Oklahoma governor's spokesperson says refusing to respond to Black-owned media site is 'our policy'
If only people knew the racist inner-workings that inform how they get their news, we'd have far more former CNN aficionados retreating into media-free solitude. The racism at work at your favorite news stations, newspapers, and red carpet events is so rampant that many of the Pulitzer-Prize and other award winning journalists shedding light on systemic issues of racism often had to do so at the disapproval of their bosses and on their personal time. I know this because I've worked as a journalist for more than a decade and have friends in a wide gamut of media roles, some with Emmys and Pulitzers to boot, some who have yet to receive their roses for their courageous work.
So imagine my disgust when I learned that a spokesperson for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had the gall to try to belittle the work of a journalist of color working for a Black-owned media outlet. Sarah Gray, who self-identifies as a "proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation and of Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Kiowa Tribe descent," is a political correspondent and senior writer for The Black Wall Street Times. After Gray asked routine questions about how a commission voted on legislation and the governor's involvement, Stitt's director of communications Carly Atchison wrote and The Black Wall Street Times screenshot this response: "Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out but our policy is to respond to journalists, not activists pretending to be reporters. Good luck!"
News flash: Any journalist worthy of the title is an activist pretending to be a reporter. Now, depending on the outlet, some have to pretend a bit more convincingly than others, but if a sense of justice and a desperate need to right some societal wrong doesn't drive the work of journalism, then it's not journalism.
Why is Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt refusing to speak with Black news outlets in Oklahoma and allowing his spokesw… https://t.co/GMe73YnTH6— Kendall Brown (@Kendall Brown) 1620754217.0
"The governor's message to the more than 1 million readers of The Black Wall Street Times is clear; he has no interest in sharing information with you, the journalists or Black-owned publication you trust," the media company's editorial board penned. "This anti-Black dog whistling is nothing new to members of the press who represent Black media. Anti-Blackness has inarguably become a cornerstone of the Stitt Administration's general policy position."
The news site fittingly based in Oklahoma, the birthplace of the economically thriving Black Tulsa community that is also the news organization's namesake, was asking the governor about his attendance at a meeting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission to discuss Stitt's role on the commission—or more accurately, lack there of. No one from his office showed up to the meeting on Monday despite being invited, while the governor twice "snubbed" the commission, The Black Wall Street Times reported. "Now more than ever, we need policies that bring us closer together – not rip us apart," the Republican governor said in a statement on Friday. "And as governor I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex."
Stitt made the speech the same day he signed into law Oklahoma House Bill 1775, which The Black Wall Street Times defined as "a law that shields White students from learning about the trauma and effects of systemic racism if it makes them feel discomfort or guilt." Let's not forget, this is in a state where white supremacists burned and terrorized the wealthiest Black community in the country, that of Tulsa, in 1921. The governor promised House Bill 1775 wouldn't "prevent or discourage" difficult conversations about "our past." He said "verbatim" it reads: "No teacher shall require or make part of a course that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex."
The legislation maintains that no public school employee should require or make part of a course any content that makes any individual "feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex." It also includes bizarre language that bans defining "meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic" as "racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race." Still, Stitt wants his constituents to believe the bill is harmless.
My statement on HB 1775. https://t.co/2EgMh7A7xZ— Governor Kevin Stitt (@Governor Kevin Stitt) 1620423050.0
If the bill is as harmless as the governor implies, it's unclear why his office had such a problem answering The Black Wall Street Times' basic questions about how each member on the Tulsa commission voted in coming to a collective decision not to support the legislation. "Based on this interaction, it is the Black Wall Street Times Editorial Board's opinion that Governor Stitt and his communications team are operating with a segregated media policy," the editorial board wrote.
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