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Published 03/17/19

OPINION | By Nehemiah D. Frank 

No one likes a stinging rebuke; they can feel worse than a bee’s actual sting.

When an individual receives criticism, especially if this person’s reputation relies heavily on the public’s opinion of them, such as a politician does, the influential personage has the tendency to morph into a reckless mad hatter.

The criticized person — baffled, after being seemingly cornered — more than often becomes perpetually obsessed with seeking revenge until the injury received is paid equally by a harsher assault that’s hurled against their adversary.

It is at this very moment that the revelation of the person’s true character and nature is revealed.

As the blue-eyed, blond-headed, fair-skinned girl in the fictional classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is illustrated by the author as delicately untouchable due to her ‘pureness,’ publically critiquing Dr. Tiffany Crutcher a black woman is equally forbidden.

Tiffany is, therefore, the untouchable nemesis to anyone with an ounce of privilege — white privilege, that is — who seeks to strike at her or her sea of supporters.

Henceforth, a good politician discernibly understands that attacking a grieving sister, having lost her twin brother, Terence Crutcher, to racially-biased policing, is a political no-no.

I am of the opinion that Mayor GT Bynum purposefully targeted the Crutcher family’s attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons, having needed to satisfy feelings of embarrassment.

The mayor knew that a verbal reproach directed at Dr. Crutcher wouldn’t be a good look coming from a man with so much privilege.

Hence, mad as a hatter, having been called out in front of his peers and citizens, and provided the opportunity to respond publicly in a publication with the largest audience, he took the opportunity to indirectly hurl his verbal assault to the next in line.

Having previously said, “‘Whether hearings are serious fact-finding sessions by city councilors or PR stunts by trial lawyers suing the city, we are going to stay focused doing the hard work of making Tulsa a place of equal opportunity for everyone,’” to the Tulsa World. 

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In July of 2017, Mayor GT Bynum invited black Tulsans to stand behind him while he announced that BMX would be relocated to Tulsa’s Greenwood District. Black Tulsans saw the mayor’s choice to have black people represented behind him as a PR stunt.

As a daughter of Tulsa should, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher held him accountable, calling his insensitive remarks ‘shocking.’

The mayor seemingly tried walking back his statements from the previous week in an additional interview, only his words were equally harmful to the Crutcher family and to Black Tulsans.

“‘I was not talking about the whole (community) event,” Bynum said. “I was talking about his (Crutcher family attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’) comments at, before and during, the event,’” he stated.

Attorney Solomon-Simmons said racial discrimination towards blacks from the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) has remained consistent, which is fact, and the mayor agrees with the 2018 Equality Indicator Report.

But the mad as a hatter syndrome began to metastasize.

It is a behavior that continues to resurface and echos an age-old practice of systemic racism that negatively brands black people as irresponsible troublemakers, who can’t be trusted to behave civilly in a public forum. 

The Tulsa World published that “‘At the same time, Bynum said, he is troubled by the way Solomon-Simmons has portrayed Tulsa’s police officers.’”

“‘Do I think their attorney jumps in front of the cameras every chance he gets to belittle the Tulsa Police Department and to belittle the hard work of so many people in our community who are trying to do work on community policing? Yeah, I do.”

Mayor Bynum countered with a damaging response to a complicated situation.

Dynast, plus political power, added with the ascribed status of being white and male, is the ultimate privileged position to be in, in any America city. Great responsibility comes with that amount of power.

In the article, the mayor purportedly names the civil right’s attorney, a troublemaker — an uncalculated move considering the history of white male politicians who tried shaming black activist and civil right attorneys who attempted to hold them accountable.

Now consider this, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called a dangerous troublemaker who jumped in front of the cameras at every chance he got, while fighting for justice. Today, attorney Solomon-Simmons essentially walks in the footsteps of iconic black giants after the mayor attempted to evoke his privilege in efforts to demonize the attorney’s reputation in such a public way.

Thinking out loud can have a negative impact if the wrong words are said and one’s tongue decides to be courageously unpredictable following a community-led public hearing that may temporarily make the city’s police department appear unfriendly.

How can the mayor do better when it comes to public issues involving race? 

The mayor should phone the nearest Chief or Formal Chief Resilience Officer to help with PR. He or she should be black and understanding of the racial, social dynamics that shaped this city, having experienced a massacre of its black citizens whereby the city’s police department actively played a role in providing the hostile white mob with firearms and intentionally failed to arrest anyone.

Understand that whiteness coupled with maleness, plus political influence equals ultimate privilege. The privileged must be self-recognized within the leader; if not, the leader could potentially make petty insensitive remarks that may cause the public to have a negative opinion about them.

Absolutely under no circumstance should a person of privilege throw what they’ve done ‘for black people’ back into black people’s faces. That’s called tooting one’s privileged horn. That kind of behavior only reminds black people of the Miss. Milly scene from the legendary film the Color Purple. 

- I've always been good to you people! - We know that, ma'am.

The mayor said in the Tulsa World “If you think about everything we have done in the last two years — opening a municipal jail with a focus on diversion, creating a sobering center, creating the Police Activities League and Project Trust, not to mention deployment of body cameras for every patrol officer and implementing a 77-point community-policing strategy and going through the really intense upscaling we’re going through on manpower so we can do community policing the right way.” 

The mayor doesn’t have to remind us on what he’s accomplished. We are simply holding him accountable because he’s a politician who’s ultimately in charge of the city’s police department.

A white person should refrain from taking it personal when black people attack the very system which causes their oppression. 

Nehemiah Frank

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America and an emerging leader in the education reform movement, Nehemiah frequently travels for speaking engagements around the country, is a blogger for Education Post, and has been featured on NBC as well as in Blavity and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also an educator and school administrator at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in the spring of 2018. 

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...