Former KKK Leader Duke Attacks Affirmative Action Louisiana Lawmakers Seek to Sidetrack Latest Maneuver

Article excerpt

AS members of Congress debate the explosive issue of racial quotas in Washington, Louisiana lawmakers are attempting to sidestep a similar racial land mine - a bill that would effectively gut all affirmative action in the state.

Proposed by State Rep. David Duke (R) of Metairie, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard who is running for governor in Louisiana, the measure calls for the prohibition of any discrimination in the implementation of governmental affirmative action programs that give special consideration to minorities.

Mr. Duke, who has also introduced a bill in this session encouraging welfare mothers to use contraceptives, won election to the Legislature in 1989 and ran a hard-fought campaign for the United States Senate in 1990, largely on racial issues.

He has repeatedly charged that by seeking to encourage minority hiring, affirmative action is actually discriminatory - against whites.

"I'm not trying to outlaw affirmative action," Duke said as he introduced his bill last week. "My bill only says that in cases when you hire or promote someone, you have to do so on the basis of their ability."

Duke added that his intention is to eliminate preferential hiring in affirmative action: "This bill protects you if you are white or black or red or yellow," he said. "We want equal rights for all people. The only affirmative action programs that would be abolished are those that discriminate against people on the basis of their race."

But opponents of Duke's measure say such explanations are meaningless - that prohibiting the practice of using preferential hiring to achieve affirmative action would negate the concept of affirmative action.

"All Duke is doing really is pushing his old racial hatred in a new fashion," says Shirley Porter, head of the Louisiana chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "This bill is anti-affirmative action; it guts everything out of what we now know as affirmative action. And it takes away a program that has proven to be workable in the last 20 or 25 years. It's really the only thing we have that has enabled us to grow as a community."

State labor, employment, and social services officials have testified that affirmative action in Louisiana has enabled thousands of people who are members of minorities to gain and hold jobs they once viewed as inaccessible. …