By Rep. Scott Fetgatter
Today I ran into an old friend at the store. We had a long conversation about all that is going on in our world and he asked my opinion.
I have not been public on this issue that is all so disturbing to me, but I feel it is proper and right for me to put out a statement.
I grew up in Okmulgee and love my hometown and friends. I moved home because of the very thing that happened at that convenience store earlier today. When I lived in a large city, I never saw the people I knew at the store, the movies or in restaurants.
I love being in small town Oklahoma.
I want to make clear that I am deeply disturbed by the death of George Floyd. It is horrific, and these types of situations should never happen in our country.
I also 100% support the right to protest and peaceably assemble.
I made this statement to another friend yesterday: “When people are heard they respond, but when they aren’t heard they react!”
Over the past few days we have seen both responses and reactions. We have seen many law enforcement officers supporting (responding to) protestors. We have also seen protestors acting respectfully toward (responding to) law enforcement officers.
We also seen some react in ways that are unacceptable in our society, but I choose not to give them much attention.
While speaking to my friend that I met in the store, I told him “I am sorry, but growing up in Okmulgee I just don’t understand white privilege.”
Because he is my friend, he took time to explain some situations he has gone through to help me. You see, my friend is a black man, and he was compassionate when I made the comment because he knows the intent of where it came from.
Instead of him “reacting” to my comment, he “responded,” and it really helped me understand better from his perspective.
We both shared our thoughts and concerns on these issues, never once raising our voices. We even laughed at each other a bit. We had compassion and probably some empathy toward each other because we both took a brief look into each other’s world.
I really work to understand what people mean when they use terms like systemic racism, implicit bias and white privilege. I want to examine myself and the community and state in which I live to see if these things are present and to root them out if they are.
In light of all that is happening, I am calling on city and county leaders to meet with me and others to discuss these issues and come up with solutions to implement immediately for the future of our district and our state. I want to look at our local law enforcement protocols as well as hear the concerns of minority community members.
But beyond local and potentially legislative action, I want to ask all of the people I represent if they will join me today in looking into the world of another person. Please consider the viewpoint of someone who you believe to be in a completely different place and with a different point of view.
Will you look into someone’s life and try to understand better the challenges they face? Whether rich or poor, disabled or in perfect health, no matter the color of one’s skin, we all face difficulties. Empathy is an underused emotion we can all begin to use more often.
I am thankful for every relationship I have had in my life, and I will continue to cherish the opportunity to better understand your situation.
May God bless our great Nation and the State of Oklahoma in these times of growth.
Scott Fetgatter serves District 16 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Muskogee, Okmulgee, Tulsa and Wagoner.