The idea that state Rep. Sally Kern should be calling for anyone’s resignation from political office except her own is about as ludicrous as it gets and a case of extremely selective morality.
But, then, this is a woman who once equated homosexuality with terrorism and argued people of color only want a free ride from the government. Her bizarre logic has long been seen as kooky throughout the world as has her freakish moral system, which appears to be anchored on hate and anger.
Kern, a Republican, called for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation—he has since resigned but hardly because of Kern’s remarks--as she promoted her book, The Stoning of Sally Kern: The Liberal Attack on Christian Conservatism and Why We Must Take a Stand. Apparently, the book is a “poor, poor pitiful me” story criticizing those awful people who dared to call her out on her hatred, which is apparently fueled by her fundamentalist religious beliefs. Here’s an insightful Oklahoma Gazette article about the book.
Weiner, a Democrat, recently resigned after what some people saw as inappropriate social messaging between him and a number of young women. His exploits created a media hurricane that eventually destroyed his political career. But, at this point, no one claims he broke any laws or even cheated physically on his wife.
As far as I know, Kern remained publicly quiet about the escapades of members of her own political party, which include former U.S Sen. John Ensign, who had an affair with one of his staffers, former U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned after contacting someone on Craigslist with a photograph showing him shirtless, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested for suspicion of lewd conduct in an airport bathroom and former U.S Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned after he was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to male Congressional pages. Where was Sally’s moral outrage then?
But what does it matter anyway when we can read about Kern’s efforts to sort of backtrack on her anti-gay comments. This is how she was quoted recently in NewsOK.com:
I didn't actually call homosexuals terrorists, I just said homosexuality in my opinion was worse than terrorism. The homosexual agenda is destroying the moral fiber of our nation.
According to ABC News, this is what Kern said in a 2008 speech that become infamous for its hatred and bizarre, unsubstantiated logic:
During the speech, Kern said that "the homosexual agenda is just destroying this nation" and that homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism. "According to God's word, that is not the right kind of lifestyle," she said.
"Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades," Kern, a former teacher who sits on the education committee, added.
What’s the difference between what she said then and what she said now? What is she trying to clear up? The nuance between “homosexuals are terrorists” and “homosexuality in my opinion was worse than terrorism”?
But let’s move on. Here’s what Kern said on the Oklahoma House floor this past session, remarks for which she was eventually reprimanded:
We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.
In the same set of remarks, she also said women didn’t want to work as hard as men.
No book or set of religious beliefs can qualify Kern’s archaic worldviews or her selective morality. She does immense damage to the state’s national image, and she will continue to do so.
The Oklahoman has finally published an editorial criticizing Republican state Rep. Sally Kern’s recent racist and sexist remarks, but it’s really an attack on Democrats and the candidate who ran against the controversial Oklahoma City legislator in last November’s general election.
The editorial (“Reaction to House member a case of selective outrage,” May 4, 2011) spends its first five paragraphs citing false analogies primarily about national Democrats, who supposedly said things that can be compared to Kern’s toxic statements that, essentially, African Americans are lazy and want a government handout and that women don’t want to work as hard as men.
But there’s simply no comparison. Let’s look at the two local “comparisons” the newspaper uses. The editorial mentions that in 2008 two members of former Gov. Brad Henry’s Advisory Council on Latin American and Hispanic Affairs made Nazi and Hitler references in relation to the burgeoning anti-illegal immigration movement here. Were the comments extreme? Perhaps so, but they didn’t attack minorities and women with archaic and stereotypical racist and sexist views. How in the world are Kern’s remarks and the Nazi/Hitler remarks—used rhetorically to try to protect a marginalized group of people—the same?
The national analogies are just as bad. Here’s a couple:
Former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards called conservative pundit Ann Coulter a “she-devil.” Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife during the 2008 presidential race, said, “A few years ago, this guy (Barack Obama) would have been getting us coffee.”
I guess we should presume the ultra-conservative newspaper is accusing Edwards of sexism and Clinton of racism, but Coulter is a pundit with a track record of hate speech of her own and the alleged Clinton remarks were supposedly made in private in a telephone call, according to a book. Are Clinton’s supposed remarks even substantiated and what do they really mean?
(I want to parse this false Clinton analogy for the sake of students who come to college after learning how to argue from the newspaper’s illogical editorial page through the conservative, trickle-down process here. A real analogy would be if Kern had said something similar to Clinton’s remarks about an Oklahoma Republican African-American politician in a private, non-recorded telephone or face-to-face conversation with a prominent local political leader. Then the comments surfaced in some form much later, and she wouldn’t respond.)
Neither Edwards’ nor Clinton’s comments can begin to compare to Kern’s extended articulation of her racist and archaic worldview. Here’s how Kern’s comments, made on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, were reported:
"We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that's tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don't want to study as hard in school? I've taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn't study hard because they said the government would take care of them."
" . . . women usually don't want to work as hard as a man... women tend to think a little bit more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, wanting to have a little more leisure time."
As I argued before, this is a learned view, not a rhetorical stumble or, as the editorial describes it, an “off-the-cuff” comment. This is an articulation of a belief system. Kern has apologized for her remarks, but not for holding such a worldview.
After criticizing Democrats, the editorial finally makes its move, arguing “ Kern should not have said what she said . . .,” but it then immediately makes the point that the fuss is really about Kern’s “political leanings,” as if her racist and sexist worldviews exist outside of her agenda. She was, after all, arguing in favor of a bill that could ultimately end affirmative action here.
The editorial concedes Kern’s “ad-libbing” has been a problem “for the state and for her House GOP colleagues,” but then it argues this:
The best way to get her out of the House sooner is for Democrats to put a serious candidate up against her.
Note how the word “serious” is italicized. What does that mean? The last Democratic candidate to face Kern was Brittany Novotny, an articulate, energetic local attorney. Novotony is also transgendered. Is that the reason why the newspaper doesn’t think she was a “serious” contender for the position? What else could it be? The newspaper should explain. During the campaign, Novotny faced bigoted attacks from Kern’s supporters. One group called Novotny a “confused it.”
So let’s get this straight: In its supposed criticism of Kern, the editorial primarily attacks Democrats and then commits its own act of bigotry. How can anyone run successfully against Kern when the newspaper brushes aside her racism and sexism as “off-the-cuff,” relentlessly criticizes the party that it argues should field a serious candidate against her and then underhandedly demeans the transgendered community?
(Update: Read this post about the problems facing a transgendered professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.)
A couple of things stand out right now in the recent and ongoing Kern kerfuffle over state Rep. Sally Kern’s racist and sexist remarks last week on the floor on the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
First, even many Republicans publicly agreed Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, had crossed a line when she essentially called African-American people lazy and looking for a government handout and when she described women as not as focused on their jobs as men. Kern made the remarks over debate on ending affirmative action in Oklahoma. It doesn’t get more ugly than that. Republicans and Democrats voted 76-16 Monday to reprimand her. Kern apologized and claimed she misspoke. But her remarks reflected a type of typical and stereotypical hate speech that seemed more learned than suddenly rhetorically inappropriate.
Second, The Oklahoman editorial page has apparently been conspicuously absent in commenting on the issue. I can’t find an editorial on the issue yet on NewsOK.com. This is especially bewildering because the paper’s ownership is connected to the ownership of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a National Basketball Association team, which is made up of some of the most prominent and successful African Americans in the Oklahoma City community. Clay Bennett is chairman of the group that owns the basketball franchise. He is married to Louise Gaylord Bennett, the daughter of the late Edward L. Gaylord. The Gaylord family has owned The Oklahoman for decades. (Here’s a list of recent in-house editorials in The Oklahoman. I’ll gladly correct the record if I’m wrong.)
Looking for a reason for a possible Thunder stumble against the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA playoffs? What if players on the Oklahoma City team now realize or are reminded they’re playing for a lot of fans that send racist politicians, such as Kern, to office. Frankly, in the context of Kern’s remarks, it’s kind of eerie watching Thunder fans—all dressed in the same T-shirt—chanting in unison and closely following cues from the public address system. It’s a metaphor.
In any event, Kern’s apology and reprimand aren’t enough. If Kern were truly apologetic, she would resign and begin some type of program to explore her basic intolerance of what seems to be at this point all groups of people, except for white, straight men. She might try to understand what drives her intolerance. If she can redeem herself, then that’s great. She can always run again for office again. But right now her very presence at the state Capitol is offensive to many people, harmful to the state’s image and suffocating to open-minded people here.