Oklahoma State Senate Press Release - November 12, 1999
For Immediate Release: November 12, 1999

 

Senator Asks Governor to Apologize for Racial Comments,
Dickerson Calls Keating Statements Inappropriate, Offensive

State Senator Larry Dickerson is calling for Governor Keating to apologize for remarks he made in a recent television interview, saying his comments were both inappropriate and offensive.

In an interview aired on KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and KHBS-TV in Fort Smith, Arkansas this week, Keating said that methamphetamine is a "white trash drug" used "by the lower socio-economic element of white people." He also referred to crack cocaine as a "black trash drug."

"Those kinds of words and phrases are inappropriate and offensive for anyone to use, especially the man who holds our state's highest office. They reinforce the very kind of negative stereotypes we've been trying to dispel for so many years," said Senator Dickerson.

"To use such callous terms to describe anyone, no matter what their station in life, is remarkably insensitive. Governor Keating demeans all Oklahomans when he uses those words. It shows just how out of touch he is."

Governor Keating made his remarks at a methamphetamine conference staged by the Governor's office in Oklahoma City this week. According to a transcript provided by KHBS-TV in Fort Smith, Governor Keating made the following comment:

"It's a white trash drug? methamphetamines largely are consumed by the lower socio-economic element of white people? and I think we need to shame it? just like crack cocaine was a black-trash drug and is a black trash drug." - Frank Keating

"Referring to low income Oklahomans as 'white trash' or 'black trash' is degrading. Just because someone may not have had the best opportunities in life is no reason to look down on them or brand them with negative, stereotypical nicknames. It's hurtful behavior that damages both the people of Oklahoma and the image of our state," noted Senator Dickerson.

The Poteau legislator pointed out that Oklahoma has worked very hard to improve its national image and has been rewarded with an unprecedented string of economic successes. The statements by Governor Keating, however, represent a step backward the state cannot afford.

"Oklahoma's image takes a big hit whenever Governor Keating or anyone else makes an insensitive or stereotypical statement about our people. We keep trying to build Oklahoma up, but one insensitive statement tears all our work down. It's very frustrating," said Senator Dickerson.

"What do out-of-state economic prospects think when they hear our Governor say things like that? It certainly doesn't improve our chances of landing new jobs."

In addition to hurting the image of Oklahoma and its people, the Governor's comments do little to advance the war on drugs, according to the legislator.

"Our society's drug problems cut across all racial and economic lines. To imply that only one race or one economic level has a problem is an inaccurate, oversimplification of a very complex issue. I think those kinds of misconceptions make it tough to fight and win the war on drugs," said Senator Dickerson.

This isn't the first time the Governor has come under fire for his public statements. Earlier this year, for example, Governor Keating drew criticism when he implied that job applicants in southeastern Oklahoma were either unqualified or on drugs. After several lawmakers pressed for an apology, the Governor said he was sorry for the remark.

Senator Dickerson said Governor Keating should issue another apology for his latest statement.

"I think Governor Keating should apologize immediately and try to repair some of the damage he's caused. The pain his words have inflicted won't go away, but it certainly will be a step in the right direction," said Senator Dickerson.

For more information contact:
Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605

 

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