Recall racism


Last night I was given a copy of the latest edition of The Tulsa Tribunal. You'll recall that a couple of weeks ago a four-page tabloid by that name was sent to homes in Tulsa City Council District 2, aimed at getting voters in the district angry enough to sign a recall petition against Councilor Chris Medlock. (You can find links to images of that paper here.)

Now the Citizens for Reprehensible Government have blanketed Council District 6 with an edition aimed at smearing Councilor Jim Mautino. I understand that the District 6 version was delayed because, after the District 2 edition went out, the Tulsa City Attorney's office sent a "cease and desist" letter to the recall pushers, telling them they were not authorized to use the city's seal on their campaign material, which also featured the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma on the banner. (Then-Councilor Anna Falling got considerable heat for using the City Council seal in connection with her privately-organized curbside recycling pilot program.) The already-printed District 6 papers had to be destroyed and a new edition printed, sans seals.

Like the anti-Medlock version, the anti-Mautino version uses Tulsa Whirled photographs without credit and without permission. Most of the same articles are there, and in some cases it looks like they just did a find-and-replace to insert Mautino's name. They even recycle the bizarre "councilor in a Columbine trenchcoat" attack that they used against Chris Medlock, although they dropped the sly Mein Kampf reference.

The most interesting addition is the article focusing on the connection between Councilor Mautino and his fellow freshman, Councilor Jack Henderson. Henderson is also part of the Reform Alliance majority (AKA "Gang of Five"), and has worked closely with Mautino and the rest of the Council majority to work for needed reforms. I'm inclined to think that it's a hopeful thing when a conservative Republican white councilor and a liberal Democrat black councilor, from different parts of the city, can find common ground and work together for the common good of their constituents and the city as a whole.

The Tulsa Tribunal disagrees. The article paints Jack Henderson, former head of the local NAACP chapter, as a "rabble-rousing community organizer for many years, keeping a high profile for his attacks on the Tulsa Police Department and any other public organization that he could accuse of racism." They depict Mautino and Henderson as teaming up to block Tulsa's progress. The accompanying photo shows Henderson and Mautino smiling together outside the City Council meeting room.

What does this tell us about the thinking of the pro-recall bunch? The unavoidable conclusion is that the pro-recall forces believe that the residents of east Tulsa (historically a predominantly white, blue-collar area) are racist hayseeds who will be shocked and appalled that their city councilor has teamed up with "some uppity knee-grow."

It's also evident from the way they describe him that the pro-recall forces themselves regard Jack Henderson as someone who "doesn't know his place." While I disagree with Jack on many issues, I honor his persistent efforts to make sure the concerns of the African-American community in Tulsa receive the attention they deserve. Every part of Tulsa needs a councilor willing to stand up for the interests of his own constituents. And I admire the way he stands fast with his allies on the Council in the face of the sustained attacks against them.

The latest Tulsa Tribunal is the latest evidence of a pattern: What we are witnessing is the collapse into incoherence of a city establishment that is out of ideas, out of energy, and out of control, but is unwilling to be out of power. Some might call it a Götterdammerung -- the twilight of the gods -- but it reminds me more of the demise of Rumpelstiltskin.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 3, 2005 9:33 PM.

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