Written By Hazel Weiser
For those of us who adore Mad Men, the AMC series that snidely reveals the underbelly of a racist and gendered post-World War II America through a peek into the advertising business, this season is the best yet. Don Draper, played by the incredibly handsome Jon Hamm, is falling apart: from alcohol, lies, and too many women. He is divorced, living in a drab Greenwich Village apartment, and everything is catching up to him. Why in a recent episode, he even threw up from drinking too much. And now the advertising agency where he is creative director just lost the Lucky Strike cigarette account. This might mean financial ruin for them all. So what does Don do? He takes out a full page ad in the New York Times announcing that the agency will no longer represent tobacco companies. To save the company, he pretends to have some ethics, but it’s really just about money.
Although certainly not as handsome as Don Draper, Ward Connerly, the former member of the California Board of Regents and founder of American Civil Rights Initiative, is as slick as a Mad Man. An African American businessman, Connerly has put together the campaign to end affirmative action by coopting the language of the civil rights movement. The ACRI was behind efforts in California, Washington, Michigan, Florida, and Nebraska to ban affirmative action by claiming to be for civil rights. Ms. Magazine published an expose about Ward Connerly in Winter 2008, revealing that he brought in $1.6 million in fees from ACRI in 2006, the last period documentation was available. Ward Connerly is profiting by confusing voters and saving the status quo for his white businessmen allies. We know one thing for sure: these ACRI constitutional amendments end access to higher and more affordable public education for many African American and Mexican Americans. Without access to education, the status quo is maintained in a twisted definition of “fairness.”
Using the ballot initiative, ACRI or its local affiliates, have canvassers ask prospective voters whether they believe in civil rights and want to end “preferential treatment.” Most people respond to those words, even people of color, so these canvassers have mostly been successful in gathering the requisite number of signatures to qualify for placement on the ballot. Read more about the allegations of deception in signature gathering. Masquerading in the language of the civil rights era, instead these measures end all race and gender-based programs in public education, contracting, and employment. Until 2008 when Colorado voters defeated the measure, Connerly had been successful.
This isn’t exactly how we become a color blind society by reserving national resources for those who already have and creating monstrous equity gaps.
Another one of these initiatives is looming on the Arizona ballot in November, although quite lost in the fray of SB 1070 immigration insanity. It’s called Prop 107 and once again the language is the language of civil rights, but the effect is to maintain whiteness and maleness by ending all race and gender-based programs in public education, contracting, and employment. In 2008 ACRI tried but failed to gather the signatures for then Proposition 104. This election cycle, it was introduced through the legislature, thus avoiding the pesky and expensive signature qualification process. A Google search shows little media attention to this ominous ballot initiative. However, a coalition of civil rights, faith-based, and community activists has formed Protect Arizona’s Freedom to publicize why Prop 107 is bad for Arizona.
When Glen Beck coopts Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” and Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are somehow perceived as feminists, well, then maybe Don Draper didn’t fall apart, and maybe the world as portrayed in Mad Men is coming back. Don’t let it.