We typically host a Memorial Day weekend barbecue for family and friends, but this is the second year that we’ve postponed due to the pandemic; even though most people have resumed pre-COVID activities. I thought it would be a good time to catch up on some reading and given that today marks the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre, there’s no better reason to read The Nation Must Awake: My Witness to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
Now, I’ve certainly read about Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma but I learned so much after reading this book. Like the fact that history often repeats itself; race riots are a result of greed and corruption; and Black folks are too forgiving! I mean, this 18-hour (May 31 - June 1) “ethnic cleansing” all started because a Black boy was lied on and arrested for assaulting a white girl just because he stepped on her foot in an elevator, and the media broadcasted a lynching on the horizon. There was a group of Black men that decided to protect the boy by going to the jail only to be met by hundreds, maybe even thousands of white men looking to make an example out of the accuser. When both parties thought things had settled down and assured that no lynching was going to happen, someone decided to fire a stray shot into the air and just like that all hell broke loose.
The riot began in the evening of May 31st, but the invasion actually occurred on June 1st. White men plotted to steal, kill, and destroy all that these Black men and women worked so hard to build. The book recounts testimonials from the residents during the Tulsa riot which no doubt proved that the lower class whites were envious of an economically thriving, independent Black community. Innocent Black families were forced out of their homes, jailed or shot, framed for trumped up charges, and even paraded through the streets of white neighborhoods while the onlookers cheered and laughed at the harsh treatment. With machine guns, high-powered rifles, and air strikes, Black folks had no choice but to flee to safety while their white counterparts looted their belongings, then burned their homes and businesses to the ground. And to add salt to the wound, had the nerve to sell the shit back to them! Imagine walking by a white person only to see them wearing your clothes, driving your car, or going to their homes to clean your furniture!
With Martial Law in effect, some that survived the massacre were branded with a “Police Protection” tag that allowed them to maneuver through town, while others were bound to a curfew for not knowing a white man to vouch for them. Ordinances prevented many from re-establishing homes and businesses, which eventually led to them losing their deeds. If you ask me, I think this plan had well been in the making before the race war took place because the rich man in power and the fat politician realized that Black folks were sitting on prime real estate. Not much has changed today: Black folks are still being driven out of their communities, local police are still terrorizing, and true democracy is non-existent. We all need to arm ourselves with the knowledge of our history because we need to be prepared when it’s time to go to war!