Voters in five states will have a chance this fall to vote on banning racial preferences in state college admissions, contracting and employment. Ward Connerly, a businessman and former regent of the University of California system who spearheaded similar initiatives in California, Michigan and Washington state, is leading anti-affirmative-action campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The ballot initiatives, modeled after California’s landmark 1996 law, simply say: “The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any group or individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

Has the time come to end government-backed affirmative-action programs?

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, moderators of, weigh in on the issue:

By Ben Boychuk

Let’s dispense with the euphemisms, please. “Affirmative action” is a loaded term. When the government imposes regulations, rules and programs that favor one race, class or gender over another, it’s discrimination.

Good intentions don’t matter. The state shouldn’t discriminate, period.

Without question, America’s checkered history of slavery, segregation and discrimination still weighs on the country. It would be foolish to deny it. But correcting one injustice with another is no remedy.

Instead, voters would do well to examine “affirmative action” policies with a solid understanding of America’s first principles. The best way to undermine the fundamental American belief in justice and equality is to impose racial, ethnic and gender preferences. If states truly wish to adhere to America’s founding principles, they shouldn’t skew state benefits with artificial preferences.

Bottom line: Rights belong to individuals, not groups. If we cherish the rule of law, the government shouldn’t condition rights upon race or sex.

If we believe in equal protection of the laws, then the idea that what people deserve in life depends on their race or sex is wholly arbitrary and wrong. It makes a mockery of the Constitution’s “equal protection under the laws.”

By Joel Mathis

Affirmative action is messy and inelegant. Someday, perhaps even soon, it should be abolished. But not quite yet.

Consider this: All the major presidential candidates this year were born before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Our modern society — where race alone shouldn’t be an impediment to real opportunity — is younger than any of the people seeking to lead us. Before this era arrived, America had allowed three centuries of government-sanctioned racism.

“Rights belong to individuals, not groups,” then, is a brand-new concept. It’s a good concept. But affirmative-action opponents would apply it stringently to a group of people who started out, opportunity-wise, in something of a deep hole. That would enshrine disparities that were created by Jim Crow. And it would ignore the great mass of business, educational and military leaders who believe that affirmative action has benefited their institutions.

The vast majority of opponents of affirmative action are not racist.

They believe sincerely in individual rights and America’s “first principles.” But their approach, paradoxically, would have us ignore our country’s long and still-recent history — and leave us, once again, telling the bootless they must pull themselves up by their bootstraps.