The Week (US)

Tulsa Massacre: Facing an ugly stain

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A century after the fact, America has finally begun to grapple with a long-buried act of stunning racial violence, said Deepti Hajela in the Associated Press. The Tulsa Race Massacre of May 31, 1921, started when a young Black man in Tulsa, Okla., inadverten­tly touched a white woman and was accused of sexual assault. A white mob formed, and that night it descended on Greenwood, a “thriving Black community” home to 10,000 residents. In a sustained assault that included the use of machine guns and using crop planes to drop incendiary devices, the mob killed about 300 residents, and torched shops, restaurant­s, churches, and more than 1,200 homes. The neighborho­od was left a smoking ruin—but nobody was ever charged with a crime. The horrific incident went “unremember­ed and untaught” until recently, when authors, filmmakers, and others “started bringing it into the light.” Last month, three survivors testified in front of Congress; this week, President Biden went to Tulsa to commemorat­e the centennial.

As a Black child growing up in Oklahoma, I never heard a word about the massacre, said Hannibal Johnson in The New York Times. “Like a wound left untreated,” the damage it wrought has been left to fester through “years of silence and neglect.” Though Tulsa’s racial pogrom is “distinguis­hed by its scale,” resentful white vigilantes mass-murdered Blacks numerous times— in Atlanta in 1906, East St. Louis and Chester, Pa., in 1917, Chicago in 1919. “Owning and addressing” that shameful history is crucial if “we are to advance toward racial reconcilia­tion.”

A law signed last month by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt stands to impede that reckoning, said Tawnell Hobbes in The Wall Street Journal. It forbids public school lessons that might make children feel guilt or “discomfort” due to their own race or sex. Critics say the law—and many similar bills passed or proposed in Republican-led states—is a clear effort to “stifle lessons” about systemic racism. My fellow conservati­ves need to understand that “it’s not ‘hating America’ to acknowledg­e this is part of our story,” said David French in TheDispatc­h.com. If we celebrate our proudest moments, we must mourn our darkest ones to truly “understand our own nation”—and be inspired to live up to our ideals. “Thank God that we do not live in the America of 1921.” But we live with its legacy, and “to repair our land” we need to take a hard look at how it’s shaped us.

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