Racism Prevails In OKC Council 6-3 Vote

The lopsided vote by the Oklahoma City Council yesterday against a proposal to create an Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the city shows us racism and historical misunderstanding still thrive among some local leaders.

The historical record is clear. Christopher Columbus, who doesn’t even come close to being an “American,” was a racist, murdering monster. He and the government he represented killed native people indiscriminately throughout the world, and the holiday some celebrate and many protest in his name in October is a major historical error. Creating an Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a way to help rectify or least mitigate that error.

But the Oklahoma City Council, for the second year in a row, voted down this week the proposal to create an Indigenuous Peoples’ Day. The vote was 6 to 3 against the resolution. To their credit, Councilors Ward 2 Ed Shadid, Ward 4 Pete White and Ward 7 John Pettis voted in favor of it. Shadid, in particular, voiced strong support for the measure, according to media reports.

The right-wing Mayor Mick Cornett, who once ran a political campaign touting his opposition to same-sex marriage, and Councilors Ward 1 James Greiner, Ward 3 Larry McAtee, Ward 5 David Greenwell, Ward 6 Meg Salyer and Ward 8 Mark Stonecipher voted against people who actually live here.

Here’s a little fact you might want to consider telling your children if their elementary school teachers are filling their heads with textbook lies about the “hero” Columbus, who didn’t “discover” the United States in 1492:

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Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.

Image of protest sign at the BLM rally in Tulsa

I’m sure at least some people who came of age during the 1960s like myself have an almost surreal and incredulous feeling when protesting in the streets against police brutality in 2016. I know I do.

Didn’t we, or shouldn’t we, have this figured out by now? Why does the government-sanctioned violence against black people continue?

I participated Saturday afternoon in a Black Lives Matter march and rally in downtown Tulsa in the aftermath of the police killing of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher last week. Police officials released a dash cam video showing Crutcher, a black man, had his arms up in a surrender gesture as he walked around his car. They also confirmed he was not in possession of a weapon.

The police officer who shot him, Betty Shelby, who is white, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.

I won’t rehash the facts of the case, which I wrote about earlier here and here. What I want to do in this post is deal with the two larger ideas: (1) The history of and lingering racism in the country, and (2) the white silence that continues to allow its existence within our nation’s major institutions, such as police departments.

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Should Other Officers Face Charges In Crutcher Killing?

(The manslaughter charge against Shelby doesn’t mean much right now in terms of justice. It’s probably only intended to calm things down on the Tulsa streets.—Kurt Hochenauer)

I caution people who want to end social injustice, racism and police brutality in Oklahoma and elsewhere in this country to not immediately think the first-degree manslaughter charge against Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby represents something overly significant in the fight for equality.

The charge, now that attorneys are involved, could quickly degenerate into the same cover-up, the same racist story, glossed over with the same political maneuvering by right-wing, racist extremists here and elsewhere. We’ve seen it happen before in this country.

It’s the latest installment of the American historical story we’ve experienced not just since our so-called “video era” vividly and further exposed the contemporary ugly truth of police brutality but also since the scourge of slavery in this country.

Let it be clear it was metaphorically speaking a government-led lynch mob that killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher (other spellings of his first name include Terrance) in Tulsa on Sept. 16, a mob made up of other police officers and, well, the police chief himself because he’s their leader, and the racists here and throughout the country that want them to get away with it. Now the real cover-up begins. Shelby is the officially accused killer, yes, but the other officers around her and the system that produces misplaced anger against black people contributed as much as she did when she pulled the trigger and killed a father of four.

So Shelby is the scapegoat for now, but it’s possible she will get off with nothing more than second guessing about a terrible choice in her life. Will she go to jail? Not likely. Will she be able to continue to work in law enforcement? That’s really more likely than her going to jail.

I’m not the only one thinking this.

So for anyone living in the bubble of white privilege here in Oklahoma, most of whom are probably not even reading this, here’s how the ‘facts” are emerging. Before I begin, keep in mind whenever an unarmed black man gets killed by white police officers these days in America, which happens on a regular basis, there’s a set of facts presented by officials that conveniently can’t be verified independently by video or any other means.

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