POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2012:
The Venal Few
Solutions in search of problems
Would it feel like a real general election without a phony baloney state question on the ballot to incite rednecks?
Just consider some of the proverbial straw men that Oklahoma voters zestfully knocked down in recent statewide balloting:
Imposing stricter voter ID requirements -- even though there was no evidence of voter fraud.
Outlawing same-gender marriage -- even though there's no evidence it would negatively affect so-called traditional marriages, about 50 percent of which typically end in divorce.
Banning consideration of Sharia Law in state courts -- even though there's no evidence it has ever happened.
This November's nonsense is State Question 759, a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban affirmative action in Oklahoma.
Hmmmm. What do you suppose comes to mind for many people when they hear the phrase affirmative action? Can you spell q-u-o-t-a-s?
In some corners of our uber-conservative state, quotas is code for giving others preferential treatment over white males in hiring, in contracting, in myriad ways.
You know who others are, don't you? Black Americans. Native Americans. Muslim Americans. Atheist Americans. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. Even female Americans.
In this alternate universe where white males are victims of rampant reverse discrimination, others are never equally or better qualified -- never more deserving.
"As a white male, I was born on third base," the Rev. Robin Myers recently told a public forum on State Question 759 at Langston University's Oklahoma City campus.
Of course, he added, his father often reminded him it wasn't because he'd hit a triple: "I woke up there because I'm white and male."
Regardless of what you think of quotas ...
Know this: State Question 759, if approved by voters, will not -- repeat: will not -- end state-mandated quotas in Oklahoma.
Why not? Because there are no state-mandated quotas in Oklahoma.
None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
The federal government may impose some standards on our state and local governments and in government contracting, but the state does not.
So, once again, our elected legislative leaders have ordered a proposed constitutional amendment to the statewide ballot that is the equivalent of a solution in search of a problem.
Why would they do this?
Either they're ignorant and stupid, or they're pushing a political agenda designed to drive certain voters to the polls in November.
My old friend and former colleague, the late, great liberal columnist Molly Ivins, once harpooned a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Texas by suggesting that if his I.Q. were any lower, he'd have to be taken out twice a day for de-watering.
Some of our elected officials who actually think they're ending a quota system certainly would fit that category. But it's worth noting that ignorance, like cream, typically rises to the top: It usually isn't too long before most of us figure out who's credible and who's not among our elected officials.
The wingnuts aren't the ones who trouble me. It's the ones who cleverly attempt to mislead the electorate in the pursuit of political power that raise the hackles on my neck.
Those schemers -- in this case, Republicans like state Sen. Rob Johnson of Kingfisher -- know that sending us-versus-them measures to the general election ballot motivates an aggrieved segment of our society to vote. And they tend to vote in ways that help Johnson and Co. solidify their power at the state Capitol.
As Marilyn Luper Hildreth, daughter of state civil rights movement icon Clara Luper, put it, "It's hard to win a race when you start out behind."
In a recent blog post, the Tulsa-based Oklahoma Policy Institute's Kate Richey pointed out there is no evidence of reverse discrimination against whites nor is there evidence to suggest Oklahoma has entered a post-racial period where the playing field is level.
"Overt racism and sexism have certainly faded over the years, but significant barriers persist for women and people of color," she wrote. "The weight of the evidence is indisputable. People of color earn lower wages, experience widespread hiring discrimination, and are unemployed in Oklahoma at much higher rates than white workers, at every level of educational attainment."
And women? Women in America still earn only about 70 cents for every dollar that men earn.
If there are no state-mandated quotas, then what would Oklahoma really lose by approving State Question 759?
First, it would send a terrible message to the rest of the nation -- and world -- that Oklahoma doesn't give a damn about equal opportunity.
As OKPolicy's Richey noted, equal opportunity employment practices are now the standard in private industry: "From Boeing to Starbucks, to the mom and pop operations that line Main Street, the private sector clearly sees the value in inclusion and diversity.
"Perhaps more accurately -- they know that maintaining a profitable operation requires cultivating a culture and a workforce that reflects their changing customer base."
Second, the state question, if approved, would ban the one thing that is required of state agencies -- a mandate to periodically report to the public how well they're doing in hiring a workforce that reflects Oklahoma's increasingly diverse population.
Without the reporting mandate, Oklahomans will have no way to measure whether their government is living up to the nation's highest ideals -- or whether it is primarily the playground of the chosen few.
"They (backers of SQ 759) say this is the only way we can be truly color-blind in Oklahoma," says Rev. Myers, also a professor at Oklahoma City University. "Sounds good.
" ... But like a lot of things in politics today, it's a lie."
It's really this simple: Do you want public policy in Oklahoma to be exclusive or inclusive?
Do you want a venal few using their political power to feather their nests at the expense of the many? Or do you want a state government that strives for an Oklahoma in which all God's children -- regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, religion or socio-economic standing -- have an equal shot at being all they can be?
SQ 759 offers Oklahomans an opportunity to send a clear message to the rest of the world that we're not ruled by rednecks, wingnuts and greedsters -- and that we're a friendly, welcoming, thoughtful, caring and open people poised for greatness in the 21st century.
The choice is yours, Oklahoma.
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