When last we heard from Wisconsin, Roger Clegg, the mild-mannered, scholarly president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, had provoked a riot of pro-racial preference liberals there by visiting the state to discuss CEO’s studies demonstrating massive racial discrimination by the University of Wisconsin. He must have put something in the water (or beer) while there, since now even a Democrat there has surprised, shocked, and angered her party colleagues by introducing a measure in the legislature to eliminate race or ethnicity as factors in awarding state education grants.
“The bill at the heart of the latest debate,” the Associated Press reported,
originally made largely technical changes to a $4.4 million program that extends between $600 and $1,800 grants to the most needy and educationally disadvantaged students attending college in Wisconsin. About 4,300 students qualify every year.
Applicants must be poor and a nontraditional student. To be a nontraditional student, the applicant must meet one of several criteria including being in prison, a first-generation college attendee or black, Indian, Hispanic or Hmong.
The amendment removed being a minority as one of the qualifiers for the grants. It was adopted on a 57-34 vote with all Democrats voting against it except [the amendment’s author, Milwaukee Rep. Peggy] Krusick.
“The proposal,” the Associated Press article continued, “made around 11 p.m. Tuesday, elicited a furious response from Democratic opponents.”
That fury is quite revealing about how most elected Democrats understand (or don’t) equality these days:
• According to Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, “What [the proposal] is is racism in its highest institutional level.” Moreover, she charged, “You are making it plain as day that your priority is to get the minorities out of the system.
• Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, “called the proposal a ‘racist race to the bottom’ that will result in minorities losing access to jobs.”
• Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, another Madison Democrat, pronounced herself “disgusted by what happened in the Assembly….”
[The Republicans, she continued] have chosen to divide our state repeatedly, by pushing right-wing social measures and attacking the economic security of middle class families. The ‘highlight’ of this jobless special session was the surprise stripping away of educational opportunities for young people of color.”
• WUWM, Milwaukee public radio, made it sound like minorities were being excluded from the grants: “Assembly Set to Vote on Amendment that Would Disqualify Race and Ethnicity When Awarding Specific Higher Ed Grant.”
• Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, is “concerned” about the proposal “because one of the challenges that we have all across the UW System, and for colleges and universities in general in Wisconsin, is making sure that minorities and people of color have access to higher education.” Richards, like most elected Democrats evidently believes that prohibiting preferential treatment of minorities denies them “access” to higher education.
• Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, found it “absolutely breathtaking to witness the total disregard for people’s lives.”
• Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, the Assembly’s only Latina, believes the requirement to treat applicants without regard to their race or ethnicity is “divisive and certainly mean-spirited” and “what it’s going to do is make it more difficult for promising young Wisconsinites to access a higher education…. Basically it discourages young Wisconsinites from going to one of our wonderful UW schools or technical colleges.”
Rep. Krusick, the proposal’s author, patiently explained that her purpose was to make the grant program more, not less, inclusive. “Many people, regardless of minority status, are poor,” she said. “And the intent of this amendment was for inclusivity for all.” Belief in colorblind inclusiveness, however, may now result in her expulsion from the Democratic party in Wisconsin, since Rep. Zamarripa told a Madison radio station “that she would support removing Krusick from the Democratic caucus.” And Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee, sent Krusick a letter asking her to stay out of Democratic strategy sessions. “We’ve all got to be one and vote that way,” he said in an interview.
Ironically, both Rep. Krusick’s admirable attempt to prohibit racial and ethnic discrimination and the predictable eruption of fury the prospect of colorblind equality provoked among the Democrats may both have been unnecessary. According to Kevin Ingram, director of the Wisconsin Educational Opportunities Program, racial preferences were already in the process of being eliminated. “The changes have come about as the result of a complaint that was filed with the U.S. Department of Education. And that was done on (in) September 2006,” he said.
According to Ingram, the complaint alleged white students were discriminated against when it came to TIP grants. Back in August of last year, the state reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to remove race and ethnicity from the list qualifications. However, the change has yet to trickle through formally, but should soon.
In fact, according to a Nov. 4 Associated Press article the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board has just announced that “it hadn’t used race as a factor in awarding the grants since August 2010,” leading the Chronicle of Higher Education to report that the furious debate over race “was needless.”
I disagree. I think it’s quite useful and instructive to see the depth of the Democrats’ devotion to racial preferences and the anger, bitterness, and sense of betrayal they express when one of their own surprisingly demonstrates a lingering commitment to the principle of colorblind equality.
Moreover, there is some room to question whether and when race was actually abandoned as a qualification for state grants. The 2010 population of Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Census, was 86.2% white, 6.3% black, and 5.9% Hispanic. “As of last February,” WUWM reported, “just over 51 percent of the grants went to minority students while nearly 49 percent went to whites.”
John S. Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.