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Oklahoma Representative Regina Goodwin was booed on Monday by several White male colleagues while asking questions about a bill.
That bill, SB 119, create changes in the Oklahoma Supplier Diversity Initiative. The initiative strives to increase opportunities for small women, minority, Native and veteran owned businesses to gain state contracts. The new language in the bill would add small businesses participating in incubator and accelerator programs to the list of those who could benefit from the initiative.
Goodwin, one of the only Black women in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, brought up concerns on the House floor.
Prior to the vote, Goodwin asked Republican Representative Mark Lepak about his legislation.
“Would you agree that as you talk about diversity,” Goodwin said, “that as it relates to White males, that they already get a majority” of the benefits from the initiative.
As she finished her question, several White male legislators in the room began booing.
“Is this trying to level the playing field for all the White males that are booing?” Goodwin continued. “Would you agree that they have already enjoyed a great privilege in America as it relates to job contracts?”
Lepak responded by saying Goodwin’s question “doesn’t have much to do with the bill.”
“This is just a bill to help some small businesses who want to get started in Oklahoma have a shot at state contracts.”
Despite boos, Goodwin unapologetically advocates for Black entrepreneurs in the spirit of Greenwood
Representative Goodwin’s district includes Historic Greenwood and Black Wall Street. The community was once the thriving epicenter of Black business and Black wealth in the nation. However, nearly all 40 blocks of the community was burned to the ground in the 1921 Massacre.
According to historical reports, the Oklahoma National Guard, at the guidance of the state, was called in to quell the violence. However, they largely focused efforts on protecting White neighborhoods while Greenwood burned.
Legislation was passed to hinder the redevelopment of the area. When Greenwood did finally rebuild, much of the land was razed through urban removal for the construction of I-244.
In 2012, Oklahoma Republican lawmakers introduced a ballot measure to ban affirmative action, making it illegal for the state to give preference to engaging in contracts with Black-owned businesses. The ballot measure passed with nearly 60% of the vote.
However, the Oklahoma Supplier Diversity Initiative helps provide small businesses, including Black-owned businesses, with automatic notification of new contracts. Lepak’s proposed changes expands the pool of businesses that have this increased knowledge and could dilute opportunity for Black entrepreneurs.