A Tulsa community group and an out-of-state civil rights group plan to challenge a petition that could lead to the end of affirmative action in Oklahoma, they said Wednesday.
The local group, All Working to Achieve and Keep Equality -- or Awake -- and Bamn, a Detroit-based coalition that defends affirmative action, say the Oklahoma Civil Rights Initiative promotes four myths:
- That racial discrimination is no longer a significant factor in society;
- That admission criteria for colleges and universities are racially neutral;
- That any special consideration of race is a preference;
- And that a ballot referendum, because it relies on "majority rule," is democratic.
The groups claim that petition supporters have used faulty measures to get signatures on the initiative petition. They say circulators have provided false and contradictory personal information, that signers aren't proven registered voters, and that the language of the petition is misleading. Pleas Thompson, president of the Tulsa Chapter of the Na tional Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that at the suggestion of a friend who was circulating the petition, he signed it last year without knowing its intent. "I didn't thoroughly read over the petition," Thompson said. "They use trickery to get people to sign it, but it's not good; it's harmful." The petition was filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State's Office in December. Supporters need 138,970 signatures if the petition is to be on November's ballot. Supporters said when they filed the petition that they had more than enough signatures, but duplicate names and addresses were found, and the number of valid signatures still is not known. Awake representatives said the initiative seeks to amend the state Constitution to ban affirmative-action programs, which were designed to desegregate higher education and ensure equal opportunity for minorities in public employment and contracting. The local group was formed to fight the initiative. A similar petition was recently passed in Michigan. Shanta Driver, a civil rights attorney with Bamn, said the measure is an attempt to over turn the gains fought for by Martin Luther King Jr. She said supporters are fraudulently obtaining signatures that could lead Oklahoma back to the days of Jim Crow laws, which kept society segregated. Attendees at a press conference held by the groups Wednesday said they were against the initiative. Mana Tahaie, said, "Both its fraudulence and its intent hinder the opportunity for open dialogue and therefore pull back Oklahoma's advancement toward a diverse, inclusive and welcome society." Spring Houghton said the petition, which she said "has been circulated under a cover of civil rights, does not actually represent equality and civil rights." "I think Oklahomans can see through the lies, and we care about making up for years of racism and sexism," Houghton said. Driver said the line on civil rights has been drawn in Oklahoma. "This is the place where we make a stand and win the fight," she said.
Deon Hampton 581-8413