Oklahoman Bashes Democrats In Kern Controversy

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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.)


Not Enough

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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 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.


Kern Redux

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(Updated: Kern was officially reprimanded Monday for her recent remarks by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.)

Will state Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) escape any real political damage over her racist and sexist comments on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives?

As she argued last week in favor of a bill that could lead to the end of affirmative action here, Kern said, as a former teacher, she encountered people of color who were essentially lazy and wanted the government “to take care of them.” She also said women didn’t want to work as hard as men because they want more” leisure time.”

Her outrageous comments made national news and drew widespread criticism. But this isn’t the first time the legislator has brought critical attention to herself and the state.

For the record, here are some highlights of Kern’s controversial career:

Kern was recorded at event in 2008 arguing that the homosexual agenda was a worst threat to the nation that terrorism. She also said, “"Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades.” Here’s a recording of her comments. Her intolerant comments sparked outraged throughout the world. Television show host Ellen DeGeneres, for example, took issue with Kern’s remarks. DeGeneres played some of Kern’s remarks, mocked them, and then tried to call her.

Kern was stopped from entering the state Capitol in March 2008 when it was discovered she was carrying a gun. She argued that she had simply forgotten she was carrying the weapon.

Kern also sponsored religious-intrusion legislation in 2008, called the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, that contained this stipulation:

If the assignment given by a teacher involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and not penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content.

Kern issued a Proclamation of Morality in 2009 that drew widespread criticism and ridicule for its outlandish claims. Here’s part of the “proclamation”:

WHEREAS, the people of Oklahoma have a strong tradition of reliance upon the Creator of the Universe; and

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and

WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; . . .

Kern provoked the anger of civil rights and Muslim groups this year for pushing legislation that tried to get around a judge’s decision to issue an injunction against a constitutional amendment, passed by voters, that would ban the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma. Here’s a Slate article about the issue.

Kern, on the House floor last week, argued:

"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."

Her comments, for which she later apologized, prompted the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to call for her resignation. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has also called for her resignation, and other prominent politicians want her to be at least reprimanded by the GOP leadership.