Opinion

The Complicated Relationship of Race, Gender, and Power in the Public Political Sphere 

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by Timantha Norman

North Tulsa’s biggest visible ally in the city’s public political sphere, District 1 City Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper, has again been subjected to a very common strategy employed by those in the dominant group in this country: discredit, threaten, and malign any “uppity Negro”, or “Negress”, who dares to question the very apparent institutional racism that permeates every aspect of this country’s inner workings.

There is an abundance of evidence readily available that validates Hall-Harper’s assertion that there are some “crooked”, corrupt cops currently serving in the Tulsa Police Department. Her statements echo and perfectly compliment the national conversation that has been taking place over the past couple of years concerning police brutality in relation to people of color, particularly black men and women.

In the latest update of this ongoing saga, the head of the Rogers County Sheriff’s office Scott Walton pinned an official letter explicitly criticizing and implicitly threatening Councilwoman Hall-Harper in relation to the aforementioned comments. There was also an additional comment where she expressed sorrow for the citizens of Rogers County in having to deal with questionable policing practices by his department, in addition to his hiring of former TPD officer Betty Shelby not long after the gross miscarriage of justice in the Terrence Crutcher case.

Throughout the letter, Sheriff Walton largely went on a factless diatribe about how law enforcement officers are the victims and how Councilwoman Hall-Harper is the true enemy of the people.

This kind of poisonous rhetoric hearkens back to the era of McCarthyism in the 1950s and the J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program of the 1960s-70s, both government-sanctioned initiatives that were thinly veiled attempts at keeping black Americans and other marginalized populations in this nation in what was deemed as our rightful place of subordination.

In one of the most egregious statements made in Sheriff Walton’s letter, he basically tries to completely discredit Councilwoman Hall-Harper without actually offering any concrete facts or statistics to dispute her claims while simultaneously admitting no possible missteps on the part of law enforcement in his community, in Tulsa, the state, and the nation at large:

“Her unsubstantial charges of corruption and wrongdoing are exactly why members of our police profession continue to be persecuted with provoked and unconscionable acts of retaliation, personal assaults, and condemnation. Her method of creating heated political debate over police and community relations and using social media as a platform only serves anti-police rhetoric that plagues this nation. Law enforcement officers throughout the country say they feel under siege by certain members of their community, which often include elected officials like Tulsa Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, who’s abrasive comments can lead to unprecedented hostility toward the police.” 

The ease with which white men in law enforcement and other positions of power in this country chastise, denigrate, and humiliate any person of color who dares to question the damaging effects of white supremacy in their communities speaks to the unyielding power and hypocrisy of this all-American system of unfair advantages and privileges.

Also, the fact that both Fraternal Order of Police official Jared Lindsey, Sheriff Walton and other people with positions of power in this city, mainly white men, are so vehemently attacking Vanessa Hall-Harper’s character when compared to the way they treated the previous District 1 City Council member Jack Henderson brings in the question of possible sexism.

We cannot ignore the bigger historical implications of white men operating as though they have some intrinsic right to dominate and police the agency of the black woman, especially in the public sphere. Whenever a black woman is displaying strength, courage, and tenacity, she always has to contend with the racial and gendered stereotypes that come along with both of those identities.

To be a truly aware, consciousness individual, one must be a devout student of history. Since the first slave revolt took place in the New World, the purposeful discrediting, degradation, and purposeful destruction of prominent leaders in the black community has been a continual tool in white supremacy’s arsenal. However, our collective actions in the face of this systematic oppression must be swift and uniform. Particularly in this current political climate, we have to continue to stay vigilant in the fight against those who stand to benefit the most from making sure that the status quo continues unobstructed and unfettered.


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Timantha Norman is the Managing Editor of The Black Wall Street Times. She is an educator who fervently believes in the power of culturally responsive, critical thinking-focused pedagogy in transforming the lives and future prospects of children. She also believes in journalism’s power to give agency and power to historically oppressed populations. Through her activism in the community and as a student of public policy, she understands the importance of harnessing collective, political power in the service of promoting truth and eliminating injustice. She looks forward to harnessing her personal and professional skills in the service of her community.

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