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Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus issues statement on alleged racist incident and attempted cover-up at CareerTech summer conference

Sen. Kevin Matthews Sen. Kevin Matthews

Members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus issued the following statement Wednesday in reaction to reports of an incident at last week’s CareerTech Summer Conference in Oklahoma City alleging a retiring black educator who was to be recognized for his service was presented with a white robe, hood, and Confederate flag. After the incident, attendees reportedly were told not to speak about it and to erase any cell phone video.

“Once again we have had another example of insensitivity and ignorance as it relates to comments and actions made in public and how they affect others. Last week we had a deplorable situation happen to an African American Agricultural Education teacher in the state of Oklahoma during an event at the CareerTech summer conference. The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus cannot allow this type of incident to take place under the authority of a state funded entity without addressing the issue immediately.

“In the past 24 hours, we’ve gained additional facts and have immediately begun dialogue with the State Director of CareerTech. We have been informed that an internal investigation is almost complete. Ultimately, our concern is to have more inclusion of African Americans in senior management levels of CareerTech to reduce the likelihood of these incidents in the future. We applaud Dr. Marcie Mack for being open to take this necessary action immediately. We recommend diversity training at all levels and the continuance of programs that bring more African Americans into agriculture through both public and private partnerships.

“We believe public words and actions have consequences. This is an extremely sensitive time in our nation as it related to race and sensitivity to differences. Therefore, our focus is on specific consequences for the individual that believed it was okay to ‘joke’ with a black person in such bad taste and publicly utilizing items associated with the KKK. We recommend that the individual whom we have been told initiated this action be removed from all boards related to public entities of any kind. Board positions are leadership positions and this type of leadership should not be tolerated in the state of Oklahoma.

“We are in agreement with the initial actions taken at Career Tech, but are awaiting the review of the policies and procedures that were not followed or that need to be revised to address these types of incidents at the policy level in the future. We fully, expect that the appropriate discipline for such violations will be swift and severe.”

Members of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus include Caucus Chair, Sen. Kevin Matthews, Senate District 11; Vice Chair, Rep. George E. Young, House District 99; Sen. Anastasia Pittman, Senate District 48; Rep. Mike Shelton, House District 97; and Rep. Regina Goodwin, House District 73.

Goodwin released an additional comment:

“Initial efforts to cover up this racially inflammatory incident must be met with transparent and corrective action that will also provide for capable African-American representation, administratively and academically, at CareerTech. Hopefully all involved will be sensitive and smart in these circumstances.”

Contact info
Sen. Matthews: 405-521-5598 or 918-955-2283