“When I travel, I still have people ask me if Oklahoma has black people,” Grant said.
Grant said some high-profile events, including state Rep. Sally Kern's 2008 declaration that a “homosexual agenda” was destroying the country, and a state question on next month's ballot that would prohibit affirmative action in the state, affect Oklahoma's image outside the state.
Whatever solutions are proposed, Grant said, need to be implemented from an “economic standpoint and not from a social justice standpoint. When it comes to business, you have to focus on the bottom line.”
More than 600 people have responded to the survey, with most being white (66 percent), women (64 percent) and college-educated (98 percent).
Nearly 9 in 10 of the respondents to the OUR Oklahoma Survey agreed or strongly agreed that more companies would move to Oklahoma if it were welcoming to people of diverse races and lifestyles.
A similar amount — 86 percent — of respondents agreed that more talented and educated people from other states would choose to live and work in Oklahoma if the state embraced people of diverse races and lifestyles.
More than two out of three respondents strongly or somewhat disagreed that Oklahoma is a welcoming state to people of diverse racial backgrounds, religions and sexual orientations.
While the Commerce Department isn't directly involved in the OUR Oklahoma Survey, Lopez said state officials are following the effort.
“It's another reminder of how when we're competing, this is something we can add to our tool kit to focus on,” he said.
Shirley views the survey as a reflection of the desire among Oklahomans who want to the state to improve.
“I think that Oklahoma is such a wonderful place to be,” she said. “We've got people in this state who are interested in taking what is already a good thing and making it a great thing. That's what I see this work — this survey — has done. It has shown us that we're good and that we have an opportunity to do even more.”
Shirley said she finds the vast majority of Oklahomans are “open, generous, kind, welcoming and inclusive.”
“The hatemongering that goes on gets its 15 minutes of fame and then the rest of us do what we're good at,” she said. “I truly look at these (intolerant) people as 15 minutes of fame. It is not the overall impression of this state. You can always find unpleasantness if that's what you're looking for. In Oklahoma, you're going to have to work at it.”
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To take the OUR Oklahoma Survey, go to www.xout