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Beware of outsiders 

At least Ed Jones was honest.

When the former state senator from Colorado Springs introduced a plan in 2004 to obliterate affirmative action in Colorado, he called it what it was. Some Republican lawmakers, most of them white, thought the idea was just dandy. Many local African-American leaders, meanwhile, were mystified and outraged by the stance of the black lawmaker.

As James Stewart, a prominent local African-American leader, noted at the time, minorities don't exactly lord over business, education or government.

Ditto for women. Colorado's women earn 79 cents for every dollar men make in comparable jobs. For African-American women, it's even worse; one recent report clocked them earning 61 percent of what white males earn. And make no mistake, white males are the highest earners.

Jones' proposal ultimately failed, as did his bid for re-election two years ago.

But now another black man, a millionaire with no Colorado ties, is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to obliterate the state's last vestiges of affirmative action. And, unlike Ed Jones, this man and his machine's tactics are proving to be as dishonest as the day is long.

This is how former state Rep. Polly Baca termed the state of affairs during a press conference not coincidentally, on April Fool's Day at the state Capitol to denounce what she termed fraudulent efforts to confuse and mislead the voting public: "A man from California, a man named Ward Connerly, is trying to make fools of us here in Colorado."

Connerly's army of paid circulators convinced more than 128,000 Coloradans to sign petitions to put his anti-affirmative action measure, Amendment 46, on the November ballot.

The only problem: According to Baca and other opponents, circulators went out of their way to convince people including a substantial number of people of color that this measure would not abolish affirmative action programs.

Supporters have claimed the following big fat lies:

If passed, the measure will eliminate preferential hiring; it will level the playing field; it will promote equality; it will ban discrimination; it will install equal rights for women and gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.

To create more confusion, the ballot's actual wording which was astoundingly approved and then upheld in a 3-3 split Colorado Supreme Court vote further obfuscates reality. Here's what it says, in part:

"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 in the operation of public employment, public contracting or public education."

Not really surprisingly, even the Gazette's editorial page writers have jumped onto Connerly's bandwagon, claiming in an absurd Sunday op-ed that "affirmative action and preferential treatment are the same."

And this is precisely where the maddening semantics of the entire constitutional exercise so confound opponents. When supporters, including Washington D.C.-based conservative newspaper columnist Linda Chavez, say it would "[end] racial double standards," they mean white people and rich people would have the same opportunities as women and people of color because there are no affirmative action programs in place to help white people and rich people.

Confused? Read George Orwell, who clearly spelled out this sort of Doublespeak in his groundbreaking novel, 1984. As Orwell wrote, you must remember: War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength; black is white.

It's been four years since Jones failed in his efforts, however honest, to eliminate affirmative action in Colorado. It's been nearly 24 years since 1984 (and 60 years since the book was written).

And, for those who counted last weekend, it's been 40 years since civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Some may say that's a long time, and that programs to help level the playing field are outdated.

They would be wrong, but at least they would be being honest in their opinion unlike Connerly and his Doublespeak gang, who insist that black is white.

Come November, we'll find out just how gullible we really are.

degette@csindy.com

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