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Allan Favish is a Los Angeles-based attorney whose focus is on General Insurance Defense and Litigation Insurance Coverage/Reinsurance & Bad Faith Litigation.  A UCLA graduate, he received his J.D. at Hastings College of Law in 1981.

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LA County Supervisor Burke's Distortion of Vice President Humphrey's Civil Rights Record

On July 30, 1996, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose Proposition 209, formerly known as the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). Immediately prior to that vote Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke distorted former Vice-President and U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey's position on racial preferences in an attempt to rewrite history in order to preserve racial discrimination and preferences.

During the Board's debate, state senator Quentin Kopp, I-South San Francisco, said that Humphrey, a primary force behind the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, opposed racial discrimination and preferences. Kopp argued that today's "affirmative action" programs are a distortion of what Humphrey tried to do.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News (July 31, 1996, at 1):

Burke said she introduced the first amendment to federal law that added affirmative action requirements to a government project, the Alaska Pipeline, when she was in Congress in 1973. And she had a different memory of what Humphrey backed. "When I heard these people say (what) Hubert Humphrey (supported), I remembered Hubert Humphrey supported me" on the amendment, Burke said.

Therefore, Burke clearly implied that Humphrey supported a racial preference plan.

However, the historical record supports Kopp and shows that Burke's "different memory" of Humphrey's position is a fantasy. During debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Humphrey said it "would prohibit preferential treatment for any particular group...." (110 Congressional Record 11848 (1964).)

Humphrey's views did not change in 1973. That year he deplored the "failure of minority group members to choose engineering as an educational major" and supported the call by a General Electric executive, J. Stanford Smith, for a nationwide effort to increase the number of minority engineering graduates. (119 Congressional Record 1040-1043 (1973).)

Humphrey placed Smith's speech in the Congressional Record. Smith did not call for a lowering of academic standards or racial preferences for minority students. Instead, Smith said that standards for minority students must not be lowered. "Our competitors here and abroad have first-rate engineers, and we can't compete with second-raters. The waste and inefficiency would knock us out of business," Smith said. Insisting that "[i]ndustry must maintain high standards of performance for all persons," Smith said that if standards were lowered, "the blacks and other minorities would quickly see through the sham and resent it." Smith then quoted Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, distinguished Professor of Psychology and a member of the New York Board of Regents:

I cannot express vehemently enough my abhorrence of sentimentalistic, seemingly compassionate programs of employment of Negroes which employ them on Jim Crow double standards or special standards for the Negro which are lower than those for whites. I think this is a perpetuation of racism, is interpreted by the Negro as condescension, and, as I told a group of psychologists and industrial leaders yesterday, will be exploited but will not contribute to any substantive, serious, non-racial integration of minorities into the productive economy of business.

119 Congressional Record 1040-1043 (1973).

If Humphrey supported Burke's 1973 amendment to the Alaska Pipeline bill, he was not supporting racial preferences. Burke's amendment said:

The Secretary of the Interior shall take such affirmative action as he deems necessary to assure that no person shall, on the grounds of race, creed, color, national origin, or sex, be excluded from receiving, or participating in any activity conducted under, any permit, right-of-way, public land order, or other Federal authorization granted or issued under this title. The Secretary of the Interior shall promulgate such rules as he deems necessary to carry out the purposes of this subsection and may enforce this subsection and any rules promulgated under this subsection, through agency and department provisions and rules which shall be similar to those established and in effect under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

119 Congressional Record 27654 (1973).

Rather than allowing for racial preferences, Burke's amendment mirrored the Civil Rights Act's mandate that, "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," (42 USC 2000d), that it was unlawful "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" (42 USC 2000e-2) and that nothing in the Act "shall be interpreted to require any employer ... to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the race, color, religion, sex, or national origin of such individual or group on account of an imbalance which may exist with respect to" the percentage of minority employees as compared with the percentage of minorities in the available work force (42 USC 2000e-2(j)).

In 1973 Burke said that her amendment should be interpreted in accordance with Presidential Executive Orders 11246 and 11625 (119 Congressional Record 27655, 36618 (1973)). Neither of these Executive Orders allowed for racial preferences. EO 11246 mandated that federal contractors,

will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.

Executive Order 11246 (Sept. 24, 1965).

EO 11625 mandated that federal agencies "foster and promote minority business enterprises," but do so, "within constraints of law." (Executive Order 11625 (Oct. 13, 1971).)

The Civil Rights Act, Humphrey's comment, the Executive Orders, and even Burke's 1973 amendment, are all consistent with Proposition 209, whose main section states:

The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, 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.

Humphrey's fight against racial discrimination and preferences was an example of public service at its finest. Burke's distortion of Humphrey's noble record in an effort to pervert his work is an example of public service at its worst.

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