Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern's Comments Draw Accusations of Bigotry, Sexism

By Carter, M Scott | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern's Comments Draw Accusations of Bigotry, Sexism


Carter, M Scott, THE JOURNAL RECORD


A legislative debate about affirmative action has ignited a national argument about race relations, sexism and bigotry following comments made by an Oklahoma lawmaker late Wednesday evening.

Speaking during floor debate about a Senate resolution that called for a public vote to end affirmative action, state Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, said lawmakers would never solve the issue because Oklahomans had fallen from divine grace.

Kern went on to say that blacks weren't paid the same as whites because blacks don't work as hard and have less initiative.

"We have heard tonight already that in prison there's more black people," Kern said. "Yes there are, and that's tragic. It's tragic that our prisons here in Oklahoma - what are they, 99-percent occupancy? But the other side of the story, perhaps we need to consider: Is this just because they are black that they are in prison or could it be because they didn't want to work hard in school? And white people oftentimes don't want to work hard in school, or Asians oftentimes. But a lot of times, that's what happens. I've taught school for 20 years and I saw a lot of, a lot of people of color who didn't want to work as hard; they wanted it given to them. As a matter of fact, I had one student who said, 'I don't need to study. You know why? The government's going to take care of me.' That's kind of revealing there."

Kern also argued that women were paid less because they simply wanted to spend more time at home.

"Women don't usually want to work as hard as a man," she said, "because ... now I mean, get me, wait a minute, now listen to me, women, hang on, 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."

Following complaints from some lawmakers, Kern continued, saying she thought women work very hard. "I think women work very hard. Don't take that a wrong way. Women like to have a moderate work life with time for spouse and children."

The incident generated a firestorm of controversy.

By Thursday morning, websites across the country had picked up Kern's comments. Additionally, users of the social networking website Facebook posted hundreds of statements criticizing the veteran lawmaker.

In the state Senate, Democratic leader Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City called on Republican lawmakers to condemn Kern's speech. …

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