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Letters to the Editor

A rollback to racial integration

Tamya Cox April 13th, 2011

At the American Civil Liberties Union, we aren’t sure if Sen. Rob Johnson’s attempt to end affirmative action in Oklahoma is a joke, or if he is truly naïve enough to believe that Senate Joint Resolution 15 will end discrimination and increase diversity in Oklahoma.

SJR 15 is a misguided attempt to end equal opportunity in Oklahoma. In a recent editorial appearing in The Oklahoman, Johnson stated that California and Washington experienced no negative impact after passing similar laws. He is wrong.

In fact, California saw a dramatic decline in the enrollment rates of minority students in the University of California system. At UC-Davis, the percentage of women among new faculty hires dropped from 52 percent before similar legislation, to 13 percent in the year after the law was enacted. Washington state saw a decrease of more than 25 percent in the share of Seattle public works contracts awarded to women or minority-owned firms.

SJR 15 threatens a range of targeted programs that most voters may not associate with “discrimination” and “preferences” at all: science and technology programs for girls, higher education funding for minority health professionals, review systems designed to monitor and address discrimination, domestic violence programs, breast cancer screenings and the list goes on. This initiative does not represent the next step in he civil rights movement, but just the opposite: a dramatic rollback on our nation’s commitment to racial integration, gender equity and meaningful equality.

Sen. Johnson did not think up this misguided and destructive idea on his own. In fact, this bill is filled with recycled language used in Oklahoma in 2008. That year, the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative attempted to pass this same language through an initiative petition. Those collecting signatures lied to the public, telling people that this measure would increase job opportunities.

We spoke to one older black man who was asked if he felt he had ever been denied a job or a promotion because he was black. The signature collector told the man that if he signed the petition this law would guarantee that it would never happen again.

The deceptive nature of this language has been challenged across the country. The ACLU of Oklahoma along with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund successfully filed a protest to the initiative petition and challenged the validity of the signature. We stopped this language from becoming law then, and we will fight to stop it from becoming law now.

—Tamya Cox
Oklahoma City
Cox is legislative counsel for the ACLU of Oklahoma.

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04.13.2011 at 06:30 Reply

It is the nature of conservatives to see that things never change.  They fail to realize what works for them specifically will disenfranchise others.  But as greed goes, anyone with an opportunity to maintain their livelihood or make it better for their selfish selves will do so without any care or consideration for whom it could hurt.  This is not wholly a conservative trait, it is a human trait.  At least liberals aim for equality, conservatives quash it whenever the chance arises.  I look forward to a day when men and women really are judged by the content of their character and not moot characteristics like color, gender, or faith.


04.14.2011 at 09:35 Reply

never understood affirmative action. a person is selected based on superficial reasons such as skin color, gender, lifestyle, etc. rather than character, life experience, intellectual/physical abilities, morals, education, etc.

"sorry sir. i can't hire you, a qualified person, because affirmative action says i gotta hire the unqualified woman for this position.......... "


04.15.2011 at 11:58 Reply


Your statement implies that there isn't a person of color or non-traditional gender whom is qualified for the job.  Affirmative Action was never about hiring people who aren't qualified, it's about eliminating discrimination.  It's a shame we need a law to do this, because American's should be able to be moral without a government watchdog.  Sadly there are those who think women belong in the kitchen and people of color diminish the quality of a business.  These are idologies which will not survive the next century.  Until that time, Affirmative Action is necessary to garner equality.

 The law never mandated hiring unqualified individuals, and I dare you to find the that verbage in the law.

Your perception of Affirmative Action is that of a person who automatically assumes that a white male is the only person smart enough or skilled enough to do the job.  Frankly, your comment says more about the lacking quality of your character than anything else.