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Published 03/04/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 15 sec
By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder, director and executive editor
When it came to doing the morally right deed — voting for the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, U.S. (R) Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma’s second congressional district didn’t.
Instead, Mullin chose to remain silent with a No Vote. He either forgot or never learned the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
I must state that I am disturbed by Rep. Mullin’s silence because he demonstrated that he is either an enemy of Black Oklahomans, and Black people in general, or he’s the type of false friend to allow the continuation of Black people being lynched in America. By not speaking up, he indirectly voted against a civil rights bill that was 100-years in the making.
Again, I’m disturbed that Mullin of Oklahoma’s second congressional district chose to not vote for the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Law, despite representing a district that birthed one of America’s most widespread lynching photographs.
I couldn’t help but to think of my mother and I — when I first came across this photo some years ago.
According to the EJI:
“On May 25, 1911, Laura Nelson, an African American woman, and her teenaged son, L.W., were kidnapped from the Okemah County jail in Oklahoma before they could stand trial on murder charges. Ms. Nelson and her son were accused of killing a deputy sheriff while he was searching their cabin for stolen meat, but the prosecution’s presentation at the preliminary hearing raised doubts about whether the State had sufficient evidence for a conviction.
Members of the white mob reportedly raped Ms. Nelson before hanging her and her son from a bridge over the Canadian River, close to the black part of town. Choosing that site sent a message of terror and intimidation to the entire black community. The next morning, hundreds of white people from Okemah came to view the bodies. Photographs of the spectacle were later reprinted as postcards and sold at novelty stores.
A special grand jury was called to investigate the lynching. District Judge Caruthers instructed the jurors to be mindful of their duty as members “of a superior race and greater intelligence to protect this weaker race.” No member of the mob was prosecuted.”
The Equal Justice Initiative estimates that some 4,000 Black Americans became the victims of racial terror lynchings post-Reconstruction and during the Jim Crow era.
Moreover, Mullin issued a No Vote while representing a state that has a history that’s notorious for terrorizing and lynching Black Americans, a state that is also recorded for having the worst race massacre against Black lives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even mentioned what happened in Mullin’s neighboring congressional district on the House Floor, just before the vote.
“The race massacre in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, 100 years ago next year, called ‘the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.’ The mutilation and murder of Emmett Till, for whom this legislation is named, a 14-year-old boy – just a boy – 65 years ago, one of the most appalling acts of racial violence in our history, forever seared in our collective memory.”
Four other U.S. congressional leaders from Oklahoma — (D) Rep. Kendra Horn, (R) Rep. Tom Cole, (R) Rep. Kevin Hern and (R) Rep. Frank Lucas — reached across party lines to pass H.R. 35 the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, a bill to designate lynching as a federal hate crime.
“It’s so appropriate that it is bipartisan because it is about American values. And I rise to join you to pass H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which finally explicitly designates lynching as a federal hate crime,” Madam speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House Floor.
Since U.S. (R) Rep. Markwayne Mullin decided to embarrass our state with his racism and chose not to return my call or message, as the founder and editor in chief of The Black Wall Street Times — and as a descendant of a family that experienced the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on Greenwood, as Speaker Pelosi mentioned, ‘the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,’ — I think it’s only appropriate to write and publish this short, so Rep. Mullin will forever be remembered in history as the Oklahoma man who remained silent — while the other four Oklahoma U.S. representatives nobly voted their names into history.
Thank You, Rep. Horn, Rep. Cole, Rep. Hern and Rep. Lucas for collectively-passing the Emmett Till Antilynching Act on Wednesday, February 26, 2020.
Rep. Mullin will forever be remembered as the man who voted against granting this small step towards justice and reconciliation or conciliation for Black Americans.
There is still room in this writer’s heart for reconciliation and forgiveness. Perhaps I can help Rep. Mullin get his congressional district’s memorial to Okemah from the EJI and Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. However, Mullin would have to extend an olive branch back this direction since I have already initiated the olive branch by calling and leaving a message.
Rep. Mullin posted to his Facebook page the following message:
“I was not able to vote on the bill because I have been supporting my son’s ongoing recovery at the Centre for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield, California since the day he was injured. If I were able to be in Washington, I would have voted YES on H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act.”