Michael McNutt, NewsOK (Oklahoma City), April 29, 2011
“I want to humbly apologize for my statements last night about African-Americans and women,” Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said in a statement. “I believe that our government should not provide preference based on race or gender. I misspoke while trying to convey this point last night during debate.”
House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said he called Kern to express his concerns, but he will not ask her to step down.
“I told her I disagree with her comments,” Steele said. “She’s done the right thing in issuing that apology. . . . I do think the apology is sufficient.”
Anthony Douglas, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP, said the apology is not enough.
He said Kern should resign immediately.
“You cannot commit racism and then offer an apology for the racist statement that you make,” Douglas said. “The citizens of Oklahoma, the constituents can no longer stand by and allow this type of action to happen.
“Her constituents in her district should call for her to step down unless . . . they support her in what she’s saying,” he said. “We’ll continue to call for her to step down.”
What did she say?
During a debate Wednesday night on the House of Representatives floor, Kern said minorities earn less than white people and women earn less than men because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative. She made the comments while debating for Senate Joint Resolution 15, a ballot measure that would allow the state to not abide by affirmative action guidelines.
SJR 15 would ask people to vote on barring discrimination by state agencies. It would prohibit any official action that discriminates against or gives preferential treatment to minority communities. Set-asides, which favor contract bids made by firms owned by minorities, would be illegal under the proposal.
Kern, who drew fire three years ago when she told an Oklahoma City Republican group that the homosexual agenda is a bigger threat than terrorism or Islam to America, said equal opportunity should be based on ability regardless of color and gender.
“What about personal initiative? What about personal drive? What about hard work?” she asked. “Doesn’t that enter in somewhere?
“It’s character that ought to count,” she said.
Kern said she didn’t worry about equal pay during her career. She said some studies show women are underpaid, but when actual hours worked and work hazards are factored in, women earn more than men.
“Women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man,” Kern said. “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.
“I’m not saying women don’t work hard,” she said. “Women like . . . to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that. They work very hard, but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate affirmative action in state government.
The proposed amendment passed by a vote of 59-14 Wednesday evening, with 28 members absent or not voting. It had already passed the Senate and will go to a vote of the people next year.
House Joint Resolution was presented by Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, in the absence of House author Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle. Shannon, a man of African and Chickasaw heritage who is angling to become the state’s first black speaker of the House, said he believes that Affirmative Action has failed.
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.
“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.”