At U-M and across nation, this group takes aim at civil rights

August 29, 1998
BY TREVOR W. COLEMAN

Question: What do William Shockley, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin and Linda Gottfredson, academics who have espoused theories of race-based inferiority, have in common with the Center for Individual Rights, the conservative Washington, D.C., law firm that is suing to dismantle the University of Michigan's affirmative-action policies?

Answer: The Pioneer Fund, a notoriously racist and blatantly white-supremacist organization that over the course of its 61-year history has been a leading underwriter of research that purports to show the genetic inferiority of African-Americans.

CIR has accepted two grants from the fund, totaling $35,000, although CIR executive director Michael Greve said Friday: "I do not agree with their views nor does anyone else at CIR. Our acceptance of their funds does not by any stretch of the imagination constitute an endorsement of their views."

In accepting the Pioneer money, CIR joins the likes of Shockley and Jensen, whose books published in the 1960s and 1970s raised questions about the inherent intelligence of black Americans.

Their intellectual heirs are Pioneer beneficiaries Levin, a professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, and Gottfredson, a professor of educational studies at the University of Delaware. They have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pioneer Fund to support their research into the intellectual inferiority of black Americans. Both also are clients of the CIR.

The Pioneer Fund and CIR have both been monitored for years by Dr. Barry Mehler, an associate professor of history and director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism at Ferris State University in Big Rapids.

Mehler said that a close look at CIR and the type of "civil rights" cases it pursues, and, most important, its link to the Pioneer Fund, reveals a disturbing agenda.

"It's very clear from the kind of cases they choose and issues they address, that this is not an organization that is interested in fighting for individual rights," he said. "The Center for Individual Rights is fighting for the rights of certain individuals, i.e. whites. The result of their civil rights work is that minorities are denied opportunities."

One of CIR's earliest legal battles was on behalf of Gottfredson, a University of Delaware researcher who said that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites and have diminished capabilities in work and educational settings. The university rejected a $174,000 Pioneer grant toward her work, citing the fund's racist history. Gottfredson sued, claiming she was a victim of political correctness, and the school eventually backed down to avoid a protracted legal battle.

CIR also has represented Levin, the New York professor with a $120,000 Pioneer grant who has called for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all subsequent civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, and a separate subway system for black males.

In a 1993 case, CIR successfully argued that civil rights groups lacked standing to use testers posing as job applicants to ferret out reported discrimination at an employment firm. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of testers.

The CIR presents itself as a civil liberties or civil rights group with this declaration of civil rights objectives: "CIR advocates a limited application of civil rights laws that would preserve private citizens'right to deal or not to deal with other private citizens."

To many legal scholars, this position is a throwback to 19th Century law, when "separate but equal" was considered legal in this country.

The CIR's most prominent case to date was a successful 1996 challenge to affirmative-action admissions at the University of Texas Law School, which resulted in a 50-percent drop in black and Hispanic enrollment at the school.

Following that victory, the CIR went on to litigate successfully the challenge to California's anti-affirmative-action Proposition 209, then sued the University of Washington Law School over affirmative action before taking on the University of Michigan.

"Our cases cut across ideological lines," said CIR senior counsel Terry Pell. "I don't think you can read a pattern into our free speech cases. It's very difficult to connect our free speech cases with our affirmative-action cases."

To be sure, CIR has a right to take on any clients or causes it sees fit, and to accept money from whatever wallet is offering it. It is also fair, however, to point out that the money comes from an organization that openly avows racist policies and promotes Nazi ideology.

Even the most cursory review of CIR's "civil rights" cases indicate a sophisticated strategy to oppose the enforcement of civil rights regulations and oversight accountability.

What they are doing is not challenging the laws so much as the enforcement of those laws.

CIR's support of free speech for eugenicists, opposition to strong anti-discrimination laws, suits against universities and acceptance of money from an organization so racist that the Anti-Defamation League has put out a warning on it, is fully consistent with its role as the legal arm of a radical conservative effort to gut the civil rights movement.

Getting rid of affirmative-action policies at the University of Michigan and elsewhere is only a first step in what promises to be a long and bitter campaign -- with CIR at the forefront -- to turn back the clock on decades of progress.

Trevor W. Coleman is a Free Press editorial writer. You can write him at the Detroit Free Press, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit, Mich. 48226, or via E-mail at: coleman@det-freepress.com

Coleman, Trevor W. "At U-M and across nation, this group takes aim at civil rights." Detroit Free Press. 29 Aug 1998 For fee$ http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_action=keyword&s_search_type=keyword&p_product=FP&p_theme=gannett&s_site=freep

ISAR HOME