The transcript of Sally Kern’s remarks on S.J.R. 15

A note from Patrick B. McGuigan: Comments made by state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City during debate over Senate Joint Resolution 15 have become the focus of national scrutiny.

Proponents assert S.J.R. 15 would ban discrimination based on race or sex in state public policy. Opponents counter the measure would kill affirmative action programs and deny opportunities to women and minorities. The measure passed 59-14, with 28 members “excused” (not voting). All 14 opposition votes were Democrats. Supporting the bill were five Democrats and 54 Republicans. As a result of the vote, the resolution is headed to a statewide vote of the people of Oklahoma.

In the public interest and to provide context to her remarks, this transcription of what she said is provided to readers. The debate occurred in late evening Wednesday, April 27, and Rep. Kern rose to speak at about 7:44 p.m.

The transcript follows.
Thank you Mister Speaker.

Members, without a doubt this is a heated issue and I have some very firm opinions on it. Basically it goes back to the Declaration of Independence where it says we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. I believe that our founding Fathers meant that all people are created equal. There is historical evidence to substantiate that. Martin Luther King said in his famous speech, “I Have a Dream” speech, that he wanted, he dreamed of one day a nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of that creed all are created equal. So that is the goal and that should be the goal of this great nation but in my way of thinking is as long as we live in this world we humans, and I happen to believe we’re sinful humans, as long as we live in this world we will never accomplish the goal. That doesn’t mean we don’t strive for it. We always are striving for it, but unfortunately discrimination is a part of our fallen nature and regrettably I think it is going to last to the day this earth vanishes.

Martin Luther King also said that he dreamed of a day when the state of Mississippi he said and he described what it was like, sweltering in the heat of oppression would be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I believe he meant there that he wanted a nation where there was equal opportunity for everyone not equal results and that’s what affirmative action does. It gives equal results but this country should be based upon equal opportunity regardless of what your color is regardless of what your gender is. It kind of seems to me the premise here tonight is that color and sex is the sole factor that determines whether or not you get ahead or whether or not you don’t get ahead. Well I want to ask a question, what about personal initiative? What about personal drive? What about hard work? What about being willing to pay the price? Doesn’t that enter in somewhere? I certainly think it ought to. And then, another elephant in the room that hasn’t been mentioned, what about reverse discrimination? There are all kinds of Supreme Court cases where the Supreme Court said there is reverse discrimination.

One that happened just a couple of years ago was where a particular city, they lowered their exam, the results of the exams so that they could promote minorities. So a lot of people who were not minorities were overlooked. I believe that was with the fireman’s case. So, reverse discrimination is something that is very real in this country.

Martin Luther King also said, and this is probably one of the most famous parts of his speech. He said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

It’s character that ought to count not whether or not you’re black, whether you’re white, whether your purple or whether you’re whatever. Whether you come from this side of the tracks or that side of the tracks. It should be your character, it should be your willingness to say I’m going to become everything I can become. You know I’m a woman, obviously, I hope that’s obvious. Any way, I never worried about being a woman. I never felt discriminated against. My desire was to always become everything that I could become as a woman. I didn’t compare myself or worry whether or not I was making as much as this person here or that person there. I just wanted to become everything I could become. Why? Because I lived in a country that gave me the opportunity to do that and I’m so thankful that I do live in that country.

You know, I think that God gave us two ears so that we could hear both sides of the argument. We have heard tonight already that in prison there are more black people. Yes there are and that’s tragic. It’s tragic that our prisons here in Oklahoma, what are they, 99% occupancy? But the other side of the story perhaps we need to consider is this just because they’re black that they’re in prison or could it be because they didn’t want to work hard in school and white people oftentimes don’t want to work hard in school, or Asians oftentimes. But a lot of times that’s what happens.

I taught school for 20 years and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard, they wanted it given to them. Matter of fact I had one student that said, “I don’t need to study, you know why? The government’s gonna take care of me.” That’s kind of revealing there.

Equal opportunity, not equal results. Another thing we hear and we heard about what women make. Well, they make 77 cents on a dollar less. Well, did you know that there is a study by Dr. Warren Farrell that when you take all variables into account; for example actual hours worked, experience, work hazards, commute distance and performance evaluations for the same work, women make more than men? You see, women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man because, how I mean, wait a minute, now listen to me, women, hang on, women tend to think a little more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, want to have a little more leisure time. That’s all I mean.

I’m not saying women don’t work hard. I think women work very hard and so don’t take that the wrong way, but that’s factors you have to keep in mind. Women like to be willing to have a moderate work life with plenty of time for spouse and children and other things like that. That’s all I meant, OK? They work very hard but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do. That’s what I meant by that.

Alright, and we talk about discrimination. There are 59%, our colleges are made up of 59% of women. Only 41% of men and most of those, well a lot of those are, well I’ll just stop there. There’s more women in college than there is men. A thing just came out the other day that said for the first time ever women with advanced degrees have passed men. So, there’s all kinds of opportunity there. All I’m trying to say is, is we live in a nation that gives equal opportunity. We should not expect equal results and I think affirmative action in the past has tried to give equal results to those who, other than, how can I say this? They’re trying to give equal results rather than equal opportunity. So we live in the greatest nation in the world and I firmly believe you can become everything you want to be if you’re willing to work hard. Do we all have set backs? Yes, but no excuses.

I don’t think Martin Luther King would want color, as he said about his children, he wanted their content of their character not the color of their skin to count. And so I think we need to keep in mind that this bill, is about trying to make a level playing field. Will we ever get it? I don’t think we will, like I said, as long as we live in this sinful world. But everybody should have the opportunity to advance as long as they’re willing to work hard, have personal initiative and it shouldn’t depend upon what sex you are or what color you are.

We ought to be color blind and we ought to be willing to give everybody a chance to become everything that they desire to be but it’s going to take some sweat, it’s going to take some effort and I think there are plenty of studies that show affirmative action has not been what is needed to really help people lift themselves up. So anyway, I’ve said enough and, yes that’s fine, so I encourage you to vote for this bill. Thank you.