Okla. Legislative Black Caucus Leaders Call Stitt's Race Roundtable 'Superficial,' Not 'Substantial'

Jun 10, 2020

Oklahoma Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) said this week that she took two major exceptions with Gov. Kevin Stitt's Sunday roundtable discussion on race, put together in the wake of nationwide protests over police killings of Black Americans following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.

"One: He had said that he does not want [incidents like the killing of George Floyd] to happen in Oklahoma," Goodwin, who leads the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, said by phone on Tuesday. "We've already had incidents in Oklahoma. I thought, had the panel been more broad, that information could have been brought to the table."

Goodwin listed the killing of Terence Crutcher by a white Tulsa Police Department officer in 2016 and the death of Elliott Williams in 2011 in the Tulsa County jail, as well as the death of Derrick "Ollie" Scott last year in Oklahoma City police, body-camera footage of which that department has released following demands from Black Lives Matter activists.

"The guy was saying 'I can't breathe' right here in Oklahoma City and police are sitting on top of his body," Goodwin said. "We have to acknowledge that it has happened and it continues to happen."

Goodwin went on to cite legislation that she and Black Caucus colleagues have tried to pass into law on issues surrounding criminal justice reform, including on topics of body-camera usage, excessive use of force, and hate crime designations, that she said Republicans in Oklahoma City have prevented from being heard.

"It never gets even heard in committee, let alone makes it to the House floor. So I thought when the governor is asking the question, 'What can we do as elected officials,' we have been doing, and there has been a concerted effort to not even hear that kind of legislation at the Capitol," Goodwin said.

Goodwin also criticized the lack of gender diversity on Stitt's panel. All four panelists were men; three were Black, one was white.

"They didn't have any panelists that were women. That was obvious. He should have had a knowledgeable woman on that panel," Goodwin said, adding that the governor also didn't invite leading Oklahoman criminal justice reform advocates or activists, such as Tiffany Crutcher.

"Nobody has to be at the table, but it would have been of greater benefit to Oklahoma to have those hard conversations, to ask the difficult questions. It's not going to be happy talk, but it's going to be talk that we have to move through to improve Oklahoma," Goodwin said.

In a statement, Rep. Jason Lowe (D-Oklahoma City) also criticized the panel.

"In Oklahoma, we have a deep bench of academics, civil rights leaders, activists and elected officials who could have led the governor and panel in a difficult, yet extremely important conversation,” Lowe said. “Instead of a substantial meeting on inequity, we had a superficial show of solidarity."