As Americans celebrate and recognize Martin Luther King Jr. for his commitment to equality and the ideals of the founding period, President Obama remains positioned against race-neutral initiatives that outlaw discriminatory policies. Moreover, his administration is advancing race and gender preferences within the financial regulatory bill and the health care bill, which became law last year.

Although Obama campaigned as a racial healer, open to a socio-economic form of affirmative action that would not exclude white Americans, he has thus far failed to follow through on public policy measures that would advance King’s vision; quite the opposite in fact.

Government agencies and private contractors must now incorporate racial and gender preferences into their employment practices under Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank finance bill. This key provision calls for the creation of at least 20 new Offices of Minority and Women inclusion. The healthcare bill also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award preferences to those with “underrepresented backgrounds.”

There is no escaping the conflict between the legislative language and the Obama Administration’s rhetorical opposition to racial profiling. In a joint White House news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon last May, Obama characterized Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070,  as a “misdirected expression of frustration” that would subject law abiding individuals to unfair racially motivated scrutiny.

 But it would seem that Obama Administration officials must now “profile” on the basis of race and ethnicity to enforce their own policies. By contrast, the same Arizona state lawmakers who have been on the receiving of White House criticism, successfully advanced a constitutional amendment that explicitly bans government sanctioned discrimination. The Arizona Civil Rights Initiative (ACRI), which Obama opposed, reads as follows:

“This state shall not grant preferential treatment to or discriminate against any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

ACRI (Proposition 107) passed overwhelming by a 60-40 margin on Nov. 2’ 2010. The initiative is part of a larger national effort that began with Proposition 209 in California back in 1996. In December, a federal judge turned away a legal challenge to the law, which also passed by a wide margin. Ward Connerly, a former University of California regent, who is now president of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), has spearheaded the civil rights efforts. Thus far, his initiatives have prevailed in Washington state, Michigan and Nebraska.

 With celebrations and commemorations marking King’s birthday expected to continue throughout the week, now would be an ideal moment for Obama to express his support for the civil rights initiative that is now law in Arizona. He should also encourage Utah voters to follow suit in 2012 where state lawmakers are considering a similar constitutional amendment.

Going forward, Connerly's commentary on passage of Prop. 107 is highly instructive:

"By the mid-1960's, affirmative action had been transformed into a series of policies and programs whose purpose was to increase the number of "minorities" in the public workplace, in pubic contracting, and in public college enrollment," he wrote.  "Throughout its history, it has been widely acknowledged that affirmative action, as it was evolving, could not endure. In fact, at frequent times following its creation, even members of the United States Supreme Court, while affirming the continued use of race as a constitutional approach in certain areas of American life, strongly suggested that the day would come when affirmative action would have to yield to the fundamental principle of equal treatment for all Americans without regard to race or color."