FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
There are plenty of people lined up against Connerly's "Super Tuesday for Equality." You heard a bit from Shanta Driver, the national co-chair of BAMN or By Any Means Necessary. It's a coalition defending affirmative action.
Shanta, thanks for coming on.
Ms. SHANTA DRIVER (National Co-Chair, By Any Means Necessary): Thank you for having me.
CHIDEYA: So we just heard Ward Connerly and he strongly disagrees with your position. He says that people shouldn't be treated differently in hiring and education because of race and that you've actually mischaracterized the deposition you did with him on October. How do you respond to that?
Ms. DRIVER: I think our characterization, my characterization of the deposition was completely accurate, and I think what Mr. Connerly was saying was a complete non-sequitur. The truth of the matter is where affirmative action programs have been eliminated like in the University of California system. There's been a tremendous drop in black and Latino student enrollment in all the graduate law and medical programs and at U.C. Berkeley and UCLA and I think it's just disingenuous and dishonest to say that black and Latino students are now being matched with colleges that they're academically able to go to.
The truth of the matter is people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, beneficiaries of affirmative action, would not have been at Harvard or at Yale have there not been those programs and obviously, they were completely qualified to be there as are all of the other black and Latino and women students in prestigious, elite higher education institutions in this nation.
CHIDEYA: You've fought and you lost. I'm talking about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative of 2006. Now, we're talking about five more states. Really, what are you trying to do if these measures pass?
Ms. DRIVER: I think if they pass, then we're going to be filing lawsuits in every single one of the states where they've been passed - in Oklahoma, in Arizona, in Colorado, in Nebraska, in each and every one of those states - and very much like the march of the Supreme Court that was made by Thurgood Marshall nearly 50 years ago now to get Brown versus Board of Education. We're going to be going to the Supreme Court in saying overturn the new (unintelligible). You can't have an America in which states decide to eliminate the only programs that have brought about successful integration of higher education and of every occupation in this nation.
CHIDEYA: Now, Ward Connerly said of economic affirmative action was okay so you know, rich and poor but not racial or gender. How do you feel about those distinctions?
Ms. DRIVER: I think that it's some - I think that there's something very misguided about that. If you're saying that the government can take action to try to bring about equality based on finances and economic status, it seems to me that given that racism and sexism still deform opportunity in this society, it makes no sense to stand against allowing the government and allowing the private sector to take action to try to bring about greater equality and equal opportunity.
CHIDEYA: Next week in Michigan, a federal district court judge is going to hear oral arguments against prop two. That judge could decide to throw out the proposition is unconstitutional but you're actually hoping for a full trial. Why?
Ms. DRIVER: We are, because we think that we have to go to the Supreme Court with a full record in these cases. We think that it's extremely important to get at the question of what is - of who has a preference in the society. And I think, as Ward Connerly himself admitted in our deposition, there are all kinds of preferences and privileges that white men have that still are not afforded to the whole society. And I think it's very important to get a trial record on that.
CHIDEYA: Well, Ms. Driver, thank you so much.
Ms. DRIVER: Thank you for having me.
CHIDEYA: Shanta Driver is national co-chair of By Any Means Necessary, a coalition that defends affirmative action. And she joined us from her office in Detroit.
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