Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Stories of 'Black Wall Streets' to remember the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, which both "Watchmen" and "Lovecraft Country" used as pivotal events in their stories. Those were fiction, so I'm turning to historical fact for today's observance, beginning with Time Magazine's The Overlooked Stories of America's Black Wall Streets | The History You Didn't Learn.

It's been 100 years since the Tulsa race massacre, when an angry white mob destroyed a prosperous black neighborhood in Tulsa Oklahoma. But Tulsa's story is part of a larger history of Black Wall Streets that existed in many American cities.
I like Time Magazine's suggestions about how to rebuild African-American wealth. They are positive ideas I might return to in a future entry.

Time looked at history and legacy of "Black Wall Streets" in general. Bloomberg Quick Takes focused on how Black Wall Street's Greenwood Tragedy Didn't End in 1921 in particular.

On May 31, 1921, the entire Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was destroyed and hundreds of its Black residents were murdered by a White mob. The massacre and the destruction of the prosperous enclave, dubbed “Black Wall Street,” was the single largest incident of racial violence in American history. While the neighborhood was razed, the survivors weren't deterred as they rebuilt Greenwood over the coming decades. But what demolished the neighborhood a second time four decades later was much less overt, but no less racist.
In his interview, Hannibal B. Johnson made a depressing observation followed by a cynical saying and an expression of hope. The depressing observation was that attempting to become respectable backfired; it made white Americans envious (not jealous, although I think I'm fighting a losing battle maintaining the distinction) and resentful. That's the fault of the white folks; I think Americans should celebrate success no matter which of our citizens achieves it.* The cynical saying was that "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu." Cynical or not, I agree with it. The expression of hope that that there are more white allies now. I hope so, too.

Both videos document the rise and fall of African-American wealth, including not only the race riots of 1919-1921, but also the straightforward effects of urban renewal and the paradoxical effects of integration in the 1960s, and the erasure of that history afterwards. Now that Americans are being made aware of it, may we not forget it again.

*This includes rich people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, but that doesn't preclude taxing them more so they pay their fair share back to the country that helped them succeed.

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