Ward Connerly has come to Michigan to launch a civil rights initiative to eliminate discrimination and racial preferences by the State of Michigan. This would make the University of Michigan's discriminatory college admissions policies illegal. Congressman John Dingell wrote to Mr. Connerly to register his opposition to the visit. Below, we reproduce their correspondence in full. - The Editors.
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-2215
July 9, 2003
Mr. Ward Connerly
American Civil Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 188350
Sacramento, CA 95818
The people of Michigan have a simple message to you: go home and stay there. We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.
Michiganders do not take kindly to your ignorant meddling in our affairs. We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators. You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.
We reject your “black vs. white” politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you’re not welcome here.
With every good wish,
John D. Dingell
Member of Congress
July 21, 2003
The Honorable John D. Dingell
Member of Congress House of Representatives
Washington D.C. 20515-2215
Thank you for such a warm and hospitable welcome to Michigan.
Amendment I of the United States Constitution is, in part, as follows:
“Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Amendment XIV of the Constitution is, in part, as follows:
“All persons born and naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside…”
Over the years, the courts have consistently held that these Amendments, taken together, grant to all American citizens the right to travel freely, to express their views, and to participate in the affairs—short of exercising a vote—of any village and hamlet in the nation. For most, this is so well established as to be beyond question.
Perhaps, you are unaware that I am an American citizen—a distinction from which I derive the rights and privileges enumerated in the Constitutional Amendments noted above. It is quite clear from your reaction to the recent decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court to sanction the use of racial preferences, notwithstanding Amendment XIV, that you have little regard for that Amendment; so I should not be surprised that you would also want to deny me the rights that I enjoy pursuant to the Constitution.
I am obliged to tell you, Congressman, that I, on the other hand, do believe in and honor the Constitution of this nation. And, it confirms that my right to visit Michigan, as a full-fledged American citizen and not simply as a tourist, is not contingent on your invitation. As a taxpaying U.S. citizen, anywhere I set foot on American soil is my “home,” just as much as it is yours.
If you would grant me a waiver so that my tax dollars would not be used to support racial discrimination in the State of Michigan, I would more respectfully entertain your impudent advice. Absent that, the term arrogance does not begin to capture the essence of a United States Congressman advising an American citizen to refrain from participating in the affairs of his government. Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of states' rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans. Have you learned nothing about "civil rights" from that horrible chapter in our nation's history?
There is such an eerie similarity between them and you that it bears comment.
George Wallace, Lester Maddox and others who shared their rabid and abhorrent views believed in treating people differently on the basis of skin color…and so do you.
They wanted to practice their brand of racism free from the interference of “meddling, outside agitators”…and so do you.
They called those who disagreed with them and merely wanted to exercise their right to assemble “carpetbaggers” and “non-resident troublemakers” who were “stirring up trouble where none exists”…and so do you.
They were arrogant and intolerant bullies…and so are you.
Your letter is a prime example of why the texture of civil discourse in our nation is so coarse. It is an indication of why Members of Congress need the police to intervene to separate them from fighting. What a terrible example for our children and our grandchildren.
As a member of the Congress, I suppose you have the right to send narrow-minded and venomous letters, at taxpayers' expense, to anyone of your choosing. But, you ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to “go home and stay there.” How dare you!
By promoting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, those of us who believe in this cause—I among them—are doing what the Constitution of Michigan allows; and you should not be seeking to abridge the right of American citizens to use processes allowed by law to implement their civic beliefs and values. Candidly, if you were true to the oath of office that you have sworn to defend and uphold, you would not be so content to look the other way while Jennifer Gratz, Barbara Grutter and Pat Hamacher were being discriminated against. You would object to the Supreme Court's defiance of the simple command of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all Americans be treated equally "without regard to race, color or national origin."
The thought does not escape me, Congressman—and it should not you either—that some of my tax dollars contribute to your salary. That makes me an involuntary constituent of yours. Therefore, I must ask, do you treat all of your constituents with such contempt, arrogance and high-handedness, or do you reserve such treatment for the "uppity" ones who insist on using their civil rights to participate in public policymaking?
You say that I am not welcome in Michigan and that the “people of Michigan” don’t want me there. I believe you represent the 15th Congressional District of Michigan and nothing else. Longevity has its way of creating delusions of grandeur, and I believe that has happened to you. In addition, I must ask whether you have run your “get out of town” sermon by the hundreds of other Michiganders who have called, written and emailed me to come to Michigan and assist in the restoration of the principle of “equal protection under the law?”
You have said I am "stirring up trouble where none exists.” That certainly isn’t what I hear from other prominent people in Michigan or what I have read in the dailies of your state. And, it is certainly inconsistent with my observations about Benton Harbor and other racial circumstances in Michigan? It defies credulity that you could be so out of touch with your state as to not recognize the racial tension that lies within, much of which has been engendered by racial preferences at the University of Michigan.
I note with great interest that Reverend Jesse Jackson has announced his intention to open an office of his Rainbow Coalition in Benton Harbor. Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to him demanding that he "go home and stay there." I understand that he is also a non-resident of Michigan.
Since you so proudly posted your letter to me on your website, I trust that you will do the same with my response.
With equally good wishes.