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Calls Mount For Lankford To Resign From Race Massacre Centennial Commission After Capitol Attack

Sen. James Lankford
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) speaks at the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation in Tulsa on June 1, 2018.

Calls are mounting for Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) to resign his seat on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commissionafter his role in sowing doubt about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"When people show you who you are, believe them the FIRST time!" wrote activist Dr. Tiffany Crutcher in a Saturday Facebook post. "We will not sing kumbaya in 2021! Sen. James Lankford resign from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission NOW!"

"Sen. Lankford should remove himself from the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission. If he doesn’t, then he should be removed," activist and 2020 Tulsa mayoral candidate Greg Robinson wrote.

The resignation calls were first reported by the Black Wall Street Times, whose editor-in-chief, Nehemiah Frank, wrote: "The Jim Crow Era institutionalized White supremacy and led to compounding traumas that have reverberated throughout the lives of Black Americans for generations. The senator’s continued involvement with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Commission would be acutely disrespectful to the victims and descendants of the massacre. We demand Senator James Lankford resign from the commission immediately. Restorative justice is not possible if we choose to placate White elected officials who only portray themselves as allies when they feel it is politically expedient.” 

Oklahoma state Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa), who chairs the commission, told Public Radio Tulsa Monday that he vehemently disagreed with Lankford's actions in announcing he would object to the rightful results of the election that President-elect Joe Biden won over outgoing President Donald Trump.

"Myself, as an African American male, an Oklahoma Senate Democrat and just a citizen of democracy, I was tremendously appalled," Matthews said.

Still, he said he said he was not ready to call on Lankford to resign from the commission at this time.

"There's got to be more discussion, and the group will make the decision after input from Sen. Lankford on his rationale and his reasoning and what happened and how people felt," Matthews said. "No decision has been made as of yet, but those doing this work will decide, you know, what they feel about Sen. Lankford's ongoing participation."

Oklahoma State Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa), a member of the commission, said Monday his mind is made up no matter what rationale Lankford may offer at this point.

"The honorable thing to do -- and hopefully Sen. Lankford can think about what the honorable thing to do would be to do at this juncture -- would be to resign," Nichols said. "And if he really believes in the work of the commission, if he really believes in these things, continue to be an advocate and an ally."

Nichols called Lankford's actions regarding a planned objection to the certified election results in select states that chose Biden over Trump "grotesque." (Lankford did end up pulling his planned objection, but only reversed course after the pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, leaving five people dead.)

"When folks are talking about the results in Pennsylvania, make no mistake: they're talking about Philly and the numbers there. In Georgia, they're talking about Atlanta and the numbers there. They're really talking about the fact that these Black votes shouldn't matter," Nichols said. 

"And if that weren't enough, those lies and that, I think, example of pretty overt racism, that's what we saw Wednesday," Nichols, who believes Lankford should also resign his Senate seat, said. "And I just don't think that people like that should serve in high office, but they certainly shouldn't be serving on a commission commemorating something as solemn as the race massacre here in Tulsa."

"Think about the history of the race massacre: It was all based on a pretty shaky account of something that happened in an elevator," Nichols said. "And if somebody would have even told the truth back then, maybe there would never have been a race massacre. And I think there's some parallels, where if somebody would have just told the truth to their constituents instead of peddling a bunch of lies for the president, there's probably not a riot on the Capitol, either."

Lankford's office did not respond to a request for comment. In a prepared video address for a ceremony at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park on Jan. 1, Lankford told those assembled, in part, "Let's continue to be able to develop this together."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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