Open letter to Senator James Paul Lankford of Oklahoma
Monday, July 29, 2019
Dear Senator Lankford:
My name is Nehemiah D. Frank, and I am a Tulsa, Oklahoma resident. I am also a former middle school educator and the founder and editor-in-chief of the Black Wall Street Times (BWSTimes). BWSTimes is a digital media company; its mission is to amplify African-American voices, perspectives, and experiences.
You and I have met on several occasions. You were a recent panelist at the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation’s 2019 National Symposium, a visitor of my 6th-grade classroom in the fall of 2017, and a current committee member for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission. I also wrote you a letter after the Betty Shelby trial.
I want to commend you, regarding your two speeches on the US Senate floor, as you so eloquently highlighted the importance of educating all of America about the tragedy of racial violence that took place in my hometown of Tulsa in 1921. In your address to your colleagues, you educated US senators about the time a white mob was provoked out of racial fear — that had been printed in the Tulsa Tribune — to commit violence. “Nab Negro” was their call to action in the headlines. As you are well aware of, it was a white mob that murdered over 300 African-American men, women, and children and burned my community to ashes during that year.
I am writing to you this day because I am concerned about the dangerous rhetoric coming from your political party’s leader — President Donald J. Trump. As the Tulsa Tribune article agitated the mob to commit the pillaging and massacre in my community in 1921, I fear that your party leader’s tweets may stoke further racial violence against non-white people in America.
Furthermore, my fear stems not only from him but also from you.
Jim Crow segregation and the reign of racial terror, in the form of institutional chattel slavery, swept this land as late as the 1950s, while southern whites turned their heads in the opposite direction of the horrific injustices taking place against African-Americans.
Senator Lankford, your inactions to publicly disavow President Trump’s behavior is concerning.
Please, don’t be the person who turns his head in the opposite direction of injustice. Again, I urge you to use your platform to do what is right for all of us.
If you are a believer in a just God, then be the leader that God has called for you to be and confront President Trump. Proverbs 31:8-9 instructs us to “open y[our] mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open y[our]mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Be our voice and confront him, Mr. Senator.
The President’s language is damaging to the soul of this nation. No true youth pastor or right leader would approve nor put up with it. Please, do not be afraid to stand up and confront the President. Please, do what is right on our behalf. Isaiah 1:17 requires us to “…seek justice [and] correct oppression…” This is your moment in history to do just that.
You can become great if you can be courageous.
You are in a unique position. You are the Senator of a state where every county voted Republican in 2016. Henceforth, there is no doubt in my mind that you can win again without the support of the president. Next, you represent a state where its people appreciate your efforts to improve race relations by encouraging its people to have dinner with someone of a different race. You are probably the most qualified Republican besides Senator Tim Scott to start the race conversation within the Republican Party.
Perhaps, you both can teach the President how some of his tweets and rhetoric are hurtful to non-white people who are American citizens.
I believe we can still be a nation with political parties that disagree. Nevertheless — if we become a nation that allows racially coded and hurtful messaging to persist without going unchecked and that polarizes our parties racially, we will lose the progress that you, I, and so many others have fought and continue fighting for — that is the racial healing of America.
Isaiah 26:10 says: “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.” President Trump has clearly demonstrated that he won’t allow anyone to challenge his character flaws. I can admit that we all have them. In his position of leadership, he is called to a higher level of moral behavior. GOP leaders are not doing him a favor by not calling him out as he is called to be the best among us. I am, therefore, urging you not to show favor to his wicked language by ignoring his painful words he continues hurling at non-white people. Call him out so President Trump can be a better President for all Americans and his remaining time in office.
I fear that if he wins again, the racial tension will get worse if his behavior goes unchecked. I can see white nationalist further embolden to commit harm against people who look like me.
In closing, this letter is written to be non-political; it regards the safety concerns I have for all Americans. If we stay on this path of racial division, I fear darker days will come.
Nehemiah D. Frank