The Continued Harm
A Century of Hypocrisy & Whitewashing
For more than 75 years after it happened, the Massacre was a forbidden topic in Tulsa. Journalists and historians who tried to write about it were at risk of losing their jobs and sometimes, their lives. Official accounts were destroyed. Stories about the Massacre were removed from newspaper archives. An Orwellian conspiracy attempted to rewrite history and pretend that this atrocity never happened.
Finally, in 1968 a journalist named Don Ross wrote three columns about the riots for the Oklahoma Eagle, and in 1971 published a story about the attacks in Impact magazine. He was called a troublemaker by both whites and blacks for violating what he called a “conspiracy of silence going on for 50 years.” Slowly, schools began to teach the history of Greenwood, but the city of Tulsa never accepted legal responsibility for the Massacre. The Greenwood Cultural Center opened in 1995 as a monument and as a resource, but little else was done.
In the 1990s, State Representative Don Ross advocated for the formation of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission (“Commission”) to study the Tulsa massacre as a means of raising awareness of the Massacre, and moving discussion towards reparations for the survivors and their descendants, including providing an apology. These efforts led to the creation of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission (“The Commission”), established in 1997 with House Joint Resolution No. 1035. After four years of research, in February 2001, the Commission issued its “Tulsa Race Riot Report” and called for reparations to survivors. In her Epilogue to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission’s Report, Oklahoma State Senator Maxine Horner announced that “[w]hat is owed this community 80 years later is a repairing—education and economic incentives and something more than symbolic gestures or an official report as an apology extended to the survivors.”
In recent years, the hypocrisy over this act of domestic terrorism has become intolerable. Incredibly, in 2019 the city of Tulsa announced that the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission would be engaging in a series of events and dedications intended to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Massacre, including a dubious attempt to final alleged mass gravesites of victims which probably do not exist.
Not a word about accountability. No apology. Not a word about reparations. Simply a cynical attempt to whitewash an atrocity against Black Americans—to transform it into not only a demonstration of the city’s virtue but a tourist attraction.