Ward Connerly and the Psychosis of Race Relations in America

In an effort to keep balanced, I offer this article in the Wall Street Journal by Ward Connerly to give voice to the various perspective and sides on the issues of race and justice.

Ward Connerly is the former University of California Regent and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, a national non-profit organization in opposition to racial and gender preferences.


I’m not so sure we can conclusively translate the statements made to say, “Mr. Obama supports race preferences.” I would caution us on that kind of extrapolation without a stronger understanding of the whole of Obama’s thinking and reasoning, and not just take Connerly’s word for it. I concur that if the policies and initiatives that he promotes or opposes continue to perpetuate a value for preferential treatments, we are perhaps not heading in the right direction regarding race relations in this country. That being said, I do want to at least validate Connerly’s interpretation, as he is much more schooled in this area than I. So, I cautiously withhold strong judgments regarding these issues, again, listening carefully to each side.


What I still cannot help but think, and even believe, is that these kinds of initiatives (such as Affirmative Action) have arisen out of a deeply damaged past. That which has been created in this country regarding race is something deeply disturbing and highly complex. Addressing it by simply saying, “it’s time to move on,” I think misses a big psychological phenomena that is plaguing American blacks (especially), and perhaps other races.

I know not of what I speak, as I have not done extensive research. I’m in the midst of ministering with (and to) many African-Americans (and if you’ve read previous posts on race on this blog, I am at a very diverse congregation). And I’m attempting to become more educated each day. So, as I listen, the fight between the races is disturbingly dissonant. What I mean by that is that many argue among academic lines (initiatives, legislation, etc.) while the other voices argue along personal and psychological lines (thinking, perceptions, etc.). And, I would include a third category that suggests many have simply lost their voice.

Take for example the Billy Cosby controversy (MSNBC’s article, and his speech at the NAACP). It was met with a strident resistence. He was even called a “race traitor.” Why is it that someone, even, quote, “on the inside,” of the injustice/race issue, was ostracised by many in his community for his approach towards improving his racial community in this country? Why was Cosby, no doubt a victim of such racism, as well as what many would call a “success” out of such realities, called out like others as an “Uncle Tom?” (book here)

This post could get long. At this point, I simply am investigating something deeper in the psychology of this issue, both on the white side and the black side that has caused a unique kind of racial tension, different than what we see in other parts of the world. My theory thus far takes into account

  • the specific treatment of blacks in American history
  • the mix of the “American dream” and other distinctly American values such as “the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • second to that, the value of “rights” in America that
  • the distinctly consumeristic, Westernly driven culture of individualism.
  • the reality that many in this country do “make it.”

I guess I’m suggesting that all of this put together (and others that I’m still discovering) creates a potent racial cocktail that is making the entire country a bit tipsy with this issue, and few are able to speak to it without that disturbing dissonance.

About VIA



  1. I guess I have a problem with what Ward Connerly is pushing. And I have a problem with a statement of yours which is “I concur that if the policies and initiatives that he promotes or opposes continue to perpetuate a value for preferential treatments, we are perhaps not heading in the right direction regarding race relations in this country.” The problem I have with Ward and with your statement is that this country has a continual preferential treatment which is given to whites. So exactly what preferential treatment are you speaking of? The one that whites continue to receive in this country regarding employment, education and healthcare or the perceived preference of affirmative action?

    I can’t understand why people continue to talk about preferential treatment in accordance with affirmative action yet somehow overlook the preferential treatment that the dominant white community bestow upon their ranks. I hope I am not to believe that white preferential treatment is no longer an issue. And if it is then what do you or Ward Connerly provide we do about it? Will ending affirmative action which benefits white women more than anyone else and looking the other way regarding white preferential treatment somehow end the latter? Because the last time I checked white preferential treatment has not yielded nor ended.

    With Bill Cosby, it is not the fact that he is successful nor that he speaks to the black community about the things he does which makes him a tom. What makes the man a tom is that he consistently speaks to some unknown fact that blacks are the ones holding themselves back. That blacks just won’t go get an education or get a job. The AMA (American medical association) recently admitted that yes they have been keeping blacks from obtaining the status of doctor. Does Bill Cosby really think this group is alone in that endeavor, of course not.

    So he was awarded his title of tom for not only talking to blacks as if they are a group of idiots that need his chastising. He points the finger and says things that for one is not founded in truth and can be pointed out in most if not all races in this country. I believe that black people are tired of the old pick yourself up by your bootstrap talk. We have been hearing this since our chains were loosened and we were left to our own devices without a dime, clothing, homes or any other resources when slavery ended.

    So for anyone to say that it is just a matter of picking yourself up when you have organizations admitting that they are and were placing road blocks in the black races way to stop them from getting ahead should speak loudly that there is a bigger issue at hand. Bill says nothing when the cops or others in positions of authority are caught once again abusing blacks. He says nothing disparaging about the dominant community at all. That is what makes him a tom. Where is he to admonish the AMA for their underhanded deeds? He is nowhere. He only wants to chastise blacks and give any and everyone else a free pass on their transgressions. So it is without wonder that this man is considered a tom.

    Nothing in any of our communities happens in a vacuum. We can’t continue this you over there lift yourselves up by yourself while we utilize government and helpful peoples resources to help other communities within the dominant communities ranks to help pull them up. With this type of schism within our country how can we expect to be one united America when two distinct Americas exist.

  2. VIA


    Thank you for your very respectable and engaging comment. Other dialogues I have had in the past are much more virulent, and I appreciate your tone as well as your defense.

    Do you have a citation for the AMA’s admittance? I would love to be able to substantiate that in writing, or some reference.

    Thank you for your clarification on Cosby, and it helps me to understand a bit more about the reasoning and definitions behind the words/terminologies. I think your explanation opened a new window of understanding for me, and for that I’m grateful.

    As for preferential treatment, I simply refer to its existence, for any race/color, and agree with you that it still exists in its base racial ways. I hope you hear from me that any expression of this kind of racism is appalling and against the kind of justice we’re all fighting for.

    The problem, however, that I am learning more about and point out in this post, is that preferential treatment seems to be expressed differently, and in diverse ways, and therefore causing, again, the “dissonance” that I referred to in my post. I believe it is true, that in today’s society (with some still extant exceptions in the south where there are still segregated bathrooms/swimming pools, etc.) any preferential treatment for whites is illegal (though it was not so in past American history). We have come a long way in American history towards writing down, and putting policies in place that explicitly state that racial preference is illegal and intolerable. However, no matter what is written, it will still exist in “non-written,” and (for lack of a better term) “under-the-table” ways. My feeling, is that to combat this kind of racism with litigation, policies, referendums that offers preference on the other side, doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate way of addressing these very pains/evils that we are attempting to extricate from our society. It is fighting this kind of evil with the same kind of evil (or, at least it could be perceived in that way). Again, this is simply a question in my mind, and something I admittedly am learning and discovering more about every day (your comment being a contributor).

    As for “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps,” I agree with you. That kind of “preaching” doesn’t seem to address the fullness of the issue. And while I’m not ready to call those who perpetuate this kind of thinking “Toms,” I am willing to say that it falls short of all that needs to be done regarding the race issue in America.

    Lastly, I concur that nothing happens in a vacuum, which is why I am wrestling with this issue in diverse ways (through the books listed in my last posts, listening to white and black friends of mine, researching the history, and watching programs, etc.) This problem isn’t simple; neither, then, is the solution. And if we care about this, we will think through all aspects of it. I agree.

    I would suggest, however, that your very last comment about “how can we expect to be one united America when two distinct Americas exist,” may need to be adjusted (and I may be overly picky on the terminology). According to the US Census Bureau, Hispanics now make up the largest minority group in America. Black/African-Americans are second, Asians are third (4.4%). If one community sees America as only “two,” then I would suggest that’s a myopia that needs to be adjusted if we really are to see our country as “one.”

    Perhaps one of the best ways of combating racism, is for each of us, no matter what race we are and no matter what injustices are done to us, would take up the cause for the other. This is one of the values for my VIAlogue, which is to believe that the teaching “to love your neighbor as yourself” is not just good religious piety. It is actually sociologically revolutionary. I commend this kind of love to all of us as the solution to the problem.

  3. Thank you for your answer. First of all let me give you a link to read a news account of the AMA http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-apology-ama-10-jul10,0,3416190.story

    Then let me say that in my last comment about being two America’s I don’t mean a black and a white America. I mean a minority and a white America. I can no more throw Hispanics in with the white community than I can any other minority.

    I understand that preferential treatment for whites is illegal, but it is just like saying that murder is illegal. We all “know” it is but it still happens as with white preferential treatment. If you can have a company sitting in an area such as Houston with a large minority population and they have over 1000 employees and you can count on one hand all the minorities working there, then there is a big problem. I am sorry but you can’t sit on the old adage of “no minorities were qualified”. Not in todays world, there would have to be more than a handful of blacks who are qualified.

    Not only that but look at all the fortune 500 companies and take a look at how many blacks are in the executive management of these companies. Not nearly enough to have an excuse for it. These are the preferential treatments that I speak of. I have worked in an office where each black applicant was met with the statement of “there is just something I don’t quite like about them”. And of course a company of 500 and there were 3 blacks in the whole office and during that hiring session no blacks were hired even though they did have the best qualifications at the time. I am sorry it is stuff like that which we see all too often.

    Don’t get me wrong I by no means meant that by saying pull yourself up by your bootstraps makes you a tom. I was saying the combination of the things he (Cosby) was doing made him a tom to a lot of people. We definitely need to start loving thy neighbor. We need to think about how we spend our tax dollars and why they seem to funnel into certain areas of the each city yet other areas are falling to the ground.


  4. VIA


    Thanks for your clarification on the two Americas. That is helpful, and most definitely apropos. Same with your explanation of the Cosby discussion.

    It sounds like we agree on the existence of preferential treatment. What may need clarification is that I’m suggesting that perhaps Affirmative Action, which seems to legislate preferential treatment, is not the appropriate or even best response to it. I in no way want to dismiss the importance and the reality of racism in corporate America (and the rest of the country), but if it truly is on a “feeling” and subjective sense, as you mention above, then a different approach to the issue may be more efficacious. I suppose I’m leaning again on the adage, “you can’t legislate morality.” In other words, the heart must be moved by things other than mere legislation, and even if legislation did make a difference, would that difference be of the right kind, and of the lasting difference we all strive to realize?

    Again, thank you for your gracious and thoughtful engagement on this issue.

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