No, Senator James Lankford, Your Apology Means Nothing, We Need Policy
The junior Senator from Oklahoma, James Lankford, was shocked to discover that trying to cast out Black voters' votes would somehow be viewed as trying to cast out the votes of Black voters. Lankford signed on to a letter by fellow vote suppressor Senator Ted Cruz, trying to overthrow the election won by Joe Biden, and give it to Donald Trump. In his apology, Lankford said:
“I caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state. I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot.
What I did not realize was all of the national conversations 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.
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.
I can assure you, my intent to give a voice to Oklahomans who had questions was never also an intent to diminish the voice of any Black American. I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you. I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”
Across the political spectrum, pundits lauded Lankford’s apology as if he had split the Red Sea, bridged the racial divide in America, and brought unity to the nation. Lankford did none of that; he wrote a letter full of words, leaving every existing racist policy in place, ready to affect all future elections. It is laudable that Senator Lankford recognized his blind spot related to racial injustice. My question is, what is he now going to do about it?
Talk show host Joe Scarborough praised Lankford as the example for other Republicans to follow by acknowledging seeking to toss out Black votes to secure an election was wrong and offer an apology while changing no statute. Lankford has supported Donald Trump’s racist immigration policies and resisted efforts to put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was gutted by the Supreme Court.
James Lankford currently serves as a commissioner on the 2021 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. Many Black people in Tulsa seek Lankford’s removal from the commission due to his “blind spot.” He could then write an excellent apology for Black Wall Street's massacre, where the National Guard dropped bombs from airplanes on Black citizens. They would probably have reparations than apologies.
Apologies are going around these days for heinous acts committed by white people. Florida has recently apologized for the Groveland Four and pardoned them long after their deaths after being falsely accused of the rape of a white woman. The Kansas City Star newspaper apologized last year for 140 years of coverage biased against Black people. Now Lankford has apologized for trying to wipe out the votes of Black people that he suddenly can see might be perceived as wrong.
Apologies are at least recognition of previous wrongdoing but in and of themselves accomplish nothing. I want to applaud James Lankford for his apology, but I’ll wait until actions accompany it to undo the voter suppression and other acts of racism that have been hidden by his “blind spot” until now. We’re watching you, James.