Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus Discuss State Questions

Published: Nov. 5, 2012 at 2:47 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2012 at 2:58 PM CST
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Lawton, OKLa._Lawton residents had the chance to find out how a few state questions on Tuesday's elections could impact them. It's part of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus' Conversation Tour, which has stopped in several cities across the state to educate the community on what's at stake during this election. Keynote speaker Senator Connie Johnson answered questions, listened to the crowd's concerns and then called on them to vote.

Senator Johnson went over six state questions, including proposals about getting the governor out of the parole process, human services commission changes and the water reserve fund. But the question that had everyone fired up deals with a proposal to get rid of affirmative action, a law that promotes equal opportunity. She says these discussions are vital to getting the community educated and involved.

Senator Johnson said the proposal to get rid of affirmative action has many in the community fired up, they say its still needed. She aid that feeling is echoed across the state.

"We've heard the same prospective from people who are in the urban areas as people who are not in the urban areas. That was very surprising to me to hear what people are thinking and feeling", said Johnson.

She said she and other Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus members believe equal opportunity and education many times is only achieved because of affirmative action; something she said is so important to all communities.

"When we don't educate, we have other outcomes and those outcomes are costly. Not only in terms of human capital but in terms of money, because people fall into other situations like prison or nursing homes. Education is key to what this affirmative action question is about", said Johnson.

While affirmative action is still exists in Oklahoma other states have done away with it. Senator Johnson says studies show that the removal of the law negatively impacts the community.

"We know that in states where it has passed it hasn't been good. We've dropped from 50 percent to 32 percent in terms of women positions in management level positions, the number of people getting into educational settings has dropped significantly in states that passed this type of measure", said Johnson.

She said Oklahoma needs to be more attentive to ensuring diversity and inclusion. Everyone in the crowd had the opportunity to say why they were there and voice their concerns about the possible change.

"Affirmative actions doesn't just affect African Americans, it affects women of all races. So, its very imperative, it doesn't affect affirmative action in the here and now, but also addresses past actions of discrimination. It makes the playing field even, it's necessary in Oklahoma, we're not color blind yet", said Lawton resident Delores Raphel.

Lawton resident Lawyer Clinkscales said every question was important to him.

"Anytime there's a state questions that means that there's laws that is being changed that have a direct if not indirect impact on all of us", said Clinkscales.

Senator Johnson ended the discussion by urging everyone in the audience to vote. It was a call heard loud and clear.

"Every citizen should exercise their right to vote, people died for that right", said Raphel.

"If not for you but for your family members, for your kids, if not grand kids, I think its a moral obligation if not a civic obligation", said Clinkscales.

Senator Johnson says that everyone should make sure they educate themselves on how state questions will impact their lives. She says its important to make sure you know exactly what your voting for or against.