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Oklahoma State Rep. Regina Goodwin On Trump's Visit To Tulsa

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When President Trump initially announced he was heading to Tulsa, Okla., for his first campaign rally in months, the news set off an outcry. The date of the event, June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. And then there is the location. Tulsa, Okla., was the site of an historic and gruesome massacre of Black residents in 1921. The Trump event was moved to today, but the objections persist.

State Representative Regina Goodwin grew up in the historic Greenwood area of Tulsa, where the massacre took place. She now represents the area in the legislature. She also chairs the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus. And she is with us now.

Representative Goodwin, thank you so much for speaking with us.

REGINA GOODWIN: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: I just want to recall that you held a press conference with other members of the Black Caucus to express your dismay at the president's choice of Juneteenth, which was yesterday, to travel to Tulsa and hold this rally. Would you just mind recounting for people who didn't hear that press conference, what are your main objections? What were they?

GOODWIN: In Tulsa specifically, as you noted, our history certainly includes the greatest terroristic act on Black folks in American history. I'm defending that backdrop. We knew that we had to, first of all, honor our ancestors. I'm a descendant of a 1921 race massacre survivor, so we take this subject very seriously, and we live it every day. We knew that it was a divisive tactic. We knew that it was perhaps provocative. And we were going to remain focused, Michel, and that's - really, our heart is there. I'm doing what's going to be best for us.

MARTIN: I note in your press conference that you said that you have some real issues that you are trying to advance - they say health disparities, educational disparities, et cetera. You know, several weeks ago, President Trump gave the broad outlines of this four-point plan which he says will reduce racial disparities. Included in it was more incentives for Black businesses, more funding for HBCUs. And he said that an improved economy is, quote, "the greatest thing that can happen for race relations."

Given that you have a legislative agenda of your own, how do you respond to that? What do you think?

GOODWIN: Well, what we know is that in Tulsa in 1921, we had Mr. Smitherman (ph), and we had Mr. Stratford (ph). We had Mr. Goodwin (ph) in this community. These are folks that were blessed to have some degree of financial security. Yet racism still affected them, right? Some folks were run out of town. So just because you're of means does not mean that racism is not going to impact your life. I will say that for him to make it that simple - nothing is that simple. And we know better.

And as it relates to COVID-19, health care, we are a few weeks away from June 30, and we have an opportunity to have Medicaid expansion here in Tulsa. And that is huge. It could not get done in the legislature. It's a simple majority Republican legislature here in Oklahoma. I'm one of three Black women in the legislature. So what our thoughts are and how we think America and Oklahoma, Tulsa specifically, can best be served - oftentimes, our thoughts are not the thoughts of the legislature.

So we have an opportunity on June 30 basically to bring Medicaid expansion to Oklahoma. That's a billion dollars of our money coming back. I don't think that's going to be on that four-point plan that you were discussing.

MARTIN: Can I ask you how people in your district - how - as I mentioned, you grew up in Greenwood. Your great-grandfather, as I understand it, was a businessman in Greenwood at the time of the massacre. And thankfully, I assume he survived somehow, which is how you come...

GOODWIN: Yes.

MARTIN: ...To be. How are your neighbors talking about all this? Do you mind if I ask?

GOODWIN: Yes.

MARTIN: How are they processing all this? How are they talking about it?

GOODWIN: So we still talk about reparations here. We still remember when Charles Ogletree did all he could to make sure that the race massacre survivors felt some degree of justice. It never happened. So what we say here is that the notion that a platform that is based on racism, that gins up a base, that feeds red meat to a base - we know that is a strategy to distract from the real issues of justice and equity.

How is it that you can stop affirmative action as it relates to contracting under the cover of COVID? How is it you can go on an all-out attack on Byron Allen - I'll just be honest with you - and then allow the Department of Justice to engage in that case? There are issues over and over again where the administration will show itself not to be friendly to justice. That's what we think about every day in Tulsa, Okla.

And I will tell you, I am a descendent. And you ask, how did my grandfather survive? It was by the grace of God because we had a Goodwin building that burned to the ground. We had property that burned to the ground. I had a great-grandmother who even though folks were being threatened with murder, and they had just seen some 300 folks just massacred, they still had the audacity and the courage to go and say, these are the properties of the law. This is the amount of money that is owed to this family. And she was rejected outright. It's that kind of mentality and that kind of resilience that still exists in Tulsa. So it is consistent with what we were doing way back in 1921, when Sarah Page falsely accused Dick Rowland of assault. It's the same thing we saw in 2020, when Amy Cooper falsely accused Christian Cooper of assault. The story is the same. It's just a different decade.

MARTIN: That's State Representative Regina Goodwin. She serves in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and she is chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus.

Representative Goodwin, thank you so much for speaking with us today.

GOODWIN: Michel, thank you so much. And I appreciate you putting the spotlight on Tulsa, Okla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.