Bruce Prescott, leader of the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, recently spoke at an immigration rally on the steps of Oklahoma’s state capitol, where he argued that “Immigrants Shouldn’t Need ‘Any Stinking Papers.’”
[Republican Rep. Randy] Terrill wants Oklahoma to adopt stricter anti-immigration laws similar to measures passed a year ago in Arizona. An anti-immigration bill is progressing through the legislative process, but it’s gone through a special panel approved by [Republican House Speaker Kris] Steele and the measure’s provisions are weaker than those sought by Terrill.
Steele’s reluctance to push for more draconian anti-immigrant measures has made him the focus of some vitriolic push-back from the far-right wing of his party. At a meeting with constituents earlier this month:
Steele, an associate pastor at Wesleyan United Methodist Church in Shawnee, was asked whether Satanists, communists and atheists were on his church board and he was falsely accused of trying to help get a pardon for a child serial rapist.
(Always with the Satanists. They really are addicted to that stuff.)
What’s remarkable to me about all of this is that it’s going on in Oklahoma — in “The Sooner State.”
That shouldn’t be allowed. It is laughable and should be met with only laughter — the sort of loud, derisive laughter that clearly indicates “We are not laughing with you, we are laughing at you.”
Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to complain about others crossing borders illegally. Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to complain about migrants unable to produce the proper paperwork.
Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to pretend that they don’t know what that word means or where it comes from.
Sooners is the name given to settlers in the midwest of the United States who entered the Unassigned Lands in what is now the state of Oklahoma before President Grover Cleveland officially proclaimed them open to settlement on March 2, 1889 with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889. The name derived from the “sooner clause” of the Act, which stated that anyone who entered and occupied the land prior to the opening time would be denied the right to claim land. …
Some Sooners crossed into the territory illegally at night, and were originally called “moonshiners” because they entered “by the light of the moon.” These Sooners would hide in ditches at night and suddenly appear to stake their claim after the land run started, hours ahead of legal settlers. …
Those who actually observed the official start of the land run and began the race for free land often found choice sections of land already occupied by Sooners or, in some cases, by Boomers. Problems with Sooners continued with each successive land run; in an 1895 land run as much as half of the available land was taken by Sooners. Litigation between legitimate land-run participants and Sooners continued well into the 20th century, and eventually the United States Department of the Interior was given ultimate authority to settle the disputes.
In 1908, the University of Oklahoma adopted “Sooners” as the nickname of their football team, after having first tried “Rough Riders” and “Boomers”. Eventually, Oklahoma became known as “The Sooner State.”
“Sooner” refers to an act of immigrating illegally. A Sooner is an illegal immigrant. Oklahoma is the Illegal Immigrant State.
And since those terms are more or less interchangeable, I think I’ll just stick with “Sooners” from now on. It’s shorter and has a longer American pedigree of popular usage. And just maybe it can also serve as a reminder of the double-standard we apply that reviles others as rule-breaking intruders while celebrating ourselves a go-getting renegades who don’t let the rules slow us down.