The Cameras Are Gone, What Now
June 1 has come and gone and there were impressive expressions of how horrible the massacre was and how Tulsa is still an intolerant metropolitan city. To be fair, every major and minor city in America is racist. It is the curse of this nation despite its notion of equality. However, Tulsa has a special place among all cities because of the massacre and subsequent inequities that continue to divide the city. Can there be a just reckoning? What would it look like?
First the three survivors need compensation now. They are over a century old and waiting on a study or for bureaucrats to determine the appropriateness of a cash disbursement is insulting. Pay them now. If that has to be explained why, Tulsa has a problem with morality and intelligence.
Those families over the years have been driven from their homes from the Klan deputized by city officials, have had their homes bombed by racist businessmen, and had their homes and businesses condemned for urban renewal. Insurance companies never paid a penny for the destroyed homes during the massacre. They too need to pay reparations for the harm they caused.
Urban renewal was promised to replace every property bulldozed for new development and was a lie of the highest order. Some cities claim low-cost apartment complexes were a worthy replacement for lost homes. That is of course an assault on the intelligence of any thoughtful black Tulsan.
The wealth of home ownership was not only ripped out of the hands of hundreds of black families. The violence was also heaped on black businesses. The millions of dollars in lost wealth have never really been honored by past promises. Those reparations must be part of future plans for redevelopment.
The community must not let Tulsa cloud the issue of redevelopment with what amounts to city backed development that rebuffs black attempts to redevelop Greenwood. That means getting Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) out of the Greenwood area and black lives.
It certainly took awhile to create this mess and thousands have died not seeing any justice for the massacre and subsequent apartheid-like policies that feels like a boot on the back of the necks of those who felt nothing but oppression.
Frankly, it is getting tiresome listening to a lot of vague ideas of transparency and unidentified policies coming from Mayor G.T. Bynum’s office. It is beginning to feel like Bynum’s idea of recognizing the centennial starts and finishes with finding and identifying the victims of the massacre. That is important, but it does not build one promised home.
It should be noted that black investors have attempted to pump business dollars into Tulsa North and Greenwood only to be rejected by TDA. The opportunity is there for black development in new home units and businesses and should be allowed to be part of Greenwood’s future.
While Black Wall Street is a proud moniker for the Greenwood area. It was more like a successful Main Street, and it is historical on many levels. Redevelopment should not be considered the minimum of Tulsa’s amends towards Greenwood, but it is a good starting place.
What Will The Dead Say?
As the painstaking process of excavating the remains of bodies found in a mass grave continues, the question still has not been answered if they are among the murdered during the 1921 Race Massacre. There is strong evidence they are among the massacred; however, there is a chance they are bodies possibly buried after the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic. Reports of bodies are documented as being buried there after June 1, 1921.
There are also reports of bodies sent off on railroad cars and others deposited in the Arkansas river. To say the least all of this paints a grisly picture of what happened 100 years ago. Truly evil presided over the events of the day. However noble the intent of today’s effort is, it is still mind-numbing that there was no search in the last 100 years. As each body is exhumed for examination, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that this was a huge crime scene of human carnage.
No individuals can be charged, but the institutions they represented have a moral obligation to answer for their crimes. All levels of local government were responsible for what happened, and a century is too long of time to wait for justice.
The true number will never be known because the cruel passage of time will hide the true number. Mayor G.T. Bynum is to be commended for his effort to find the truth. However it does not forgo the responsibility of Tulsa’s role in the deadly massacre.
Run For Office And Make Changes
Oklahoma has little reason to restrict voting for people of color because the solidarity of white voters siding with conservatives is overwhelming. They did in fact approve of an extra day of voting in presidential elections. In theory that would help them as well. So what can progressives and people color do in the face of such odds? They can of course register to vote and perhaps more importantly run for office.
In the wake of President Joe Biden’s win as of March 24, legislators in 47 states have introduced more than 360 bills this year with provisions that severely restrict voting access. The year before only 35 were introduced.
Running for office puts progressive issues on the ballot because they are largely ignored by most Oklahoma lawmakers. Make them develop a position and defend it. Oklahoma is growing darker every day and the math does not favor conservative policies. At some point there will be more people of color than white people. Metropolitan cities like Oklahoma City and Tulsa will be the first to feel the change. When they fall others will be affected by the platforms and issue driven campaigns.
Former state senator Connie Johnson has filed a statement of organization last week with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission which will allow her to start raising campaign funds in her race for governor. Race and social policies all but ignored by current office holders will be discussed and that is good.
People of color need to work harder and smarter and good results will come. These remain perilous times for us all. Vote and run.