Census Figures Add Fuel to Fiery Affirmative Action Debate

Critics of diversity programs say the new census numbers justify their stance.

ByABC News
May 17, 2007, 5:52 PM

May 17, 2007 — -- At a time when the affirmative action debate is reaching a fever pitch, critics of such programs say the latest census figures that show minorities crossing a population milestone justify their opposition.

A U.S. Census Bureau report released today shows the number of people in the United States who are from ethnic or racial minorities has risen to more than 100 million, or around one third of the population, up from about 98 million a year earlier.

Within the minority category, the Hispanic population was the fastest growing group, increasing at a rate of 3.4 percent between July 2005 and July 2006. Hispanics were also the largest minority group, accounting for about 44 million people, or nearly 15 percent of the total U.S. population.

Roger Clegg, president of the Council for Equal Opportunity, believes any program that gives preference on the basis of race and ethnicity should be stopped altogether. He claims the latest census figures strengthen his argument.

"As America becomes increasingly multi-ethnic and multiracial, it becomes more and more untenable for some people to get preferences on the basis of race or ethnicity," says Clegg. "I think it makes it harder and harder to justify giving some groups special treatment because it becomes more difficult to pick and choose who deserves special treatment."

Clegg supports the grass-roots movement that is trying to get more states to outlaw affirmative action policies in public education and hiring and contracting. Since 1996, three states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- have forbidden preferences along racial or ethnic lines in universities. Similar ballot propositions are being planed for 2008 in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma.

A recent win in Michigan appears to have put some wind in anti-affirmative action sails. During last fall's campaign in Michigan, Proposition 2, banning race and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting, passed by 58 percent to 42 percent, despite strong opposition.