Memorializing A Dragon-Slaying and A Civil Rights Movement Reborn

In 1996, Californians passed by a wide margin a citizens’ ballot initiative, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), also known as Proposition 209, that disallowed use of race and sex preferences by state and local governments in hiring, public contracting, and admissions to public universities. Authored by philosopher Tom Wood and anthropologist Glynn Custred, it was carried into battle and on to victory by a small posse led by Ward Connerly, a businessman, strategist, and University of California regent. A quarter century later, the perennially race-obsessed California legislature, backed by many establishment elites and moneybags, put forward a ballot initiative, Proposition 16, that would have repealed the CCRI. This was slapped down hard on November 3, with the anti-preferences citizenry winning by an even wider margin than they did in 1996.

This time, victory came from a coalition of several civil rights organizations that called itself Californians for Equal Rights (CFER). Ward Connerly served as its president and Wenyuan Wu as its executive director.

There have appeared many excellent articles celebrating and memorializing this victory, but none better than this November 20 piece by Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal:

The Duo That Defeated the ‘Diversity Industry’

Californians rejected racial preferences even more soundly this year than in 1996. Will the Supreme Court reverse itself next?

The article attracted more than 400 comments online. Almost all are very positive, many thanking Connerly and Wu effusively, and several praising the writing of Varadarajan as well.  Other comments offer important additional information and perspectives. My favorite: “CONNERLY AND WU 2024 !”

Collectively, the comments show how worthwhile the efforts of CFER and its supporters have been. The comments gauge accurately a positive direction in the national mood. They give great moral support to many egalitarians and civil rights advocates more accustomed to being censored and attacked. Thus a selection of several dozen of the online comments has been appended to the reformatted version of the article linked above. Also, the online WSJ version of the article is accompanied by a video of Connerly testifying before the U.S. Congress in April, 1996, with recent comments by Wu interspersed in his presentation. Click here to view said video.

Preparing for the long haul, CFER leadership has just reconstituted the organization as a foundation. It has a new website, new agenda and new leadership, with Frank Xu as president, Gail Heriot as vice president, Sage Conroy as secretary, Nelson Zhang as treasurer, and Wenyuan Wu continuing as executive director.

There will be no rest for weary dragon-slayers, however. Powerful interests and 43 percent of the California electorate still oppose the letter and spirit of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the California Constitution.

And those powerful interests include virtually 100 percent of the political appointees who govern higher education in California – the University of California board of regents, the California State University board of trustees, the California Community Colleges board of governors, and the chancellors, presidents, and central administrations of 149 campuses. Until that number gets closer to 43 percent, the citizenry will suffer from an extreme lack of equity in these councils of power.

Worry for the people; cry, the beloved state.

Image: Hl. Georg und der Drache by Paolo Uccello, Public Domain


Stuart Hurlbert

Stuart Hurlbert is professor emeritus of biology at San Diego State University.

2 thoughts on “Memorializing A Dragon-Slaying and A Civil Rights Movement Reborn

  1. I am a retired USMC officer/aviator and corporate pilot. I am now a consultant for the USN. Life, at it very base, is about competition. This is true when our bodies are trying to fight off a disease or when great powers are trying to influence world events. Civil Rights provide us, in the United States, a level playing field for competition. The question is, what is “a level playing field”? California voters resoundingly told us that nothing but individual capability should be considered, e.g. everyone gets a level playing field. This is not to say that we shouldn’t help those in need of financial aid, etc. but rather, what it means is that in California, and the nation, there should be a single standard; that regardless of race, gender, (or for that matter any other identifier such as religion, etc.) we all get the SAME chance to compete. In fact, a reading of our history tells us that this core principal is why our nation came into existence in the first place. “…that all men are created equal”

  2. Thank you, Dr. Hurlbert, for your thoughtful and truthful analysis of a movement reborn. I hope in time we will redeem your trust and faith!

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