Submission by Brittany Graves:
Currently, HB 1775 sits on Governor Stitt’s desk, and, if signed into law, may have immeasurable social implications in Oklahoma for years to come. This bill is multi-faceted and dangerous. It comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with anti-racist and anti-sexist rhetoric, however its hidden agenda is clear to those who have learned to read between the lines of the ‘preservation of peace’ agenda.
There are several troubling parts of this bill, but I will focus on one specifically: It states that no school employee shall make part of a course, concepts such as “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”
HB 1775 breeds indifference towards racial injustice
As a White Oklahoman, I find this limitation in education to be upholding of White supremacy and coddling those who gaslight people of color for being “too sensitive” or “playing the race card.” It breeds White passivity in the face of racial injustice, and it loosens those in positions of power from the responsibility of making amends for the former actions of their government. They’re actions which are still wreaking havoc in communities of color today.
When examining the many disparities between the Black and White community, one would find there are widening gaps in wealth, education, employment rates, life expectancy, criminal convictions, and almost every other social realm. To make sense of these disparities, you would have to believe one of two things: Either they are a direct result of over 400 years of oppression, or the Black community is inherently inferior to the White community (which would be a racist mindset).
If one subsection in this bill prohibits the teaching that one race is superior to another, then it cannot reasonably in another subsection excuse the system and people who created and uphold systems of racial injustice that make it difficult for people of color to reach the same heights as their White counterparts today. These are contradictory in nature. As White members of this society, our responsibility lies not with the actions of our ancestors, but instead with our own healing acts of justice today that can create equitable systems and practices which help every member of society thrive, regardless of the conditions they were born into.
Veto HB 1775
Governor Stitt should veto HB 1775, and replace it with legislation that truly brings restoration and peace to our communities. We should acknowledge the harm caused in the past, listen to those who are still being implicated by that harm today, and make amends through an act of reparations to the Black community in Oklahoma. This is especially true for the descendants of Greenwood in Tulsa, who by way of massacre, had every bit of their wealth stolen or burned to the ground.
(Brittany Graves is a Master of Social Work Student at OU-Tulsa.)