Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Why Did White Tulsa Burn Down Black Tulsa?

June 15, 2021

Before its recent centennial, I hadn’t been particularly aware of the Tulsa Massacre, or of the many other, similar events that went way beyond lynching and have been called, I think justifiably, pogroms. Now I know that my ignorance was by design, and Tulsa is part of my consciousness of the long history of white aggression in America against people of color. And, once again, I wonder why we white people seem never to have been able to let other people be.

In case the story doesn’t ring a bell, a quick recap: According to The New York Times, “What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed.” a hapless Black teenage boy apparently stumbled and grabbed the arm of the white teenage girl operating an elevator; black men came out with guns to defend the jailed boy from gathering whites (jailed black people could be dragged out and lynched); a shot was fired.

That same night, white Tulsans destroyed almost the entire 35-block Black Tulsa business and residential district known as Greenwood: up to 300 people killed, almost 1500 homes burned or looted; 8-10,000 left homeless, 6,000 held in camps. In today’s dollars, close to $30 million in property damage; untold millions in future Black generational wealth gone up in smoke. 

The smoking ruins of the Dunbar School.

Is there in this account a provocation sufficient to explain that paroxysm of white rage? Or was, as the Times suggests, white resentment of Black success “one factor” behind it? 

Or, I would ask, were white people simply completely unable to accept Black success?

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