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TULSA, OKLA. – Just hours after far-right extremists encouraged by President Donald Trump attacked Capitol Hill, all five of Oklahoma’s congressional House representatives voted in favor of overturning the 2020 election.
G.T. Bynum, Tulsa’s mayor, took to Facebook that afternoon condemning “what is happening at our United States Capitol right now” as a “disgrace.” The following day he wrote a longer form statement on social media which more or less held true to his typical style – ride the line, don’t take a stance.
He called the insurrectionists “criminals” but not terrorists. He saw “bipartisan condemnation of the lawless behavior that occurred” but declined to address the partisan sedition that catalyzed the attack. He was grateful that a day after his family witnessed “mob rule attempt to gain control of their government” they were able to see “elected representatives of their fellow Americans from both parties speak with sincerity and passion and reason before the day ended.” He noted that both Democratic and Republican representatives acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had won the election but didn’t mention that Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and all five Oklahoman representatives worked to overturn the election.
He even lauds Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) for his speech on the house floor while making no mention of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation. Sasse inspired Bynum to think about how Tulsa can “help heal our country if we are willing to work together.” How can we heal from what we won’t acknowledge?
According to a source, the Tulsa County Republican Party, Mayor Bynum’s party, chartered three buses so their members could attend the anti-election protest in Washington D.C..
Trent Shores, the federal prosecutor who covers the Tulsa area, said he would prosecute Oklahomans who traveled from the Tulsa area to participate in the riots. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has repeatedly requested support from Americans across the country in identifying the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol, attacked law enforcement officers, stole and destroyed federal property, threatened to hang Vice-President Mike Pence, and threatened countless others. Oklahomans have taken the initiative to organize and begin identifying and reporting perpetrators, but with little to no leadership from the state’s elected officials.
Mayor Bynum’s silence on these topics isn’t surprising. He has a habit of choosing silence when it comes to things of consequence for those who don’t look like him or enjoy the same tax bracket. Refuting terrorism is something you would think everyone could get behind. But in deep-red Oklahoma, our small city mayor with big political dreams chose to insulate himself and his potential future voters by not making an official call-to-action to support the FBI in their efforts.
Some may enjoy his rose-colored glasses way of governance. I guess it’s easy to do when you’re not directly harmed as a consequence of his continued silence and complicity towards white supremacy. But where you see glass-half-full optimism, I see willful attempts to kneecap the urgent work of civil rights activists in Tulsa. His whitewashing of the racist and xenophobic fueled insurrection is tone-deaf at best and gaslighting at worst.
In 1921, a racist White mob rioted and burned Black Wall Street to the ground; killing hundreds of Black Tulsans – no one was held accountable. The elected officials who turned a blind eye or authorized the continued assault have never been brought to justice. Now, in 2021, we have a mayor who will decry the massacre but will not make any effort to hold any person or entity accountable. Sound familiar?
Mayor Bynum is calling, yet again, for reconciliation without repentance. It’s 2021 – a century since the Tulsa Race Massacre – and we do not have time for platitudes or faux-allies any longer.
If anything has been made clear by Mayor Bynum’s non-statement, it’s that he is not a true ally to any group unless it makes sense for him politically. We’ve read this book before. The Black community, the Indigenous community and even law enforcement.
In the wake of the shooting of two Tulsa police officers last fall, one of whom succumbed to his wounds, Mayor Bynum made numerous emotional statements, shared a mugshot of the suspect and called on the community to help law enforcement bring him to justice. But that outrage was spared for the seditionists who swarmed U.S. Capitol police – leading to the gruesome murder of one and possibly the suicide of another, as well as at least four other fatalities.
Maybe it was less politically appealing to issue a strong rebuke of the far-right extremists who reigned terror on Capitol Hill considering Mayor Bynum is counting on the support of Oklahoma’s far-right extremists in his next election. He didn’t need to worry about cozying up to the D.C. Metropolitan Fraternal Order of Police for their campaign donations and endorsement – so he just didn’t care.
It’s a far cry from the “Back the Blue” energy we typically see from the mayor.
As always, the Black Wall Street Times remains focused on authentic restorative justice. That begins with our elected officials having the introspection necessary to identify when their words and actions don’t align.