-----Original Message----- From: Mike Cole [SMTP:mcole at weber.ucsd.edu] Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2000 12:15 AM To: xmca at weber.ucsd.edu Subject: one of the other horsemen
>Date: 4/26/00 11:45:56 AM
>Subject: FW: An Evening With Ward Connerly
>[The Black World Today]
>An Evening With Ward Connerly
>By Kimberley Lindsay Wilson
>Several weeks ago I, along with my husband attended a book signing
>for Ward Connerly and his new book Creating Equal. For those, who
>don't know Ward Connerly is the black University of California
>Regent who agitated for the abolishment of affirmative action in the
>university's enrollment policies.
>After winning that fight he went on the become the chairman of the infamous
>Proposition 209 committee. Proposition 209 struck down affirmative action
>for the entire state. He then took his show on the road landing in
>Washington State and now in Florida. Needless to say, Connerly has
>made a lot of enemies. He's been publicly denounced as an Uncle Tom,
>and Oreo and basically everything but a child of God.
>I've said and written some harsh things about Connerly so when one
>of the several women's organizations I belong to announced that they
>were sponsoring a book signing for him at their DC headquarters I
>was extremely curious to see the man in person to hear what he'd
>say. My husband and I arrived 20 minutes early for the 7 o'clock
>event and right away we noticed two peculiar things.
>First, the room was hot, steaming actually. I watched, fascinated as
>huge sweat beads formed and rolled down the bald head of an elderly
>man sitting in front of me. When I asked about lowering the
>temperature I was told by the nervous looking hostesses that the air
>conditioning was so loud it would drown out Connerly's voice and
>that they could not open the windows.I realize now that they were
>probably afraid that the voices of chanting protesters would be
>heard with open windows but as it turned out they needn't have
>The second strange thing of the evening was the total absence of any
>black people. Except for the black receptionist and the Hispanic
>janitor we met downstairs my husband and I were the only people of
>color in the building. The folks in the meeting room were all white
>and mostly middle aged to elderly. If we were any where else I
>wouldn't have noticed but this was downtown DC! Washington or
>Chocolate City as it is also known, is home to some of the most
>educated, well-to-do and conservative blacks in the nation.
>Of course, it's a democrat stronghold but it's not all that shocking
>to come across a black Republican here. Didn't Connerly, have any
>black friends who wanted to come out and see him? Later, when I sat
>down and read his book I realized that the answer is probably no.
>Connerly's relationships with DC's two most famous black
>republicans, Colin Powell and J. C. Watts is prickly in Powell's
>case, extremely strained -- at best. Both men dared to challenge
>Connerly's optimistic belief that white America is ready to be
>completely color blind and he hasn't forgiven either one.
>After filling my plate with finger food I shamelessly eaves dropped
>on the conversations going around me. A tall, regal looking woman
>with a Frosted helmet of red hair and a St. John suit leaned over me
>to air kiss a Wizened old man sitting behind me. "Ward is a dear
>friend of mine," she told him, "I wouldn't have missed this for
>anything!" A youngish woman in a Chanel suit and fierce Prada shoes
>cooed, "I just love Ward. He speaks for us!" I glanced at my husband
>who raised his eyebrow. The question we were both thinking was "Us?"
>Being polite guests we said nothing. While filling my water glass I
>listened to a reporter from the Washington Times ask a red faced man
>in a Versace tie why he was there. "Ward's an old buddy of mine from
>way back!," as the proud answer. It was obvious that this was going
>to be a lovefest.
>Finally, Connerly entered the room and made his way up the aisle to
>the podium. He stopped to hug and be kissed by quite a few folks and
>glanced nervously at us. I wondered if he thought we were going to
>jump up and yell traitor at him. In his speech he almost immediately
>mentioned once again that his wife Ilene is white. Since half the
>brothers in the NBA, NFL, MLB and even the NAACP have white wives I
>wondered why it was necessary to bring this up. Later, Connerly
>answered my unspoken question. He said frankly that he rejects the
>concept of race. I think he actually just rejects the concept that
>pride in one's own blackness is a good thing. He states proudly on
>page 19 Creating Equal that "Left to their own devices, I believe,
>Americans will melt and merge into each other" and "Since they first
>set foot on the shores of the New World blacks and whites haven't
>been able to kept their hands off each other."
>Like many other blacks who aren't satisfied with the skin they're in
>Connerly felt the need to remind his audience in both his speech and
>in great length in the book that he is simply an American with brown
>skin. On page 24 he says that "I'm black the way the way that Tiger
>Woods and so many other Americans are black-by the "one drop rule."
>In other words he's black only by means of a man made technicality.
>He then launches into a tedious description of his family tree.
>Connerly proudly claims his Cajun, Irish and Choctaw Indian
>ancestors. He pointedly states that his great grandmother was an
>Irish woman and that his grandmother looked more Indian than black.
>In the speech and in the book he praises only one black man: His
>Uncle James. As the only black man who had any kind of positive
>influence on young Wardell, (Connerly dropped the "ell" when he went
>away to college), it's obvious that James must have been something
>Connerly mentioned his enduring friendship with former California
>governor Pete Wilson in the speech and devotes a lot of time to it
>in the book. Not once did he mention any black friends. The one
>childhood pal who gets a mention in the book is a little white girl
>with freckles and red hair.
>The black kids in his neighborhood are described as backwards and
>tribalistic. Apparently not one black teacher or adult outside his
>family made an impact on him. He talks warmly about his white
>teachers, the elderly Jew who gave him his first job and the kindly
>white bus driver who drove a little slower each evening so young
>Wardell didn't have to run to catch his bus on the way to work. His
>family moved to California from Louisiana when he was just a young
>boy and apparently except for elderly or lower class whites no-one
>appears to have mentioned his race to him at all!
>The Civil Rights movement was just something that was happening down
>South. He seems to have never listened to a Motown album or picked
>up a copy of Ebony magazine. The few times he does bring up blacks
>adults who weren't family members the tone is dismissive. His
>mother's funeral and going to his grandmother's church on Sunday are
>described like primitive rituals straight out of National
>Geographic. Somehow I don't think he's ever had Hoppin' John on New
>Year's Eve or been to a Guardsmen, or Boule party or attended a Step
>show. I suspect a plate of chitlins would send him screaming into
>Connerly's adult life began when he said good-bye to his grandmother
>and went off to college. There he met his future bride and despite
>her parents initial opposition they were married in 1962. He met
>Pete Wilson and got into politics. This relationship with Wilson was
>a boon to his
>construction business, although Connerly denies it, and led to his
>appointment as a University of California Regent. This is how he met
>Jerry and Ellen Cook.
>The Cooks were college professors who wrote the Cook Report which
>claimed that black students were being admitted to UC with lower SAT
>scores than whites. They were hardly objective scholars, however.
>They started looking into black grades because they were angry that
>their son, James hadn't been accepted to any of the California
>medical schools he had applied to. Young James was accepted into
>Johns Hopkins, the best medical school in America but Johns Hopkins
>is all the way in Baltimore and poor young James wanted to attend
>school in California near his folks. Instead of telling the Cooks
>that it was time to cut the apron strings to let their little boy
>Connerly was outraged. Black kids took James' place? How terrible!
>The movement that led to Prop. 209 was born. When Connerly told this
>story in his speech I noticed heads in the audience bobbing in
>approval. When the speech and the question and answer session were
>over he received a thunderous applause. I bought the book, since
>that is what book signings are for and took it up to his table to be
>signed. Having seen that my husband and I weren't dangerous he
>smiled warmly at me and wrote a nice little note on the book's front
>Later, as my husband and I stepped into the blessedly cool night we
>both agreed that we understood why Connerly was so hated. He is a
>revolutionary. His way of thinking is quite unlike anything we'd
>ever heard from a black man. We both wished that we hadn't been the
>only blacks in the room that night. Why? Because Ward Connerly
>should not be ignored. His voice is powerful and he is both a
>comfort and touchstone to whites who would turn back the clock on
>He does not understand black people or sympathize with us in the
>least and he seems to be banking on the day when we will all simply
>slip into whiteness as he has done. At the end of the book he talks
>about the birth of his granddaughter and exults because her tiny
>little fist next to his brown skin was as "white as snow." I almost
>quit reading at that point but kept on. On the final page of the
>book he asks bookstore owners and librarians not to put his book in
>the African American section.
>Ward Connerly's book left me feeling more sad than angry. I wondered
>what the hell happened to young Wardell Connerly. How on earth did
>he loose the unparalleled joy of loving black people and living life
>as a black person?
>Strange fruit is what Jesse Jackson called him. Strange fruit indeed.
>Kimberley Lindsay Wilson is a freelance writer living in Alexandria.
>She is the author of Work It! The Black Woman's Guide to Success at Work.