Will the murder of George Floyd – his very life snuffed out by a Minneapolis police officer’s knee – be the tipping point that finally helps America fulfill its promise of equality and justice? Or will it turn out to be just another dispiriting case of law enforcement-inflicted vigilantism against people of color that slowly recedes from the headlines without yielding real, permanent change?
With today’s Observercast – Episode 19: A Top 10 State In Police Violence – we launch a series that will explore the movement sparked by Floyd’s death, zeroing in on Oklahoma’s shameful history of institutional racism and what it means today for those who are black, brown or “other.”
It was two decades ago today Oklahoma lawmakers took what was hailed as a significant step toward protecting people of color, approving a law that for the first time banned racial profiling by law officers. Twenty years later, Oklahoma Watch reports, not a single profiling complaint was ever substantiated – likely because police agencies are given the power to investigate accusations against their own.
It was nearly four years ago that Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man was shot dead in 2016 by a white Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby. She was acquitted of manslaughter, never faced federal civil rights charges, and eventually was hired as a deputy sheriff in a neighboring Rogers County.
And it was 99 years ago this week that marauding whites leveled mostly African American north Tulsa, leaving 10,000 homeless. Officially, 26 blacks were slain. But some historians believe the actual number was closer to 300.
We begin our series today by visiting with 30-year-old Joshua Harris-Till, the Young Democrats of America president who’s not only been on the front lines of Black Lives Matter protests this week in Oklahoma City, but also participated in a meeting with OKC Mayor David Holt in which protesters’ demands were discussed.
Upcoming episodes include visits with state Sen. George E. Young Sr., one of two African-Americans currently serving in the Oklahoma Senate, and former Tulsa Police Chief Drew Diamond, a nationally-recognized expert in community policing and affirmative action.