Today’s headline in the Daily Oklahoman states: “True Sooners are Not Racist.” Bully for that. University of Oklahoma president David Boren stated these words before a crowd of news reporters in response to the national scandal of a viral video showing freshmen making racist chants. Boren acted decisively and quickly and I thank him for that. But headlines don’t always tell the truth. In my experience, the Sooner State is one of the more racist, ethnocentric, and homophobic states in the union.
This legislative session features no less than seven Senate and House bills explicitly designed to allow Sooners to discriminate against the LGBT population. Some of these bills have been authored by ministers no less–under the guise of religious restoration. These bills gain traction in Oklahoma because they resonate with a homophobic electorate who equate Christianity with discrimination. If a white male from an evangelical tradition like myself can plainly see this; imagine what the LGBT population faces each day in this state. Gay marriage may have come to Oklahoma–but discrimination remains rampant and brutal–and endorsed by our state leaders.
Let’s not forget that Oklahoma was the first state in the union to pass the imbecilic anti-sharia legislation. The ignorant and misguided legislators passed laws that were later struck down by the courts which were nothing more than targeted discrimination against Muslims. The racism against people from the Middle East is palpable here. People don’t even try to hide it.
Oklahoma has some of the lowest levels of college educated men and women of color. We rank 49th in public school revenue per student. We have legislators trying to bamboozle the population that the AP history test should be abolished because it teaches one to think historically rather than presenting a selected set of facts chosen by our politicians. That makes sense when one remembers that Oklahoma was the home of the Tulsa Race Riots and Supreme Court cases forcing integration upon the University of Oklahoma–facts our legislators would prefer not be taught. If ignorance breeds racism, our legislature is a poster child for continuing the status quo.
True Sooners at the University of Oklahoma may not be racist, but there is a huge population in the Sooner State that most certainly is. David Boren is setting a good example at the University of Oklahoma–he’s kicking those bigots to the curb! It’s time we all do the same.