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Left, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum; Right, Nehemiah D. Frank editor in chief and founder of The Black Wall Street Times
Published 08/24/19 | Reading Time 4 min 36 sec
By Nehemiah D. Frank
I really do like our mayor, but silence can lead to more violence. And at the end of the day, we’re all in this together facing the consequences of policy good and bad.
The most frustrating thing our elected officials can do is seemingly pander to their base to secure votes for the next election. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of that lately from the current Republican mayor of Tulsa — GT Bynum.
While the honorable and present mayor of Oklahoma City, David Holt, also a Republican, publicly and proudly displayed his signature on the petition to stop House Bill 2597 — known as “permitless carry” — Mayor Bynum deeply disappointed many of his citizens by not following the bold example of Mayor Holt.
Although many citizens commented in approval of his statement and position on social media, many didn’t.
Instead of remaining silent like most moderate politicians would do amid controversy, Mayor GT Bynum did speak up; however, publicly offering his opinion regarding why he doesn’t engage in such controversial political issues. He never mentioned House Bill 2597, and it was noted.
Are not the safety of our lives worthy of a politician’s voice?
Tulsans deserve leaders who are willing to courageously and publically take a stand for them and their families. They need leaders who will share information, speak truth to power, and publically advocate for the people they care about.
Many us are grateful that Mayor GT Bynum can be so progressive when it comes to combating racial disparities, advocating for LGBTQ rights, welcoming immigrants, attempting to improve police and community relations, and assembling an investigative team to probe into the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre’s mass graves. I am personally grateful for his hard work for our city.
At the onset of Mayor Bynum’s post, he said,
“I pledged to the citizens of Tulsa that I would focus on bringing our city together to focus on our greatest challenges. We’ve done that, and I am incredibly proud of the way Tulsans have gone about it.”
I am grateful for his efforts here as well; nevertheless, how does the sharing of information — a petition — on one’s personal platform, that measures a social reach in the hundreds of thousands, jeopardize the unification of a city?
I understand the attraction and benefits of being more positive with one’s platform, however, taking a stance against House Bill 2597 is nothing short of a noble act that some politicians aren’t willing to outwardly do for fear of being alienated by their base.
Cleary Mayor Holt understands that the bill will inevitably endanger the lives of every Oklahoman at grocery stores, schools, churches, including our law enforcement officers and should be repealed. He displayed his level of concern for his city by being public to his huge social media following.
In my humble opinion, it’s the elected leader who remains silently neutral amid controversy with the most influential platform that allows the danger in.
Mayor GT Bynum was unapologetic and publically dismissed many of his citizens’ personal fears regarding House Bill 2597. The public knows he’s a city elected mayor and not a state legislator. Despite that fact, he still has influence. Hence, thousands of people read his Facebook post when he said:
“I know it makes some of my friends angry that I don’t weigh in on every Trump or AOC tweet. I don’t sign a group letter telling Jim Inhofe and James Lankford how they should vote on a bill in the US Senate. I don’t jump into the fray on state initiative petitions.”
Now, let’s ponder on what anti-apartheid and human rights activist Desmond Tutu once said, “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
A mayor’s willingness to remain publicly neutral on gun control is unsettling to many, and it’s exactly what anti-gun control advocates and far-right extremist want.
We didn’t vote for a mayor to be solely responsible for bringing the city together for the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre; that’s all of our duty as human beings and as citizens of Tulsa. We voted for a leader, a type of personage, who would use the platform as an elected mayor of Oklahoma’s second-largest city to advocate for our pursuits in the American dream: high-quality and access to education, health, business opportunities, and our natural right to tranquility.
I personalized a remixed version of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as it applies to the present situation concerning Oklahoma’s shameful vote to become a permitless carrying state.
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the
white moderate [politician]. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s [average Tulsan’s] great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom [and the right to live in a safe environment without the fear of being shot at school or while innocently shopping with family on the weekend] is not the White Citizen’s Council-er [, city mayor, legislator, governor] or the Ku Klux Klanner [or White nationalist], but the white moderate [politican] who is more devoted to [their personal image and] “order” than to justice [and the safety of his or her citizeny]; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice [and safer environment for all]; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action [in publicaly signing or sharing a stop permitless carrying petition for Oklahoma legislatiors];” who paternalistically feels he [or she] can set the timetable for another man’s freedom [or safety]; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro [average citizen] to wait until a “more convenient season.” [mass shooting takes place in Tulsa at a local grocery store or school before he or she feels it necessary to vocally and publically get involved.]
Where is our leader’s spine? Clearly behaving orderly is of more importance than the safety of our citizens.
“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection,” Dr. King stated.
Mayor Bynum isn’t a private citizen; he is an elected official, whose obligation — regardless of political affiliation and titled position — should be that of a humanitarian and that includes advocating for the safety of his citizens.
It would be most unfortunate if another mass shooting took place, but this time in Tulsa, while city leaders remained neutral because that is how they were shaped and taught.
Courageous leaders, like Mayor Holt, understand the importance and full magnitude of publicly advocating for his constituents, and I’m sure his citizens are thankful for his bold display of concerns for their safety.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor in chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World.