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.)