Paul R. Lehman, Opinion writer shows fear and disgust for Jackson and Sharpton’s visit to Tulsa

April 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Killings in Tulsa, Media and Race, minority, whites | 4 Comments
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Too often opinions offered on opinion/editorial pages of the newspaper as well as the electronic media cause confusion and misinformation if the writers or speakers are not informed about the subject. We certainly do not stand in judgment of someone’s opinion if it is offered as an opinion. However, when an opinion is offered as fact and it is inaccurate, then we should call it into question. A particular selection published in the Oklahoman (4-13-120) entitled “Media circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings” focused on the visits of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al  Sharpton to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The language, attitude, and tone of the article promoted the ideas inconsistent with reality and the truth.

The choice of words used by the writer of the article seems to suggest disrespect and disgust with the subjects, Jackson and Sharpton, as well as the situation, the recent killing of three African American men and the wounding of two more by two European American males. The mere suggestion of a circus coming to town in the persons of Jackson and Sharpton creates a sense of entertainment rather than seriousness about the incident. The underlining suggestion is that Jackson and Sharpton are clowns and therefore their appearance in Tulsa is for a show or entertainment. The headline is correct in stating that a “circus is the last thing Tulsa needs after killings,” so why would it suggest the appearance of these two men would create a circus?

The first paragraph of the article reads:”The Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Oklahoma City 17 years ago this month to express solidarity with black victims of the federal building bombing. Fortunately, we were spared the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton.” This statement suggests that Jackson came to Oklahoma City specifically to express solidarity with African American victims of that event only. To suggest that is misleading and untrue. Jackson expressed solidarity for all the victims. As a Christian and a minister he recognized that all people are children of the same God. The article reference to the city being “spared” the presence of Rev. Sharpton suggest that he would have brought something sinister or destructive to the city with him. One wonders what that might have been in order to cause such a negative reaction.

In the next paragraph we get a sample of more uncomplimentary language associated with Jackson and Sharpton: “ Tulsa won’t be so fortunate. Jackson and Sharpton will descend on Tulsa just as (and because) the national media has descended on Tulsa following the Good Friday killings that appear to be racially motivated.” So, the suggestion is that the national media is the real reason for Jackson and Sharpton “descending” on Tulsa, and not the killings. Wrong again. Jackson and Sharpton were both asked and invited to come to Tulsa because the people in Tulsa knew that the national media would follow Jackson and Sharpton. By bringing those two men to Tulsa, national attention would focus on the killings. History and experience underscores the fact that most crimes in America with African Americans as victims receive very little media attention if any at all.

In addition to the denigrating language associated with Jackson and Sharpton, the attitude suggested in the article is one of suspicion and deceit. The article states that “Police, prosecutors and city officials have their hands full trying to tamp down the emotions surrounding this case. The last thing they need is a media circus with Jackson and Sharpton serving as ring masters.” One wonders what evidence, facts and or experiences lead that writer to think that Jackson and Sharpton would start some sort of physical, violent, and unlawful disturbance? The only evidence of any kind of unlawful, unorganized, and disruptive actions comes from the writer’s own words. Jackson and Sharpton have always maintained that their objective in accepting the invitations extended to them by people involved in situations where justice and fairness is concerned is to seek justice and fairness, nothing more, nothing less. So, why would they be characterized as “ring masters” when, in fact, there is no circus in town?

The tone of the article is one of arrogance and stupidity regarding history and present day occurrences. The article’s author makes a reference to the national interest in Tulsa with reference to the 1921 Riot. The statement reads “What’s the connection? None. In the earlier case armed gangs divided along racial lines. It was certainly not a mass murder like the bombing or the Tulsa shootings. It was less a race riot that a race war.” Evidently, this statement shows a gross lack of concrete facts and reliable information regarding the 1921 riot as well as recognizing the difference between a riot and a war. He might want to read Tim Madigan’s The Burning, or Rilla Askew’s Fire in Beulah for an account of that tradegy. His emphasis is unfortunately, on the physical violence and destruction when the real problem is the administration of justice and fair treatment for all people. He certainly cannot say that the African American community in the Greenwood section of Tulsa was treated fairly after the 1921 riot, and to a degree today.

Without going over the entire article paragraph by paragraph to point out the various areas of ignorance and stupidity let us look at two comments to make our point. Again, referencing the 1921 riot, the article states: “What happened in Tulsa in 1921 was an outbreak of violence exposing widespread racial division that’s not evident in Tulsa today.”If that is true, then no bigotry exists in Tulsa, and the two European Americans arrested cannot be charged with a hate crime (they have been charged  with committing a hate crime). If bigotry is no longer a reality in Tulsa why have not the city moved to make amends for the destruction it participated in back in 1921? The article suggests that no so-called racial division exists in Tulsa today. How true is that? If that is so, why were three African Americans killed by the two European Americans and charged with hate crimes?

Finally, the article’s author asks the question why Jackson and Sharpton are in Tulsa: “So what’s the point of the Jackson-Sharpton visit and the lamentations of members of the Legislative Black Caucus? What will these things accomplish that excellent police work, vigorous prosecution and swift sure punishment of the guilty won’t do by themselves”? That is precisely the point! Jackson and Sharpton want exactly that to happen now, because it has not happened with any regularity in the past. By their presence, the need for equal justice and fairness for all American citizens will be closely scrutinized by the national media brought there by Jackson and Sharpton.

If the writer of the article would stop and think for a moment, what should become apparent is the fact that Jackson and Sharpton are not the enemy as they are portrayed. They simply want for African Americans and all Americans fair and equal justice under the law. Why would anyone object to that? The language, attitude, and tone of this article indicated a fear and expectation of evil, violence, and unlawfulness that is purely unwarranted.




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  1. I was the 1st commenter on that hit peice, asking for the identity of author of that article. I didnt see a name on it. I never got a reply. Although Im please at least you wrote up a response to that disgusting article.

    When I heard that Jackson was coming to Oklahoma I was so happy that I announced it to the world. Then I read that article & another article that reported on similar language from a white Oklahoma house member who said some disrespectful things to the black lawmankers in this state about Jackson (link: ). It was reading stuff like that & the vile racist comments that caused me to wonder if white oklahomans would cause me & other black oklahomans physical harm if we went to see Jackson speak. But I drove all the way from SE Oklahoma to Tulsa to see Rev. Jackson anyway. And Im glad I did.

  2. I want to add that the problem in Oklahoma is this: What those articles were talking about is the fear that Jackson & Sharpton would bring national attention to the state in allowing violations of civil rights & other federal laws. Oklahoma is fully aware that it has a civil rights problem, but it allows it to happen because it knows that the victims of civil rights violations have no where else to turn to in this state to complain to. A victim would have to invite the federal govt to intervene. This I know from personal experience. Reports to law enforcement? If you make police report, it may not get filed. This would cause lack of paper trail that would had otherwise shown pattern of civil rights abuses.

    Another crucial fault of Oklahoma is that its government is ultra extremely defiant to federal government involvement in its state matters, tends to want state govt agencies, hostile to any civil rights advocacy (NAACP, lulac & gay groups etc..), and tends to be deliberately resistant to any cultural & racial diversity. An NAACP chapter in smaller areas would have difficulty in being affective or would have to go underground. Its a live & let live state, without rules. This is why I’m not surprised at how our governor treated Obama when he came here. Most here (including many people & its law makers, prefer to stay under the radar). Oklahoma discourages diversity, because w/diversity comes change of the laws & enforcement & its conservative republican political landscape. What makes blacks somewhat vulnerable here is the geography, as its mostly rural (except for city area of Tulsa, OKC. Muskogee & few other places), and because they are small in numbers (maybe 6%).

    This is why it took local NAACP, the black preachers, state legislative caucus & black people to join forces to get Rev. Jackson here. So when Rev. Jackson came to Oklahoma, the black people reacted like the cavalry had finally arrived after all these years, because there is NOBODY else t help.

  3. When I was growing up, every African American community had a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton. They were an integral part of the community because the racial construct denied our community legitimate access to the power structure that provided justice and freedom to European Americans (whites). These people were heroes who risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to stand up to the power structure and call out injustice. For the African American community, there were no other options. I think it is also important to note that many Jesse’s and Al’s of the day were European Americans (white) who could suffer the same fate or worse than their African American counterpart.

    While we would like to believe we have grown past the need for these types hero the reality is we have not. The racial construct and power structure is still in place surviving all attempts to grow past it and African American communities cry out for new heroes. God bless Jesse and Al who dare to live under the constant threat of physical harm not for the fame or money, but for justice.

  4. Dear: Jim Lehman
    Do you have facebook or twitter? If you do, please provide it to me or post it on your blog site. Im really trying stay connected w/you and other black americans in Oklahoma who are online. I live in small rural community where Im the only black. McAlester is the closest town, but I only know 1 black people in that town. I did see some black people in Holdenville when I was in a parade for a republican candidate, but I know very little about that area. I need to do better on reaching out. Sometimes I do feel isolated, but I in process of correcting that situatoin.

    I have bookmarked your page so I wont loose track of where it is, as I want to check back from time to time.

    Im trying to update my blog site to reflect a listing so that black people can better social network w/people like you. Sometime today or this weekend I will update my blog to include your blog page on my site.

    Actuallly, I found your site by accident when I googled the words “Jesse Jackson Oklahoma”.

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