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Oklahoma Democrats faulted for treatment of blacks in state party

In an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention, a black state senator from Tulsa said the state party has used blacks as workhorses but treated them like “disposable diapers.”
by Chris Casteel Published: September 7, 2012

A black Oklahoma senator and longtime activist for the Oklahoma Democratic Party unleashed her long-simmering resentment Thursday about how blacks are regarded by the state party, telling delegates to the national convention that it made no sense “to be treated like disposable diapers.”

State Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre, of Tulsa, made an emotional speech at a breakfast meeting with Oklahoma Democrats on the final day of the Democratic National Convention, where the nation's first black president was nominated for a second term.

With four other black members of the Oklahoma Legislature standing silently behind her in a food tent at the state delegation's hotel, Eason-McIntyre said there was “an invisible ceiling for African-Americans who have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.”

She said the Oklahoma Democratic Party “has always asked us to be the workhorses,” but has not reciprocated in promoting blacks for leadership positions within the party or as candidates for higher office.

Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said after the speech that he was blindsided by the criticism and had worked hard to engage blacks. Collins has been chairman for the past year.

Roll call

Eason-McIntyre, who is 67 and is serving her last term in the Oklahoma Senate, has harbored her feelings for years, but they hit a tipping point late Wednesday night in the convention hall during the roll call of the states.

The roll call is typically a celebratory ritual at conventions as party leaders boast about their states' claims to fame.

On Wednesday, Collins, party vice chairman Dana Orwig and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker took turns on the microphone in announcing the state's 49 votes for President Barack Obama.

Collins mentioned “the great Cherokee philosopher Will Rogers.” Orwig cited “the people's poet, Woody Guthrie.” And Baker hailed Obama as the best president ever for Indian Country.

Collins also noted “the great diversity within our delegation.” It does, in fact, have more black delegates than any other in state party history. And, with some unintended irony, he expressed pride in the state delegation's “unity” and made a vague reference to the division in the Oklahoma Republican Party over supporters of Rep. Ron Paul's presidential run.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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