Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Yet again, Kevin full of Stitt
Martin Luther King would have been all about the further disenfranchisement of Oklahoma's tribal citizens, so says the governor of our great state
Let’s make a list of all the ways Oklahomans might have awakened to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was Monday.
1) Without knowledge it was MLK Day at all, perhaps because they don’t work conventional schedules, don’t have holidays off, putting it out of sight, out of mind. Or they just forgot.
2) With the same earnestness and reverence, or more, than they reserve for Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day, because it’s a day to remember not only the man but the struggle, his and those whose he sought to lessen, demanding civil rights, voting rights and workers’ rights, while holding a mirror to a nation that had systematically denied so many of those rights since its inception.
3) As a rewarding paid day off, independent of all historical thought.
4) As a Monday they’d not have to wait until 6 p.m. for East Coast basketball and hockey to begin, the NBA tipping off at 11:30 a.m., New Orleans and Boston; the NHL dropping the puck at noon, Detroit and Buffalo; even the colleges got things going before lunch.
5) Or as any combination thereof, for who hasn’t driven to the bank, realized it’s closed, figured out why it’s closed, felt guilty for not knowing why it’s closed and experienced reverential thoughts alongside the guilt of not knowing why its closed, and then driven home to watch the NBA on TNT?
Kevin Stitt, governor of the great state of Oklahoma, however, woke up fully aware it was MLK Day, yet fell into none of those categories.
Instead, he woke up thinking one of two things about the day our nation honors its greatest civil rights leader.
He woke up thinking …
No, wait, you should probably see what he said first.
“He believed, as I do, that every citizen of this nation is granted the same rights and opportunities under our Constitution,” Stitt said, referring to King during a six-minute speech at the Oklahoma History Center, part of a program to honor King, not some political dinner he can say whatever he wants because nobody cares anyway.
“Tomorrow we may know if the Supreme Court is going to take a second look at the McGirt decision,” Stitt continued. “Since that ruling came down two summers ago, in which the court ruled that the eastern half of Oklahoma could still be a reservation, I have been speaking about its destructive consequences for our state.
“I believe that freedom fighters like Dr. King would be astounded, maybe even disgusted, by the McGirt ruling, because the ruling created two sets of rules for Oklahomans based on their race.”
Actually, it didn’t.
What it did was rule, in regards to the Major Crimes Act, an 1885 federal law, Congress had not disestablished Indian reservations in what later became Oklahoma and, therefore, crimes committed by tribal citizens on historic reservation lands are a federal matter, not a state matter.
Yet, at its root, what it really did was hold a nation guilty of the historical genocide of Native Americans to treaties it entered into with them after a great deal of that genocide had already occurred, that the entirety of native sovereignty can’t just be wiped way in the name of convenience.
Back to Stitt.
Every other Oklahoman got up Monday with their own sense of Martin Luther King Jr. Day’s significance, or lack thereof, yet only our governor woke up thinking one of two things about it.
1) It was a good day to corrupt the message of our greatest civil rights leader in the name of further trampling the historic rights and sovereignty of past, present and future tribal citizens, knowing it to be a morally and legally bankrupt position, yet not caring in the name of political expediency because, what the hell, it might just work.
2) That King really would get behind a state’s effort to strip the sovereignty of another historically abused American population than the one King represented (which is inadequate syntax, because he was fighting for all of us, really, though so many of us, our parents, grandparents and great grandparents couldn’t grasp it and many still don’t).
Does it matter which?
The Oklahoman reported “it was Stitt’s prediction of how King would have felt about [McGirt] that landed him in hot water.”
“Hot water,” perhaps, because tribal leaders fired back.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” tweeted Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “I’m certain Dr. King would not join Governor Stitt in his effort to destroy the reservations of Indian nations. In any case, this day should be about unity and joining together to shine a light on darkness.”
The Muskogee Nation offered a response, tweeting “[King] stood for truth and justice. Your pouting and dishonest fear-mongering about the effect of tribal sovereignty exhibit neither.”
They’re right, and still, to so many Oklahomans it’s sure to sound like just another political spat, rather than what it really is:
Entirely embarrassing, from one side, which isn’t really a side, because there aren’t two sides when one side is full of it.
Stitt is frequently embarrassing, proudly uninformed and seemingly happy to govern like nobody’s watching; that or certain only the least of us are watching and it’s the constituency he can’t piss off.
He remains, of course, unbeaten at driving one lesson home.
You get who you vote for.