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Published 01/09/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 30 sec
By BWSTimes Staff
TULSA, Okla. — On Wednesday night at the Rudisill Regional Library, Mayor G.T. Bynum undoubtedly struck a nerve and maybe even displayed a little cultural incompetence when he told community activist Marq Lewis, and essentially Tulsa’s black community, “No” on canceling the controversial reality television show LIVE PD, while in front of a majority-black audience.
Black constituents were attending Mayor Bynum’s Town Hall community input session to assist with suggestions in choosing Tulsa’s next chief of police. The meeting was seemingly going well, but suddenly took a turn for the worst after Bynum’s perceived negative response to Lewis’s reasonable request: that Bynum would cancel the LIVE PD contract so Black Tulsans, as well as other communities, wouldn’t feel and be exploited for entertainment and financial purposes.
Lewis approached the microphone and reminded Bynum about the exploitive contract he, along with Chief Chuck Jordan, signed with the entertainment company at the expense of his own citizens.
“You signed that contract, Mayor,” Lewis stated. “In the dire straight, you have given access to a production company for entertainment purposes. Not for educational purposes. For our community, we don’t like to see that,” Lewis said.
For centuries, Black Americans have often been the go-to for White America’s entertainment, starting with Blacks being depicted as minstrels. White entertainers dressed in blackface and propagandized the worst stigmas of people of African descent for financial gain, much like LIVE PD.
Whether the Mayor disagrees with that perspective is irrelevant. He comes from a class that is least likely to be exploited, and it’s the oppressed who defines the oppressor.
During the ’90s, COPS dominated the television airways and reinforced Black Americans as super predators, less than human to be treated as suspect. Today, LIVE PD appears to be the evolution of that dehumanizing narrative in the exploitation of Black Americans and other marginalized communities.
Several speakers from the community tried to explain to Mayor Bynum why the show was problematic and divisive for a city seeking to heal old racial wounds.
Lewis’s request was simple: “Will you stand here — because you just said that you will bring racial equality, and you know how LIVE PD has divided our city. We have a history of that. Other cities have gotten ride of LIVE PD. Will you stand here today and say that you will cancel that contract?”
Applause could be heard throughout the crowd.
“No!” The Mayor rebutted.
“No! I will not,” doubling down.
Mayor Bynum’s “No” came off as extremely insensitive, much like the downplaying of the reparation’s comment just a few weeks ago during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre mass grave’s meeting at Carver Middle School.
Bynum’s argument was, “I think it’s important for people to see what our officers actually deal with on the field,” ignoring the exploitive nature of the show. He continued, “And LIVE PD has the ability to do that. I supported the cancellation previously for a couple of reasons –.”
Before Bynum could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by an audience member who loudly declared, “That is not important.”
The Mayor tried reclaiming his time, “Ma’ ma, I respectfully listened to people all night — okay.” Despite the Mayor’s attempt to interject, the black woman stood her ground, adding, “I don’t care what you say! It is not important. Put cameras on the officers.” The crowd appeared to agree through collective applause.
Bynum tried to regain control of the room but was interrupted again.
“It’s that attitude that’s making people upset,” another community member added. Mayor Bynum’s dismissive behavior to black Tulsan’s concerns over the controversial tv show has undoubtedly agitated Tulsa’s black community.
To black Tulsans, Mayor Bynum’s statement may be interpreted as saying: I’ll do what I think is best, regardless of how your community feels.
Thursday, January 9, at 6 pm at the OU—Tulsa campus will be the final of three listening sessions the Mayor will host for input on the next chief of police.