Gov. Mary Fallin and other GOP leaders should push for the resignation of fellow Republican state Rep. Sally Kern following the legislator’s obviously racist and sexist comments Wednesday on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Here’s how Kern’s comments 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."
In other words, under Kern’s framework, African Americans are lazy and women, well, they can’t compete with men because of their desire for “leisure time.” Ironically, Kern’s position actually argues she should resign her own position so a white man can take over and do the job right.
Kern made the comments as she argued in favor of a bill, eventually passed by the House, that will send a ballot measure to the Oklahoma voters asking them to end affirmative action.
Kern, of Oklahoma City, later apologized for her remarks, as reported by the media:
"I want to humbly apologize for my statements last night about African Americans and women. 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.
"Women are some of the hardest workers in the world. My husband is a pastor of a diverse, inner-city church and the way that my words came out last night is certainly not my true spirit."
But this isn’t an apology at all. Note how political it is: “I believe that our government should not provide preference based on race or gender.” She had to get that in there, didn’t she? Note, as well, Kern simply says she “misspoke.” What does that mean? Her initial comments were quite specific. She also refers to “the way that my words came out . . .”. Do her words just have a mind of their own? They just come out of her mouth and aren’t connected to her brain or her belief system? Is she trying to say that what she really meant is just the opposite of what she said? That’s preposterous. A real apology would admit that she’s held racist and sexist views. Her resignation would prove she’s truly apologetic and plans to change her views.
This type of archaic racism and sexism, which is an embarrassment to Oklahoma, should not be tolerated. The state’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has asked Kern to resign, and other groups, politicians, the corporate power structure and political activists should do so, too. At the very least, Kern should be reprimanded by the Oklahoma House leadership. There’s probably no doubt that a majority of state voters, with their hatred of the nation’s first African-American president, will vote to end affirmative action, but that’s no excuse for Kern’s comments.
I wonder what the players and owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the local NBA franchise, think about Kern’s comments? They should speak up, too. Probably the most effective protest against Kern would be to picket the next Thunder home game asking the organization to speak up against Kern’s racist and sexist views if it fails to act before then.
Fallin’s response to the issue so far has been extremely weak. Through a spokesperson, Fallin said she "disagreed with Kern's initial comments and is glad she apologized for her remarks."
Kern, of course, is infamous for her 2008 comments that argued the “homosexual agenda” is worse than terrorism. Her husband, Steve, a local Baptist minister, has been pushing to allow the teaching of creationist-backed ideas in the state’s science classrooms. Sally Kern is a former teacher. Did she argue for her racism views in the classroom?
The larger point is that Oklahoma is undoubtedly filled with people who share the couple’s views. That’s a shame, but it’s the reality. What can help is education and more, not less, diversity in our state’s institutions and businesses. How can that happen when racist and sexist remarks by an Oklahoma leader are essentially condoned or shrugged off by the prevailing political party and the state’s governor?
Here’s how Kern’s remarks were reported by Talking Points Memo. TPM shows the full context of Kern’s remarks, but it doesn’t make a real difference.
(On a personal note that is somewhat related to this issue, I recently posted a piece in which I argued I thought Fallin would govern as a center-right leader. I was wrong. Fallin’s actions this legislative session, including her rejection of federal funds to create a health exchange and her non-response to Kern, show she’s just another pawn of the radical right.)