Petition Circulated To End Affirmative Action, Community Leaders Say

Monday, November 5th 2007, 5:12 pm
By: News On 6

A drive is underway to change Oklahoma's constitution with an initiative petition. Backers claim it would end racial preference, opponents claim it would increase discrimination. It is called the Civil Rights Initiative and it could be on the ballot next November. The News On 6’s Emory Bryan reports while it sounds like something that might help ensure equal rights, opponents claim it is going to end a program they've counted on to counter discrimination.

You might have seen the people collecting signatures on a petition and not known what it was all about. A group of lawmakers and African-American leaders claim it's a disguised attempt to end affirmative action, which they claim is not about preference, but equality.

“They want to say anti-preference initiative because they know if they said affirmative action, right minded folks, black, brown, red or white, are going to say 'wait a minute,'" petition opponent Regina Goodwin said.

A California political group is behind the initiative petition, which is being promoted as a way to end racial preferences in state hiring and spending. They have signature collectors approaching people asking them to sign and many have, and it is happening in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. But lawmakers claim people are not fully informed of what they are signing.

"Is it fair for a person to sign without knowing truly what this initiative petition does?" Representative Jabar Shumate said.

Shumate wants people to refuse to sign because if it got on the ballot and was approved, it could end affirmative action. That is not clear from the start of the sales pitch.

“They're trying to put it on the ballot that you're not discriminated or preferential treatment for race, religion or national origin,” said a petition worker.

But when asked, the collector said it would impact it.

"It would be dealing with affirmative action," the petition workers said.

“Would it change it?” asked News On 6 reporter Emory Bryan.

"I think it would change it, because if you do it on qualification, it wouldn't be based on color or creed," she responded.

The lack of clarity, some say, is reason enough to refuse to sign.

"Either they think we're stupid and don't care what's going on, and I think that's what they're banking on, people who aren't reading or listening," said Goodwin.

The exact language from the petition is virtually the same wording used in several other states where voters approved it and ended affirmative action.

Several state lawmakers believe the language is misleading and they want to change the petition process to put these changes into plainer language that better explains what would happen. Regardless, it will not impact this petition, because it is already underway.

Watch the video: Petition Drive Seeks To Change Oklahoma's Constitution

Related Story:

9/11/2007 Attorney To Circulate Petition To End Affirmative Action