The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a ballot initiative to eliminate affirmative action programs in Michigan, is being supported by at least two white supremacist groups active in the state. The Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are both actively encouraging their members to vote in favor of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative when it appears on the ballot on November 7 and organizing to build further support for the initiative. Ward Connerly has even had his picture taken shaking the hand of Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens leader John Raterink (Raterink has also subscribed to the newspaper of the neo-nazi National Alliance:
The Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, an affiliate of the national Council of Conservative Citizens, has taken an active role in supporting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. As of October 13, 2006, the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens’ website has a large banner encouraging people to “Vote YES on Proposal 2.” This encouragement comes along with at least one public rally held on July 30, 2006 in Jackson, Michigan to promote the passage of the MCRI. At the rally, members of the Council of Conservative Citizens held signs reading “Stop Gov’t Racism” and “Stop Racist Quotas” while planning to hear from United States Taxpayers Party candidate for Attorney General Chuck Conces. In addition, the group has organized at least two meetings to discuss “upcoming ballot issues and strategies for the November election” in Michigan. The Council of Conservative Citizens, while claiming to be a “white separatist” group and denying charges of white supremacy, holds many views that are racist or white supremacist. The group believes that “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character,” opposes immigration from “non-European and non-Western peoples” as it “threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime,” is opposed to all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races,” and opposes “multiculturalist” or “Afrocentric” curricula in the education system. The group itself was formed in 1985 and is an outgrowth of the White Citizens’ Council movement, organized against desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s. The WCC’s strategy was to distinguish itself from the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan and to rely on connections with bankers, the media, and politicians to preserve segregation. The Council of Conservative Citizens was organized by former White Citizens’ Council organizer Gordon Lee Baum and was built up in part from old WCC mailing lists.
Another racist group in Michigan, the Michigan Realm of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (one of the various splinter groups of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)), based out of Fraser, Michigan, has also called on its members and supporters to “get rid of affirmative action” in Michigan. Grand Dragon Eric Kent wrote on the organization’s website that it is “extremely crucial to our state as White Christians we can no longer stay on the side lines and let our civil liberties be removed due to affirmative action [grammar errors are in the website text]” while going on to claim that if white residents of Michigan lose their jobs that they “will not receive any aid… simply because you [they] are white.” Kent urges “white people” to become more active by distributing literature anonymously. Some of this literature is available online, including an affirmative action leaflet titled “Affirmative Action is Racism in Action” and encouraging white people to organize and “wake up” because “A black student accepted into college over a better scoring white student simply because they are Black.” Another leaflet, titled “Stop Racism!,” encourages whites to organize against “a society oriented to the wishes of non-whites” with whites “faced with reverse discrimination in jobs, promotions and scholarships-high taxes for non-whites welfare- a black and Hispanic plague of crime- gun control- anti white movies and TV shows.” Another Ku Klux Klan group, the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan issued a statement in 2004 supporting the MCRI and urging members and supporters to gather signatures to put the MCRI on ballot. The Mystic Knights archived website describes that they “are collecting signatures to get a constitutional amendment banning racial preferences on the ballot for the next election” and contains information for obtaining petition sheets from the MCRI.
While these are the only known ties between the racist right and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the MCRI has ties to the far right through their funding of organizations led by Ward Connerly. A review of financial data from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office shows that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—through the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee—has been largely supported by the Connerly-headed American Civil Rights Coalition, which was formed in 1997 as part of a coordinated national campaign with the American Civil Rights Institute to end affirmative action. Its unclear who the individuals behind the American Civil Rights Coalition are, but if funding of Connerly’s effort to pass Proposition 54 in California (a failed effort to prevent the state of California from collecting racial data) is any indication, it is likely the far right that Connerly associates himself with. The Proposition 54 campaign received $250,000 from the long time far right financial backer Joseph Coors, $300,000 from Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, and $200,000 from William J Hume of the anti-labor Basic American Foods. Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute has also received funding from prominent foundations supporting the far right including the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Richard Mellon Scaiffe Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. This funding has totaled $5.1 million from 1997 to 2005.