Kathy Tibbits

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law allowing drivers to run over protesters, then he signed a law making it illegal for teachers to teach certain concepts of race and historical racism, called critical race theory. The OKC Board of Education denounced it. ACLU is suing for free speech over that legislation.

It is a cookie-cutter law sent through Republican state legislatures from Parents Defending Education, which claims to be an Oklahoma nonprofit, but is operated out of a Virginia address, which is a Starbucks or UPS Store. That doesn’t exactly instill confidence that its groundswell of six Okie Facebook followers deserve their own special law to prevent schools from teaching the history of racism.

PDE reports zero money in Oklahoma, which is millions less than Black parents, professionals and merchants in Oklahoma total, and Black Wall Street Tulsa in particular. And 7.8 percent of Oklahomans happen to be Black, whereas PDE has no Oklahoma chapters. When will Kevin Stitt’s Oklahoma education policy not be driven by a sliver of cheugy zealots and out-of-state money?

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Committee reacted by ousting Stitt from the panel. One state lawmaker on the committee resigned in sympathy with Stitt. When a Cherokee journalist from Black Wall Street reached out to the governor’s office for a comment, the governor’s office snubbed her, snarkily stonewalling, “Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out but our policy is to respond to journalists, not activists pretending to be reporters.”

Let’s just pretend we didn’t see the governor’s press secretary’s poorly-written improper punctuation in that sentence. I had to double-check it. It isn’t my transcription error. Sometimes in Oklahoma, we don’t do a good job of teaching English. Sometimes governors hire folks without the merit-based job skills.

Remember when Markwayne Mullin told his Town Hall that he doesn’t work for constituents, because he pays so much tax that he pays his own salary? Our governor’s communications staff doesn’t understand about serving all Oklahomans. In signing the race theory proscription, the governor demonstrates his faith in siding up with a pen-and-ink hollow astroturf and against the real people of Greenwood District. Does money plus astroturf roar in the election booth?

Oklahoma state government should start seeing Black Oklahomans. The governor’s pressroom doesn’t get to ordain journalists. After four years when journalists in Washington were snubbed for writing what we – except for a few ardent Trump fans – all know is the truth, voters spoke. Stitt’s snide put-down is a dog whistle to the misbegotten notion that a journalist of color is a pretender, attempting to “pass” in a gate-kept world of race-protected privilege. The journalist who was ignored actually works for a publication with a readership of over one million people.

The Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre begins next week in the Greenwood District, with events running through June 18. Cornell West, Corey Booker, Sheila Jackson Lee, and a host of personalities will contribute to the many vibrant events in remembrance and to spark awareness. There will be arts, music, cultural, food, golf, basketball, ceremonies, a bicycle race, an Ironman, gospel, church, film and speaker events.

OKC Thunder is hosting a luncheon honoring the survivors of the massacre in which a white mob killed 300 people, injured 800, and burned 30 blocks of black-owned homes, businesses and churches in Tulsa’s previously-thriving Greenwood District. And in Tahlequah, every Friday at noon, take a knee in Norris Park, humble and steadfast, for those lives.

Although forsaken by certain lawmakers and by Oklahoma’s tone-deaf governor, those lives matter. This will be a renaissance.

Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee Nation citizen, attorney and artist living at Lake Tenkiller in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

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