Sen. Lankford to remain member of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Despite calls for his removal from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, officials say Sen. James Lankford will remain a part of the organization.

Sen. James Lankford initially said that he would challenge the votes because he wanted a commission to be formed to provide a 10-day audit of President Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

However, those claims have been debunked multiple times in courts across the country and even at the U.S. Supreme Court.

As he was speaking on the floor, lawmakers were instructed to leave and head to safe locations in the Capitol. They soon learned that the Capitol had been breached by a violent mob of pro-Trump supporters.

When Lankford was able to resume his comments on the floor, he said he would no longer challenge the results.

FILE - Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., speaks a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP)
FILE – Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., speaks a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP)

“In Oklahoma, we would say, ‘Why in God’s name would someone think attacking law enforcement and occupying the U.S. Capitol is the best way in showing you are right?’” Senator James Lankford said.

Senator Lankford changes course following attempted mob siege of U.S. Capitol, will not object to Electoral College results certification 

He then encouraged the entire Congress to come together and certify the election results.

“We must stand together as Americans. We must defend our constitution and the rule of law,” Sen. James Lankford said in a statement.

After the vote, Black leaders in Tulsa called for Lankford’s removal or resignation from the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Committeeaccording to the Tulsa World.

Tulsa Race Massacre
Tulsa Race Massacre, Courtesy: Oklahoma Historical Society

“We clearly have a very long way to go,” Sen. Lankford addresses race relations in the US 

Organizers say they felt that Lankford’s support for the false claims provided credence to those who have consistently worked to prevent Black voices from being heard.

“This is a great example of Black people voting in record numbers, with a coalition of people who look different, who are being told, ‘No, their votes didn’t count,’” said state Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa.

Sen. Lankford then apologized to Black constituents, saying he didn’t realize that his criticism of the Electoral College votes could have a racial undertone.

Lankford says he had no idea that people would view the his actions as questioning the legitimacy of Black voters.

“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,” he wrote.

“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit.”

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD

“After decades of fighting for voting rights, many Black friends in Oklahoma saw this as a direct attack on their right to vote, for their vote to matter, and even a belief that their votes made an election in our country illegitimate,” he wrote.

Lankford says it was never his intent to take away the voice of any Black American.

Despite that apology, some in the community still called for Lankford’s resignation.

Tulsa Race Massacre
Tulsa Race Massacre. Courtesy: Oklahoma Historical Society

On Monday, the Centennial Commission released a statement, saying that Lankford would remain a member of the organization.

“At its core, the Centennial Commission is about reconciliation. For the purpose of achieving that
goal, we must continue to harness our connective tissue – even when we are not in absolute
agreement. Senator Lankford, despite clear differences (some of them profound), stands on
common ground with us in terms of the importance of reconciliation as well as educating all United States citizens about Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, the storied “Black Wall Street,” including the massacre and its impact on Oklahoma and the nation.

The Centennial Commission believes deeply in racial reconciliation and inter-generational healing. To that end, we must continue to extend an olive branch. It is our inherent duty to show our partners the way.

For those reasons, we choose not to request Senator Lankford’s removal from the Centennial
Commission, but instead, accept his apology and embrace his desire to reaffirm his commitment to help bring vital resources and opportunities to the Greenwood District, Black Tulsans, and Black Americans from coast to coast.”

The commission says it will continue to work to integrate Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District into curricula and state-mandated testing in Oklahoma. It is also working to make Oklahoma an official part of the United States Civil Rights Trail.

“When it comes to differing opinions, it is through mutual understanding, open dialogue, action and
continued learning that we can achieve true reconciliation. This is the ethos of unity embraced by
the Centennial Commission. For that reason, we must continue working together, despite missteps.
Please understand that the Centennial Commission did not come to this decision easily, and it was
not made without hearing from the community. We considered the repercussions it carries. We understood at the outset that it would not be unanimous. Instead we sought consensus—a well-reasoned decision that all members of the Centennial Commission could support. We stand committed in our resolve to honor the legacy of Black Wall Street, challenge bias, and seek
healing,” a statement by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission read.

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