what they say. During the 209 campaign, there was a black state senator that said I had no ethnic pride, and I didn't like being black because my wife is white, just unbelievable things that are said that--that they get away with.
LAMB: What was 209?
Mr. CONNERLY: Proposition 209 was an initiative in California that I chaired, which said that the state 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 public employment, public contracting and public education--simple 37 words. It's almost identical to the Civil Rights Act of '64.
LAMB: When did it pass?
Mr. CONNERLY: It passed in November of 1996.
LAMB: By how big a margin?
Mr. CONNERLY: 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent.
LAMB: Do you have any breakdown on how the minorities voted?
Mr. CONNERLY: Black people voted about 24 percent in favor of Proposition 209. Those of Mexican descent voted about 24 percent in favor. By way of comparison, Bob Dole got about 9 percent of the black vote during that campaign and about the same percentage of--of--of--of Latino, Chicano vote. So while those numbers, 24 percent, are nothing to run home about, it is far more than one would have expected.
LAMB: What's I-200?
Mr. CONNERLY: I-200 is a clone of Proposition 209 that passed in the state of Washington in '98--November of '98, and it passed by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.
LAMB: Any other states active right now with an initiative of this kind?
Mr. CONNERLY: We're in the state of Florida and trying to get it on the ballot there, and we're meeting with resistance from the Republican Party because they say this is divisive. And I don't knowwhat public policy issue is not divisive, but they say it's divisive. We're being held up in the courts. The Florida Supreme Court has to review the language of the initiative and conclude that it represents a single subject, and we had our hearing on that about a week ago—two weeks ago, and we're awaiting a decision from the Florida Supreme Court.
LAMB: You s--paint a--a picture of a meeting you had at the White House with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. When was that?
Mr. CONNERLY: That was in '97, after Proposition 209 passed, and the meeting was, I believe, in December of '97. And we had been--I and a number of others, the Thurnstroms and Elain Shau had been invited to that meeting, largely because our voices had been left out of the debate of the national dialogue on race that the president had created. He had created this race panel, and all of those on the race panel were those of like mind. And the press really just ate him alive with that and said that this was a monologue rather than a dialogue. And so the president invited a number of us, quote, "conservatives" to the White House, to the Oval Office, to meet with him and to discuss our views on the subject of race.
LAMB: There's a quote in your chapter when you talk about this: "God help us if Gore gets to the Oval Office."
Mr. CONNERLY: Vice President Gore--and I don't want to sound partisan, but he frightens me. The way he's conducted himself on the issue of race is, I think, abhorrent. The debate that was at the Apollo Theater between Vice President Gore and--and former Senator Bradley was, I think, one of the low moments in American politics, the way that people were crassly appealing to people on the basis of their skin color, on the basis of their race.
I--maybe naively, but I believe that our goal in this nation is to get beyond this and to have people--elect folks on the basis of what they offer, not on the basis of what they're going to do for me because I'm a black man or whatever. And I really felt that was one of the low points in American politics, and Vice President Gore has consistently, in my view, set us apart by appealing to people on the basis of race.
LAMB: But when you're in that meeting, you're watching Vice President Gore and President Clinton up close. What were the differences that you saw in the two men?
Mr. CONNERLY: Several differences. President Clinton is a very warm man, very charming guy, and I don't know whether it's real or manufactured, but the reality is that you feel a certain closeness to him. I know why black people like Bill Clinton, because he seems to just genuinely like people. And it comes through. It just seeps out of everything that he is.
Vice President Gore, on the other hand, it seems to me that it's all artificial, it's all contrived. It's--it's trying to be like Bill Clinton, but not quite succeeding at doing it. And in the meeting, he made a statement about all of us, by human nature, being prone to prejudice and being mean-spirited people; that only the government could protect us from ourselves. And I disagreed with him at that meeting, and I said, `I--that's truly a frightening concept.' I think the whole foundation of our democracy is that we're good people. And w--not all of us are good, and we don't always do good things, but we are capable of doing good things. We are, by human nature, good people who simply need to be shown the way frequently. But we're not mean-spirited people.
LAMB: But on the other hand, in here, you paint a picture of your attitude toward the Bushes, both Jeb Bush in Florida and George W. Bush, as--you're not all that excited. I mean, they--you had some--you have some problems with them.
Mr. CONNERLY: Yeah. I think that frequently the only thing that rivals the exploitation of race and the demagoguery of many Democrats is the cowardice of Republicans to confront the issue. And I'm a Republican, but I'm not proud of the way that my party has confronted the issue of race. It has frequently refused to take a principled stand. It has--even on things like the Confederate flag. I think it should come down, and I think that most Republicans believe it should come down, but the party has not distinguished itself in taking principled stands and defending those stands.
We are too timid, too afraid to say what we believe, and I think that compassionate conservativism has too often been a cover, simply a device to avoid saying what you really believe. And I have a problem with that. I have a serious problem with it, and I've endorsed—I candidly say I've endorsed George W. Bush, but I still reserve the right to try to make him a better candidate.
LAMB: But talk through that--that whole series of attempts to--you to get to see him in--in Texas and the Karl Rove relationship and—and the meeting you had with him in California. What was that all about?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, one of my allies in this equal rights movement is Dusty Rhodes, and...
LAMB: Who is he?
Mr. CONNERLY: Dusty is the president of National Review. And Dusty and I thought that we really needed, as partisans candidly, to at least give George W. Bush a heads-up on what this ini--what the initiatives that we're pursuing--what those initiatives are all about, and we concluded that I would at least let him know that I was going to be trying to get an init--initiative on the ballot in Florida, and we were trying to get legislation passed in the state of Texas, in—in Houston in particular.
So we called Karl Rove and suggested a meeting. Calls weren't returned, at first. Then I called Don Evans, who is the finance chair of George Bush's campaign and who is also one of my counterparts on the Board of Regents, University of Texas Board of Regents. And I'd met Don a couple of years ago. Don set up a meeting, said that the meeting would take place. Scheduling secretary for George W. Bush calls and confirms the meeting. Then I get a call withdrawing the invitation.
I go down to of--Austin in connection with something else. I run into George W. Bush. Governor Bush says, `I've got to get you down here, Ward, buddy. You and I need to meet.' My staff calls Karl Rove. Karl Rove then calls me and says, `We will have that meeting. It will take place when the governor comes to California. I want you to travel with him.' I have yet to hear from him. The governor has been there a zillion times, gone back. The meeting has never taken place, and I believe it will never take place because I don't fit the theme of someone who is a unifier, not a divider. And being seen with me, as some have suggested, somehow suggests that it's a contradiction for him to be a unifier and being seen with this guy that is trying to roll back preferences. I'm not seen as being inclusionary enough. So I don't think that that meeting will ever take place.
LAMB: Is there a similarity between his relationship with you and AlGore meeting with Mr. Sharpton at his daughter's apartment in New York, no--no cameras, no--no photographs? I mean, they--do people play these kind of games where they don't--I--I noticed one of your consultants in here said, `Don't ever be s'--you--`never be seen with Jesse Helms.'
Mr. CONNERLY: Sure. Sure. People play those games all the time. And, you know, I'm--I'm absolutely certain that if a meeting could be arranged in the dark of night through the side door, it would probably take place. But I'm not really of a mind to do that. I think that, as a matter of principle, the position I stake is the majority view. It is consistent with the Constitution. It is the Civil Rights Act of '64. It is the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, I shouldn't hide. I'm not--I shouldn't be seen as someone who has to sneak in through the back door in order to give my point of view.
And I just want the governor, who, I think, on his worst day would be a far better president than Al Gore, in my view, to stand for this principle and to embrace it and to be proud of it and to convince the American people and especially black people that, in the long run, this is our only salvation to be one nation.
LAMB: Should anything be done in any way, from the government's standpoint, for people who are not white in this country?
Mr. CONNERLY: I think that the government should do thing for th--things for those who are economically disadvantaged. I don'tthink that we can, quote, "level the playing field." We can't narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots, nor should we try. But we should certainly do everything that we can to make sure that people who are on the outside looking in have a chance to compete, that they have a chance to get an education, that we encourage them about the importance of it, that we realize that not everybody's going to go to college. And we should do everything that we can to make sure that they can lead productive lives, be good engineers or good architectsor good plumbers or good electricians. Give them a chance to make something of their lives.
Yes, I think that government has a real role there. I'm not anti-government. I just don't think that we should make those decisions on the basis of race.
LAMB: Who's this picture of right here?
Mr. CONNERLY: That picture's of my father and I. I'm the younger guy on the--on my left, and the--that's my father when I went to visit him back in--when I went to Tulane back in 1998.
LAMB: Who raised you?
Mr. CONNERLY: My grandmother and my Uncle James and my Aunt Bert.
LAMB: You have a quote for--about your Uncle James in here. I'm not sure I can find it fast enough, but it--it's something to the effect that, `The best man I've ever known,' or...
Mr. CONNERLY: He was.
Mr. CONNERLY: He was not a very well-educated man--u--man. Uncle James was a man who never got past the third grade, but there was never a day in th--in his life when he didn't work. No job was too difficult. No job was--no day was too long. He was a man who did not speak very good English; had a great repertoire of four-letter words, but just a salt-of-the-earth type who always wanted me to have my shoes shined and make sure that the car is clean and the yard is mowed and I fed the dogs. Basic values, but he really believed in his
nation. He wanted to work hard, wanted me to work hard, love country-western music, loved Limbaugh, but a guy that just really said, `Don't let anybody push you around. Don't--don't expect anybody to give you anything either,' and just a great man, the father that I never had.
LAMB: How long did you live with him?
Mr. CONNERLY: From 1946 until 1951 or '52. Then my grandmother came and got me, and I moved in with my grandmother.
LAMB: What did you learn about race from him?
Mr. CONNERLY: You don't judge a book by its cover; that everybody has within him- or herself elements to do foul things and elements to be good people, but you just ju--judge everybody the way you want to be judged. A very basic value: Treat people the way you want to be treated.
LAMB: What kind of home did they live in?
Mr. CONNERLY: Very middle-class--low middle-class home. For a while there, I was the only one in the house until my cousin, Phyllis, was born. And Uncle James was a working man. He piled lumber for a while, and then he dug ditches for Teichert Construction Company. He would come home at the end of the day, at the end of the week, and he'd endorse his check to Aunt Bert and take him 10 minutes to sign his name on it, but come home and maybe have a beer or something and go out and feed the dogs and go hunting. You know, he loved to hunt. And just a--just a--just a salt-of-the-earth kind of a person.
LAMB: Was the neighborhood mixed?
Mr. CONNERLY: No. On our side of Rio Linda Boulevard, it was largely black, but on the other side, which is where the school was, it was largely white. But the lines were blurred. The lines were very blurred. It was not a hard segregation. It was not imposed by any government. It was just you knew where the black people were and you knew where the white people were. Some of my best friends during that period--and I don't say that with that old `my best friends are white' cliche, but, in fact, they were white. And my best friend was Chinese. But we were a very--at school, we were a very mixed group. Lines were not very well-defined along--along race.
LAMB: And where did you go to school in Sacramento?
Mr. CONNERLY: I went to North Avenue Elementary School and then to Del Paso Junior High and then to Grant Union High School. And after that, I went to American River Junior College for two years and ended up being the valedictorian there and senior class president. And then I went on to Cal State-Sacramento, Sacramento State College, which was a four-year institution.
I went to American River because that's all I could afford. I had the grades; I was a good student, a very good student. But at that time, people from UC did not come to Grant Union High School to recruit us, and I did not have transportation. And so I had to go wherever the carpool went; there were four of us in Del Paso Heights that wanted to go to college, and all three of the others only qualified for American River. And so my fate was dependent upon the person who had the wheels.
LAMB: You tell a story about a little white girl that came to your defense.
Mr. CONNERLY: Mildred Tittle. Mildred Tittle was--was a little girl with pigtails--two pigtails in the back. And I was standing outside this home of a--an elderly white guy that had an enormous walnut tree, and every year, the wind would blow and the walnuts would fall on the public side of the fence. And I was walking along one day with my lunch pail, and I stopped to pick up walnuts. And this big, burly fellow runs down the sidewalk and says, `I caught ya, you little nigger. You're taking my walnuts.' And I'm standing there kind of shuddering, and Mildred walks up and she said, `You leave him alone. My father said that anything on this side of the street we can have.' And she said, `Come on, let's go.'
She didn't know me and I didn't know her, but from that day forward, Mildred and I were the best of friends. We walked to school together, and--and a lot of the black kids in the neighborhood didn't like me being seen with Mildred, and they didn't like--the whites didn't like Mildred being seen with me. And she often received the taunts of `nigger lover' and--and--and the like, but Mildred was, indeed, a good friend.
LAMB: Who's this?
Mr. CONNERLY: That's my grandmother, Mary--Mary Sonea; Miss Mary as they called her in the--in the neighborhood.
LAMB: What'd you call her?
Mr. CONNERLY: I called her Mom.
Mr. CONNERLY: She was the only mother I had.
LAMB: And when did you move in with her?
Mr. CONNERLY: I moved h--in with her in 19--the early '50s. I forget exactly when. But Mom came to Aunt Bert's house and Uncle James' one day and said, `Baby, we've--we're going to move into our house now.' She'd gotten a $3,500 loan at Dolan's Lumber Company, and she'd had a house built, a little two-bedroom house, and it was about six blocks from where I lived. And Mom got the loan, $35-a-month mortgage payment--Mom got the loan, and when she got the house built, as my legal guardian, she fully expected that I would live with her. And I did. And she came and got me, and my Uncle James was not a happy camper about that, but nonetheless, Mom prevailed.
LAMB: What was all that doing to you, moving around?
Mr. CONNERLY: I didn't want to move. I didn't want to leave my Uncle James' house. I--I liked the security of having a man in the house and Uncle James--I just liked it. He was the kind of guy that you could not help but like. And I didn't want to go, but Mom put her foot down and she insisted, and she usually got her way, and this was one of those times when she did. But I didn't like it at all. I didn't want to move.
LAMB: But you made a decision at a point about welfare, and I want you to tell what that decision was, but what do you think kicked in there? Why were you--why did you do this?
Mr. CONNERLY: The very values and the cockiness almost, but the sense of independence that Uncle James and Mom had instilled in me--and my Aunt Bert as well--had instilled in me kind of kicked in. Mom was--was born in 1890, moved to California 1950 or so. She was too young to go on--on Social Security, but she was too old to go out and work. And so she was selling eggs, getting extra money. She had a little money that she'd acquired from the sale of the restaurant and bar that she'd owned in Leesville, and that money began to run out.
Mom then got the loan for the house. We moved into the house, and shortly after that, Mom was broke and she was borrowing money from the church poor folks' fund. And that money began to--to a--accumulate, and she had to pay it off. And she brought me in one day and she said, `Baby, we're going to have to go on public assistance.' And we did. And every month, we would have a social worker that would come to the house, and we'd have to fill out the forms and fill out a budget of where the money is going to go the next month. And we were getting $60 a month.
And something kind of snapped in me one month, and I--she came out, and I had to fill out these forms. And something just snapped. I felt that it was demeaning. And by this time, I'm 14 or 15, and I'm feeling my Wheaties as a young man, and I just got up and walked out the door--just walked out the door, and I said, `I'm not taking this anymore.'
And I went down to see Mr. Lester Brown. Mr. Lester Brown was a black man that was--that was one of the stock clerks, if you will, at one of the downtown clothing stores in Sacramento. And there was a very close relationship between blacks and Jewish people in Sacramento. Most of the Jews owned a lot of the clothing stores in downtown Sacramento. And Mr. Brown was kind of the talent scout. He knew where there were eager young men to work, and--and I knew that Mr. Brown was my door-opener.
So I went to see Mr. Brown. The next day, he'd found a job for me and told me to go down and see Manny Schwartz down at the Fabric Center, which I did. And I got a job. And I got that job earning 65 cents an hour. And instantly, I went from $60 a month on welfare to $80--over $80 a month working--as a young man working after school as a stock boy, 65 cents an hour. And that was the--from that point on, I've been on my own ever since then.
LAMB: How do you make a living now?
Mr. CONNERLY: I have a consulting business in Sacramento. We work with a number of trade associations. We are their staff. We administer a lot of housing repair programs in which we originate mortgage loans for people. Very successful business. I'm--I'm very pleased with my life there.
LAMB: Who's Dr. Robert Thompson?
Mr. CONNERLY: Dr. Robert Thompson was my political science professor in--in college. He has since deceased. But Dr. Thompson was--was the man that kind of gave me my political bearings. To this day, I don't know whether he was a Democrat or a Republican, but I will never forget the counsel that he gave me in making sure that I constantly re-examined why I believed certain things. Dr. Thompson was one who said that we all have a knower. And you--you--you ask me why I believe something and I can't give you a logical answer, but I just know. `My knower tells me,' Dr. Thompson said. And he always said, `Be guided by your knower, Mr. Connerly.' And he had these glasses on his nose. And he'd said, `What does your knower tell you, Mr. Connerly?' And--and I would say, `Well, I don't know.' He says, `Well, what does your knower say?' And it's that internal compass, he says, that we all have that guides us. And it's an accumulation of acquired instinct and knowledge and everything else. But it's--it's something that I consult often.
LAMB: Who are the people in this picture right here, and when did you first meet them?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, the guy on the right, my right, is yours truly. That's my wife, Ilene. That's Gayle Wilson and that's Pete Wilson, a former governor of California. I met Pete in 1968, December of 1968, when he tried to recruit me to be the--the--when he not only tried, but he did recruit me to be the chief consultant to his Housing Committee when he was in the Legislature. I met Gayle, his wife, back in 19--I guess it was 1990 when Pete was running for governor of California. And Ilene, of course, I met back in 1961 when she and I were on the campus at Sacramento State College.
LAMB: What impact did meeting Ilene and then marrying a white woman have on both your families?
Mr. CONNERLY: Initially, neither of our families liked that idea very much. But one of the--and I would add that my grandmother quickly came on board--mom didn't want me to marry anybody at that stage because she felt that that was going to derail my career. My in-laws were not pleased with this idea, and one should understand why. This was in 1962. They were both born in the Midwest and the--and the South, Arkansas, and--and the idea of their daughter marrying a black guy was something that they had never been prepared for, believe me. And Ilene, who is as strong as an oak tree when it comes to her beliefs, stayed the course. We got married. And with the fullness of time, my in-laws and I have become very close. It was not bigotry that guided it. It was just that with which they were unfamiliar. And it took some time for them to come around, but it restores my faith and my optimism about people and how people can grow and how we should not write people off because they happen to take a position at one stage of their life and believe that they're irrevocably trapped in that--in that one position. But I love them dearly and I know that the feeling is--is mutual.
LAMB: Have you personally ever benefitted from affirmative action?
Mr. CONNERLY: You know, I don't know. I know that--that I did not benefit when I applied to college. I went to American River Junior College and anybody can go there. I didn't benefit when I went to state college. I know that I have not benefitted in my--in my business, despite the fact that some of my opponents try to suggest that I have. But I also know that I probably would not be on the Board of Regents, were it not for the fact that Pete Wilson wanted to, quote, "diversify that board." Board of Regents is a volunteer appointment, however. You serve about 20 years--20 hours a week. It's almost a sentence, a 12-year sentence, if you will. Volunteer, unpaid. But it has opened up a lot of avenues for me. And I'm--I'm almost confident that race played a factor. That is affirmative action. I'm not sure that one can say that is a preference. That is affirmative action.
And that really raises the question as part of the debate: What is affirmative action? It comes in so many different forms. It's looking around, making sure that you're not discriminating. It's advertising properly. It's looking at the pool in a--in a broadened sort of way. It is also giving extra points to people, it's lowering standards, it is different things. I'm not an opponent of affirmative action, per se. I'm an opponent to different standards being applied to people on the basis of their skin color.
LAMB: How long have you been on the Board of Regents?
Mr. CONNERLY: Since 1993. And I will be on until 2005.
LAMB: How many are on there?
Mr. CONNERLY: Twenty-five, including the governor and the lieutenant governor and the superintendent of public instruction.
LAMB: What's your responsibility?
Mr. CONNERLY: Now I'm the chair of the Educational Policy Committee of the board.
LAMB: But what's it govern?
Mr. CONNERLY: Oh, we govern the entire UC system, eight undergraduate campuses, five medical schools, three labs. It is a huge multibillion-dollar enterprise, one of the greatest in the world.
LAMB: How many students go to the University of California?
Mr. CONNERLY: I think currently, there are about 60,000, somewhere in that vicinity, I believe.
LAMB: SP1 and SP2?
Mr. CONNERLY: SP1 is a resolution that I drafted in 1995 that prohibits the university from the consideration of race and sex and color, ethnicity and national origin in admissions. SP2 does the same thing in the areas of public employment--or e--emloyment in education at the university.
LAMB: And how hard was it to get those resolutions passed, and why did you do it in the first place?
Mr. CONNERLY: Extremely hard. I did it because I felt the university was breaking the law. The Bakke decision back in 1978 said that the university could use race as one of many factors in the interest of achieving diversity. It did not allow us to be giving extra points to people on the basis of race. Just flat-out booster points, if you will, on the basis of race. It did not allow us to apply different standards to people on the basis of race. We were doing all of those things. And I felt that we were a lawsuit waiting to happen. I felt that affirmative action, as we were practicing it, was marginalizing high-achieving black kids who were on campus, who every day wear that stigma that they're there because somebody gave it to them, rather than their earning it like everybody else. And I think it poisons the relationship between students who--and their parents, who every time they get a letter that says, `Sorry, you were not admitted because we're trying to achieve diversity,' that turns a lot of people into instant racists, in my view.
LAMB: `Look, you don't tell me what to do,' I interrupted him, `and you don't tell me who to talk to.' You remember that?
Mr. CONNERLY: This was my response to Roy Brophy.
LAMB: Let me read it again. `Look, you don't tell me what to do,' I interrupted him, `and you don't tell me who to talk to.' Who is Mr. Brophy?
Mr. CONNERLY: Roy Brophy was--he's no longer there, but he was a senior member of the Board of Regents. He was presiding over one of the committees at the time that I first came to the Regents meeting, my first meeting at the Board of Regents. And the students demonstrated and the--the meeting broke up and Regent Brophy took them all--all the regents into the back room and I stayed out with the student regent to talk to the students, find out why they're protesting, to hear what they had to say. And when I got back into the lounge, the regents lounge, Regent Brophy said, `When I say the meeting is over and we come into the back, you come into the back.' And I said, `Look, you don't tell me what to do. You don't tell me who to talk to.' And our relationship was strained from that moment on.
LAMB: Who makes up the board? Who are some of the people? I mean, I know that one of the names that you--you use a lot is Meredith Khachigian, whose son Ken Ke--who is...
Mr. CONNERLY: Husband.
LAMB: ...husband Ken Khachigian, wa--worked on the McCain campaign and then worked for Nixon and worked for Reagan. But--but who else is on there?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, there are--Sherry Lansing is on there, appointed by Governor Davis, an excellent appointment. Judith Hopkinson, a prominent Californian. People who are on the Board of Regents are typically large donors to the governor or they're very close friends of the governor or they're--somehow are connected. I mean, that's the reality. You don't get appointed to the Board of Regents, which is next to the Supreme Court in California, the most prestigious appointment a governor could make, 12-year appointment. You don't get appointed to the governor of--to the Board of Regents unless you have some connections, close connections, to the governor. And all of those on there can trace some connection, very close connection, to the governor, whomever that governor might be, whether it's Wilson or Deukmejian or Jerry--Jerry--or Gray Davis.
LAMB: Who's Clair Burgener?
Mr. CONNERLY: Clair Burgener was a former congressman who was on the Board of Regents after he left the Congress. He was the chair of the board at the time that I started working on SP1. And, in fact, it was Clair Burgener who got me into this stuff because Clair was the one that called me and asked me to meet with Jerry and Ellen Cook, whose son had been denied admission to the UC medical school, and Clair wanted to get my take on whether they had a legitimate beef. And so I met with--with the Cooks and heard what they had to say, and they presented some very compelling evidence that their son had been discriminated against by the--by the university.
LAMB: Did--were they surprised when they met you and they saw that you weren't white?
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes. They didn't know that I was a black man. And they walked in and what Jerry tells me is that when he saw me, he thought that he'd been set up, that he'd just been shuffled along to a guy that was going to hear what he had to say and pat him on the head and never--never to hear from it again. So it was a total shock to him to find out that I was a black man.
LAMB: Had his son been discriminated against?
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes, without a doubt.
LAMB: What proof do you have?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, as--as you look at--as you look at the facts, here is a young man who lives across the street from the University of California at San Diego medical school. He has been admitted to Johns Hopkins Medical School as one of two Californians to be admitted. Arguably...
LAMB: Out here in Maryland?
Mr. CONNERLY: Yeah. Arguably one of the most difficult, most rigorous medical schools in the world to get into. He's admitted to Harvard MIT. He is denied admission to every one of our UC medical schools. Yet, he is Phi Beta, he is a student who gets a graduate degree from Caltech in one year. He is active in every kind of venture you can name, extracurricular. He speaks five or six different languages. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that this student was discriminated against.
His father gathers all of the data from all of the students who applied for admission to UC's medical schools. He gathers the data by race, by gender, by income, by what school they attended. He puts this on a scatter plot, and the scatter plot shows that the students who are being admitted, who are underrepresented minorities, are in the top 1--or the bottom 1 percentile of all of those who have--who--who were applying to the--to the medical school.
So there was no doubt in my mind that, in fact, there had been discrimination used. When we gave that--when Clair and I gave that information to the administration, the administration said, `Well, race is only one of many factors.' They never said that race was not being used; it was one of many factors. But you could not--you—look at that data and not conclude that if that young man had been black or Latino, he would have been in the--admitted to the medical school in a heartbeat.
LAMB: Clair Burgener got you in it, but what happened at the end?
Mr. CONNERLY: Clair bailed on me. One night, I was calling--I—I called Clair just before the vote came up and we were talking about it. And Clair said toward the end of the conversation, `You better not count on my support.' And I was devastated. I was devastated. Here I'm in the biggest battle of my life. Oh, I'm only in it because Clair had gotten me involved in it as the chair of the Finance Committee, and then when he said, `Don't count on me,' knowing that he had access to the same information that I did, knowing what I'd gone through in taking all the slings and arrows that I'd taken, for him to say, `Don't count on my support' was--was shattering.
LAMB: You have a statistic in the book that in 1994, only 500 of 18,000 blacks in California qualified to go to the University of California.
Mr. CONNERLY: Five hundred and forty-four out of 18,000 black kids who graduated from high school. Only that number were UC eligible. By way of comparison, out of about 19,000 Asian kids, about 8,000 of them are UC eligible. There is a profound academic gap between black and white, black and Asian. And it's because of that gap that universities have to use race in such a violent sort of way. And until we narrow that gap, we're going to have a difficult time making sure that there's a critical mass of black kids at our universities. But it seems to me that we should be working on narrowing the gap, not giving preferences to artificially narrow that gap.
LAMB: What was the time frame on SP1 and SP2 before the Board of Regents that you had in order to get it passed? How many months?
Mr. CONNERLY: Well, I started working on this in January of '95. And I had announced at the board meeting in January that I would like to have a study of our admissions policies and how we use race in employment and contracting at the university. And if I'm not satisfied that what we're doing is the right thing to do, I'm going to offer my own resolutions. So between January and June, the Office of the President gave us a number of reports on how we're using it in employment and how we're using it in contracting and in the graduate schools, in the professional schools and the like, none of which was compelling, none of which justified the use of race. The university changed some of its policies. Those faculty positions that were targeted for--for certain people, based on race and gender and contracts that were set aside, they--they--they terminated all of that. But I was not convinced that we wouldn't simply go back to the old ways without changing the policy itself.
LAMB: In the end, what was the vote?
Mr. CONNERLY: The vote was 14-10 in favor of SP1 and 15-10 in favor of SP2.
LAMB: Jesse Jackson came?
Mr. CONNERLY: Jesse Jackson came, Willie Brown came and Tom Hayden came. It was--it was like a who's who of the--of the left side of the aisle.
LAMB: How do these folks treat you up close?
Mr. CONNERLY: Guarded. They--they're not as vicious up close. They--they don't believe as strongly, privately, in what they say as they do publicly. Privately, they will say to me, `We know that you're probably going to win at the end of the day, but we still need to level the playing field.' They concede the moral argument. It's a one of tactics, of whether now is the right time. And it's too soon now and there's still racism out there and--and all of those reasons. But many of them, we get along. We speak. And our paths don't cross that often. We run in different circles.
LAMB: You found when you went to campuses, University of Wisconsin, Emory--Emory you say was your worst experience?
Mr. CONNERLY: Emory was terrible. Emory was just unbelievable. The--there were a number of students there who were determined that I wouldn't speak. And there were a number of outside people who weren't students, just--just protesters who came in, and their mission was to make sure that Connerly isn't heard. And anything I said that was--you know, `Are you oreo?' or `You're spitting on Dr. King's grave,' or `You're throwing rocks on Dr. King's gave.' And--and it was--it was scary. It was one of the worst experiences I've ever had. And I--and--and y--it made you wonder whether they'd ever heard of the--of free speech in America. It was scary.
LAMB: SP1, SP2, Board of Regents, then Prop 209--what was the difference in time frame there?
Mr. CONNERLY: The vote by the Regents was July 20th, 1995. And Proposition 209 passed, November 6th, 1996. So about a year and a half.
LAMB: Once again, though, you find yourself at odds with some of your own Republican friends.
Mr. CONNERLY: Yes. My problem there was with the national party that tried to help us and almost imperiled 209 because they waited until the middle of October to take a position. All through September and August and much of July and much of October, Bob Dole didn't take a position on this issue. He tried to avoid it. And then at the 11--at the 11th hour, took a position on it. The party ran an ad that involved the likeness of Dr. King, giving his famous `I have a dream' speech, and thereby suggesting that somehow Dr. King would have supported 209. I'm not sure that he would have. I almost doubt that he would have. And so it was disingenuous at best to be invoking Dr. King's name in--in a political campaign. It--it wasn't right to be invoking his name. He's dead; he can't speak for himself. And we don't know what his position would have been.
LAMB: But you said that John Harrington pulled the rug out from under you at the last minute with money for ads?
Mr. CONNERLY: John Harrington...
LAMB: And who--who was he?
Mr. CONNERLY: John was the chair of the California Republican Party. And I had raised a ton of money for the party with the expectation that a fair amount of that would come back to us to help us put on our own ads. We had ads cut. They were in the can and ready to run with them, great ads. And at the--oh, two weeks, three weeks before the election, John called and said, `Ward, I'm cutting off your line of credit,' and stopped giving us money at that point. And we had no way of getting our ads on. And we argued about that and John said, `Don't worry. Your ship's coming in,' whatever that means. And I subsequently announced that if 209 was defeated, I would personally blame John Harrington and the Republican Party for--for creating that problem. I--I don't want to be too harsh on John because John was simply doing what the party demanded that he do, what the candidate demanded that he do. But it really--it really put the initiative at risk.
LAMB: Names in here--Rupert Murdoch, gave you a lot of money.
Mr. CONNERLY: Rupert Murdoch gave $1 million to help--what he thought would help Proposition 209. He gave it to the party and left it up to me to try to get some money from the party. And the party ended up giving me about $250,000 out of that $1 million that I raised, and I don't know what happened to the rest, but we didn't get it for 209.
LAMB: Steve Forbes gave you money.
Mr. CONNERLY: Steve Forbes helped us in Washington state. And without Steve Forbes, Washington's I-200 probably would not have made it to the ballot.
LAMB: The name Bill Press is in your book. Some people that watch "Crossfire" and CNN probably see him from time to time. What was he doing there?
Mr. CONNERLY: Bill Press was the head of the California Democratic Party, and really did not think that the civil rights initiative of California would bode well for Democrats, and had urged his party to stay away from it because he thought it was going to drag down the Democratic Party. Bill is a pragmatist, and he wanted to make sure that--that the coattails of 209 did not carry along in the opposite way the Democrats.
LAMB: Now this is one of the first books by Encounter Books.
Mr. CONNERLY: I think it's the first book.
LAMB: Why Encounter Books? Who is it?
Mr. CONNERLY: Encounter Books was created by the Brodley--the Len and Harry Brodley Foundation to make sure that people that are more conservatively inclined have a voice. They believe--to get their words out. And it is an excellent house. Mine, I believe, is the first book that's put out. Peter Collier is the--is the publisher of--a brilliant--a brilliant writer. And they made a deal that I couldn't refuse, and namely to make sure that the book would be publicized, that it would have appropriate resources from the publicist and--and the like, and they're just an excellent, excellent house.
LAMB: Also, money from Richard Mellon Scaife.
Mr. CONNERLY: I received money from Scaife.
LAMB: You say that Shelby Steele and Tom Sowell are two of your favorite philosophers, but you've never met them?
Mr. CONNERLY: I've never met them.
LAMB: Either one of them?
Mr. CONNERLY: Either one of them. I've talked to Shelby over the phone. I've received letters from Tom Sowell. But long before I ever entered the field of battle, just as an ordinary businessman who would read in his spare time, I read Steel and Sowell and I--I just--there's something about their writing that seems so logical and--and so coherent. And they've--they've been a lot of the emotional fuel that I've had to call upon.
LAMB: How long are you personally going to keep this up?
Mr. CONNERLY: Probably not more than two or three years. I find myself being drained right now. It's--it's--it's a draining experience. Every day of your life, you're--you're on stage almost, having to fight people and to--and to justify your right to speak. And it drains you. And I--I pray to God that the US Supreme Court rules on this decision quickly.
LAMB: Here's the book. And our author is on the cover of this book called "Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences." Our guest has been Ward Connerly. Thank you very much.
Mr. CONNERLY: Thank you.
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