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Tulsa GOP Sen. Dave Rader draws scrutiny for insensitive remarks during Capitol study on racial bias

Dave Rader for State Senate campaign
Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) performs the coin toss before a Will Rogers High School football game in 2020.

Tulsa Republican Sen. Dave Rader is drawing backlash for comments he made during an interim study on inequality and racial discrimination at the Capitol on Wednesday.

"It wasn't until well into your presentation did you go to yellow families. You left yellow families out for quite a while," Rader told witness Damion Shade, an analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

"You mean Asian Americans?" Shade replied.

"You know, you use the Black term, white term, brown term, so I was just going to jump in there with you," Rader said.

"I was just making sure I understood," Shade said.

"Asian distraction," Rader said.

Oklahoma City Democratic Rep. Cyndi Munson responded on Twitter, writing, "I’m Asian American, not yellow. The language used by the Senator is highly offensive and unacceptable. For my fellow colleagues to be so unaware of the words they use & how they might harm people is exactly why we need open & honest dialogue on racism."

Rader also raised eyebrows during the same study with comments about Black poverty that appeared to suggest "big government" and families that aren't "intact" for disparities.

"Shocking to think someone who made a living on the backs of black athletes has such an archaic and narrow perspective of the communities from which they come from," Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa), who is Black, tweeted about Rader, who coached football at the University of Tulsa and other universities prior to entering politics.

In response to a request for comment, Rader did not apologize or directly address the specific remarks or criticisms of his language.

“I’ve spent my entire life as a football coach and educator, fostering opportunities for individuals of every race and background.  As a legislator, I have continued this important work because I believe each and every person in our state and our country should have an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.  As I’ve done throughout my career, I am committed to eliminating barriers that might make the pursuit of that dream more difficult," Rader said.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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