Kevin Stitt Hosts Churchy, Safe, Male Round Table On Race

Last night, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt met with protestors, politicians, and activists from the Oklahoma black community – including organizers of Black Lives Matters protests, the Oklahoma House Black Caucus, and others who have fought for freedom and equality in a state where racism is still openly tolerated and even glorified by frat boys – to have an open, honest and at times heated discussion on race, discrimination, and police violence in Oklahoma…

Wait. That’s actually a draft I was working on for my satirical newsletter – What Should Have Happened. Here’s what really happened…

Last night, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, along with the first lady, met with a couple of black church leaders, a white police chief and a black sheriff’s patrol captain – to have a safe, non-controversial, easy-to-digest-for-troubled-evangelical-voters talk about race in Oklahoma.

Here are details via The Oklahoman:

As thousands of people across the country protest racial inequality and police violence, Gov. Kevin Stitt and his wife, Sarah, hosted a televised discussion on race Sunday with local law enforcement and religious leaders.

The Stitts sought understanding for how Oklahomans can reduce racism and bring people together.

Referencing the brutal death of George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police, Stitt said: “We don’t ever want that to happen in our state. That’s why we’re here.”

Stitt is correct. “We don’t ever want that to happen in our state. That’s why we’re here.”

Sadly, another reason “why we’re here” is because it’s already happening in our state. In fact, it’s been going on for quite a while. When Stitt was busy running a mortgage company and not voting, black men who posed no threat to law enforcement were way too often being killed live on camera by overzealous Oklahoma law enforcement agents. In fact, Oklahoma is a Top 10 state when it comes to cops killing the people they’re sworn to protect. Imagine that!

The round table was being criticized by politically active members of the Oklahoma black community before it even aired. State Representative Jason Lowe penned this op-ed for the Black Wall Street Times on Sunday morning:

Governor Stitt, we don’t need you to moderate our voices. We need you to listen.

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Stitt’s office released a statement saying, “Governor Stitt, First Lady to moderate roundtable on race.” On the surface, it may appear the Governor has finally decided to give this movement legitimate attention. I wish that were the case. Pull back the curtain, and it’s clear this is just another attempt to pacify the Black community and our allies who have been speaking out against injustice.

In Oklahoma, we have a deep bench of Black academics, civil rights leaders, activists, and elected officials who could have led the governor and his panel in a difficult, but extremely important conversation. But instead of a substantive meeting on racial inequity, we ended up with a superficial show of solidarity. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel…

I talked to State Rep. Jason Lowe earlier today. After watching the roundtable, his feelings really haven’t changed. The Oklahoman caught up with some other individuals who were not pleased:

The panel discussion included two law enforcement officials and two black religious leaders from the Oklahoma City area.

But a black activist leader who was not included in the discussion said the panel was a feeble attempt by the governor to appear as though he was taking the race issue head-on.

“It’s milquetoast,” said Black Lives Matter Oklahoma Co-founder and Director T. Sheri Dickerson. “And I don’t like having milquetoast for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Fun fact – I had to google milquetoast. It’s not a compliment.

Dickerson, who is a minister, said she wasn’t surprised Black Lives Matter wasn’t asked to participate.

Stitt asked only those who would give voice to his agenda to participate, she said. It did not seem as those who would speak truth to power were invited.

“Whatever his motives or missions are, I don’t think it’s really about those who are speaking truth in a revolutionary sense,” Dickerson said.

But if Stitt really wants to affect change, he should reach out to the state’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities and be deliberate in leading the charge to protect all Oklahomans of color, she said.

Before we continue, I’d like to stress that I watched most of the discussion. I think everyone involved was cordial and respectful. Rev. Hill, Capt. Williams and Pastor Cooper all provided some excellent insight and perspectives, as did Police Chief Gibson. That being said, the lack of women and Black Lives Matters activists were obvious, and the whole thing felt a bit churchy, measured and more of a PR opportunity to make the Governor look good. Maybe that’s because it probably was?

The event was organized and produced by a non-profit group called Oklahoma Capitol Culture. It’s led by a chap named Joel Harder. He’s the chaplain for the Oklahoma House and looks like he fell out of a youth minster catalog. Not coincidentally, he’s also married to Donelle Harder. She comes from House Inhofe. She led Stitt’s campaign, served as a key cabinet advisor, and now runs her own political consulting / lobbying firm.

In addition to that, our old pal Josh Cockroft is affiliated with the group. He’s a former state rep turned lobbyist who wanted to eliminate the Oklahoma Arts Council and once got caught plagiarizing newspaper editorials. He’s incredibly conservative and at one point in his life liked to dress up as a Civil War soldier:

That’s blue, right? Right???

Anyway, if you watched the speech and want to comment, I guess go ahead and do that. Also, if you want to listen to a group of black women who weren’t invited to speak at a roundtable hosted by the Governor have an honest and open discussion about race, you can do that on Wednesday.

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19 Responses

  1. I didn’t watch. Call it the “soft bigotry of low expectations” if you must, but I pretty much expected it to be what Patrick described.

    Most religious leaders won’t have much to contribute to a discussion of racism. Sunday morning remains “the most segregated hour in America.” Racists are seldom influenced positively by the Gospel. Too often it influences them wrongly. Consider the origins of the Southern Baptist denomination.

    1. Also keep firmly in mind that the modern evangelical movement in conservative politics (think early 1970s) wasn’t about issues like abortion or gay rights, but … segregation.

  2. Maybe they ought to hold a roundtable in a pod at the Oklahoma County jail. Plenty of folks there to expand their knowledge of systemic racial bias. Plus it’s safe as the inmates have all been searched, right? I’m sure Sarah wouldn’t mind bringing a pan of her super delicious brownies.

  3. You know, screw Stitt and the horse he rode in on. We are better than this.

  4. Serious question, why did the Governor decide to include his wife to host the discussion? Is there something in her background or educational experience give her better insights in the topic? Perhaps I am mistaken, but haven’t seen her host any public political discussion. Seems like a pretty important topic to make your initial appearance.

    I mean it is not as puzzling as making a former health department spokesperson the interim head of the Oklahoma Security Administration, something else the Governor should explain.

    Not so serious question, why was it called a “roundtable discussioin” when there was no table on the stage?

    1. Mrs. Stitt was the only woman who participated. Maybe that’s why she was there.

  5. In the photo, notice how Mrs. Stitt’s chair is turned away from the panelists. This example of “sociofugal” avoidance is very telling.

    1. Good catch!

    2. you guys are something else.
      She was sitting on a stool, in a skirt, and sharing a tabletop that was to her right.
      what posture or arrangement would have appeased you?
      I don’t know the governor or his wife so i don’t presume to know their intentions concerning seating positions. However, most women in skirts sitting on a stool will shift toward one side or the other for modesty.
      someone needs a hobby.

      1. What is your hobby?

  6. Caught “60 Minutes” story on OK’s law punishing people who allow child abuse. Stitt was asked how a woman was sentenced to 30 years and the abuser was given 2 years with time served and released. His answer was pathetic. Basically, just words that he thinks the public wants to hear.

    Why don’t we have a discussion about the influence of religion obession, abortion obession and gun obession that permeates our state. As long as idiocracy reigns supreme in OK, the state will never move up from our 45-50 standing we enjoy.

    Stitt is showing why businessmen with no governing experience are failures. Why would we elect someone who requires on the job training?

    1. Another example of the so called Oklahoma standard

  7. Where are the Native Americans at? The Mexicans? There are more than just black people who have experienced the bad side of race relations in this state. The lack of diversity among minorities in this discussion just shows even more that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Stitt wanted to check off a box on the diversity and race relations checklist and did so with this roundtable. Right now the buzzword is “black lives matter” and Stitt went with that 100%, forgetting there are other minorities in this state.

  8. Hey Guy+Smiley… the new interim director of oesc, came from the health dept, then before that omes, then before that ohca, then before that omes again. She has had all these positions in less than a year, all high paying agency positions, and she NEVER HAD TO APPLY or interview for any of these jobs. They were all GIVEN to her by the Governor’s office. Imagine that.

    1. Actually Ms. Zumwalt’s career with the state goes back to a stint she had with former Governor Mary Fallin. She worked for Fallin representing the Governor at events where the Gov was invited but didn’t deem it important enough to attend. I remember her arriving at one, late, wearing shoes with probably 3 inch heels.

      She also wrote press releases for Fallin, you remember the Governor Kevin Stitt didn’t want an endorsement from, and wanted to distance himself from. I guess her former staff members were entitled to promotions, and Kevin took care of many of them.

      She also was very involved in the new branding campaign. No need to imagine that!

  9. Actually the entire thing was just Stitt talking to a cop and trying to get him to refi his mortgage… The Black guys were photo shopped in after the fact.

  10. Males are always bad regardless of color unless they are gay or trans then they are good.White straight males should be forced to kneel in public and those who don’t kneel should be executed by their betters.

  11. Did I miss something? Why was Mrs. Stitt moderator of the “round table?” Is she an expert on race relations? Did we elect her to something. Seems to me her major contribution was a display of a lot of leg.

  12. Another example of the so called Oklahoma standard

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