Huffpost Politics

Jim Summerville, Tennessee State Senator, Proposes Ending Affirmative Action

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Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville
Tennessee state Sen. Jim Summerville

A Republican state senator in Tennessee is planning to introduce legislation to end the state's affirmative action program.

State Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) told the Robertson County Republican Party over the weekend that he intended to introduce the legislation for the 2013 session, the Tennessean reported. Summerville said that he wanted to "level the playing field" in the state and cited that Martin Luther King Jr. did not want people judged based on skin color and that affirmative action is doing that.

Summerville said that he believes the program has become a quota system and said that it is harming people who are qualified. He said that minorities can still be hired without affirmative action if they are qualified.

The Tennessean reports:

“I’ll be called racist and I know that,” Summerville said. “I will not use the term affirmative action because it’s not really very precise anymore. It’s misused and overused and nobody knows exactly what it means, but what we do have are specific preferences in the law given to, for example, let’s say college education. Certain numbers of admissions are reserved to people of minority status. (It) shouldn’t be that way. They can earn it. They have earned it. They do earn it.”

Summerville's comments are not the first time this year he has waded into racial issues. In August, he was stripped of the chairmanship of the Higher Education Subcommittee after he wrote in an email that he did "not give a rat's a--" what the Black Caucus thought. Summerville's email came in response to a Black Caucus statement saying the higher education subcommittee was wrong for saying that Tennessee State University was giving African-American students incompletes to recelve more state funding.

Summerville, who sent the email from his private Prodigy email account, later said that he should have used "rat's posterior" instead. He resigned from the Senate Education Committee after losing the subcommittee chairmanship.

Last month, a federal appeals court ruled that Michigan's affirmative action ban is unconstitutional. The court said the voter-approved ban violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

A summary on affirmative action laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that eight states have ended the affirmative action program either across the spectrum or within public higher education. Oklahoma voters approved a statewide referendum last month to prohibit state government from favoring or discriminating against people seeking jobs, contracts and an education based on race, gender and ethnicity.

In 2011, New Hampshire lawmakers approved legislation ending the affirmative action program for state agencies and colleges.

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