Bigotry not to blame for Oklahoma's shortcomings

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: June 24, 2013
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Oklahoma's history undeniably includes shameful treatment of minorities, particularly during the first decades of statehood under Democratic Party rule. But those acts are now history, in every sense of the word.

Today, the state is led by a female governor. The House speaker is black and has American Indian heritage. The chief justice of the state Supreme Court is black. Oklahoma's economic growth is creating opportunity for all. Yet some insist that Oklahoma remains subtly hostile to minorities.

An issue brief by the Oklahoma Policy Institute declares Oklahomans have “inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today.”

The report notes blacks have lower income and savings than white Oklahomans. The group cites data showing blacks have higher rates for smoking, obesity, cancer, heart-disease mortality, incarceration and unemployment than whites, while having lower levels of educational achievement.

This isn't proof of discrimination. Instead, the data largely demonstrates the impact of personal choices. State policies don't force people to drop out of school, smoke or become obese. Cancer rates and heart problems often spring from tobacco use and the failure to exercise, not from societal discrimination.

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