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Kern apologizes for comments on minorities and women; NAACP says it's not enough

The Oklahoma City legislator says minorities don't work as hard and have less initiative than whites. She made the comments while supporting a ballot measure that would no longer require the state to follow affirmative action policies.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 29, 2011
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Rep. Sally Kern, who infuriated homosexuals with comments she made three years ago, apologized Thursday for statements she made Wednesday against women and black people during a debate on affirmative action.

“I want to humbly apologize for my statements last night about African-Americans and women,” Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said in a statement. “I believe that our government should not provide preference based on race or gender. I misspoke while trying to convey this point last night during debate.”

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said he called Kern to express his concerns, but he will not ask her to step down.

“I told her I disagree with her comments,” Steele said. “She's done the right thing in issuing that apology. ... I do think the apology is sufficient.”

Anthony Douglas, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP, said the apology is not enough.

He said Kern should resign immediately.

“You cannot commit racism and then offer an apology for the racist statement that you make,” Douglas said. “The citizens of Oklahoma, the constituents can no longer stand by and allow this type of action to happen.

“Her constituents in her district should call for her to step down unless ... they support her in what she's saying,” he said. “We'll continue to call for her to step down.”

What did she say?

During a debate Wednesday night on the House of Representatives floor, Kern said minorities earn less than white people and women earn less than men because they don't work as hard and have less initiative. She made the comments while debating for Senate Joint Resolution 15, a ballot measure that would allow the state to not abide by affirmative action guidelines.

SJR 15 would ask people to vote on barring discrimination by state agencies. It would prohibit any official action that discriminates against or gives preferential treatment to minority communities. Set-asides, which favor contract bids made by firms owned by minorities, would be illegal under the proposal.

The Republican-controlled House passed the measure 59-14; five Democrats voted for it. The measure now goes to the secretary of state's office to be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot.

Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who presented the measure, said it's fundamentally unfair to have two separate standards. Affirmative action policies send a wrong message to minorities, he said.

“It's not the remedy it was proposed to be, and it's time to move past,” said Shannon, one of four blacks in the 101-member House.

The biggest problem with SJR 15 is that no one truly understands what affirmative action is, said Tamya Cox, legislative counsel for the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

2008: Kern vows not to apologize for remarks about... NewsOK Search: Sally Kern Video: Watch the debate

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