Joe Biden Honors The 300 Black American Who Were Killed In Racist Violence
ALFRED VINYO OWUSU-DUKU
Jun. 05, 2021
Joe Biden has shown a lot of promise in fighting racism and we saw his response in the verdict given by the judge in the George Floyd case. Today we see him take another significant step and a historic one at that.
Joe Biden has become the first sitting president of the United States to visit the site in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where hundreds of Black Americans were killed by a white mob in 1921 and burned what was known as " Black Wall Street" to the ground. He stated that the US must learn from one of the worst episodes of racist violence in the country' s history.
France24 reported that: Biden oversaw a moment of silence for the victims after meeting with three people who lived in the district during the massacre- Viola Fletcher (107), Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Benningfield Randle(106)- and toured a museum dedicated to the incident.
No More Pretence- Biden
Biden stated that America should not just pretend this didn' t happen but rather come to terms with the truth and that great nations come to terms with their dark sides:
" We do ourselves no favors pretending that none of this happened" . . . " I come here to help fill the silence because in silence wounds deepen, " said Biden, to an audience that included survivors of the Tulsa race massacre and their families.
He added that: " We can' t just learn what we want to know, but what we should know. . . the good, the bad. . . everything. That' s what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides. "
Lessie Benningfield Randle(106), a survivor.
His visit marked the 100th anniversary of the 1921 massacre that destroyed an entire Black community which led to the killing of more than 300 people and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed after a white mob attacked the neighborhood. Surprisingly, insurance companies did not cover the damages neither was anyone charged for the atrocities.
Speaking at the greenwood cultural center, Biden gave a very emotional speech, stating: " For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness, " the president said. " But just because history is silent, it doesn' t mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they can' t be buried, no matter how hard people try. "
One of the victims, Viola Fletcher, 107 years old said ' ' " On May 31, of ' 1921, I went to bed in my family' s home in Greenwood. The neighborhood I fell asleep in that night was rich, not just in terms of wealth, but in culture … and heritage. My family had a beautiful home. We had great neighbors. I had friends to play with. I felt safe. I had everything a child could need. I had a bright future. "
" Within a few hours, all of that was gone. "
She further said that;
" The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. "
Police Involved In Atrocity/Apology
Voice of Africa reports that: Numerous reports of the time described white policemen with badges setting fires and shooting Black people as part of the Greenwood invasion. But the violence of 1921 was largely ignored for decades if not forgotten.
Then- Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan stood in Greenwood in 2013 and apologized for the department' s role.
" I can' t apologize for the actions, inaction or derelictions of those individual officers and their chief, " Jordan said. " But as your chief today, I can apologize for our police department. I am sorry and distressed that the Tulsa Police Department did not protect its citizens during the tragic days in 1921. "
The mayor of Tulsa formally apologised this week for the city government' s failure to protect the community.
Hughes Van Ellis, 100, a survivor.
Covering The " Dirt"
Public awareness about the killings in Tulsa on May 31 and June 1, 1921, which were not taught in history classes or reported by local newspapers for decades, has grown in recent years. Biden said: This was not a riot, this was a massacre, (It was) among the worst in our history- but not the only one and, for too long, forgotten by our history.
" As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our collective memories. . . for a long time the schools in Tulsa didn' t even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere. "
Cause Of The Atrocity
The massacre began during the Memorial Day weekend after 19- year- old D. Rowland, a Black shoeshine teenager, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17- year- old White elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building and was taken into custody.
Encounter In The Elevator
According to wikipedia: D. Rowland was a 19 year old black shoe shiner, employed at a Main Street shine parlor. On May 30, 1921, he entered the only elevator of the nearby Drexel building to use the top floor " colored" restroom and the elevator was operated by Sarah Page, a 17 year old white girl.
. . . A clerk at Renberg' s, a clothing store on the first floor of the Drexel, later reported that he heard what sounded like a woman' s scream, and that he saw a young black man rushing from the building. . . Although the police questioned Page, no written account of her statement has been found, but apparently she told the police that Rowland had grabbed her arm and nothing more, and would not press charges. Regardless of whether assault had occurred, Rowland had reason to be fearful. At the time, such an accusation alone put him at risk for attack by angry mobs of White people. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Rowland fled to his mother' s house in the Greenwood neighborhood.
Los Angeles times reports that the massacre was incited by a local newspaper' s reports that a Black male had been accused of stepping on a white girl' s foot.
On May 31, 1921, a group of black men went to the Tulsa courthouse to defend a young African American man accused of assaulting a white woman. They found themselves facing a mob of hundreds of furious white people, reports thenews. com.
The website further stated that, tensions spiked and shots were fired, and the African Americans retreated to their neighbourhood, Greenwood.
The next day, at dawn, white men looted and burned the neighbourhood, at the time so prosperous it was called Black Wall Street. Historians say that as many as 300 African American residents lost their lives, and nearly 10, 000 people were left homeless. It was reported that number of churches were also burnt.
In 2001, a commission created to study the tragedy concluded that Tulsa authorities themselves had armed some of the white rioters.
A Chance To Right The Wrong
Tulsa, Oklahoma was once a slave owning state and this created a strong racial disparity between the northeners and the southerners.
There are marked inequalities between the northern part of Tulsa, which is predominantly black, and the south, which is mostly white.
Local activist Kristi Williams, who is descended from some of the massacre victims, told AFP she wanted Biden to " do us right" .
" It' s been 100 years, and we have been impacted negatively, from housing, economic development, our land has been taken, " she said. " This country, right now has an opportunity to right this wrong. " reports, thenews. com.
The Democratic leader marked the centenary of the massacre by meeting survivors in the city, after the White House had announced new initiatives including billions of dollars in grants to address racial disparities in wealth, home ownership and small business ownership.
Pivture of survivor testify before Congressional Subcommittee.
Reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved and for other racial discrimination have been debated in the U. S. for centuries since slavery ended in 1865. Now they are being discussed by colleges and universities with ties to slavery and by local governments looking to make cash payments to Black residents.
CNN reports that in 1994, Florida' s legislature would pass a bill that awarded $150, 000 payments to survivors who could prove they owned property during the massacre and set up a scholarship fund for their descendants who attended state colleges.
As Tulsa commemorated the 100- year anniversary of the attack on " Black Wall Street" this week, massacre survivors and their descendants continued their fight for reparations, demanding the city atone for the trauma they have endured for decades.
On Monday, Oklahoma State Sen. Kevin Matthews- - who chairs 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission- - told CNN an event was canceled because of a financial gift requested by the three remaining survivors of the massacre. Matthews said the commission and lawyers for the survivors agreed the commission would raise $100, 000 per survivor, and provide a seed gift of $2 million for a reparation coalition fund. However, Matthews said the survivors' lawyers reached out a day after their agreement and increased the amount to $1 million per survivor and a $50 million in seed money.
Below is a video documentary for the incident. :
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