White Supremacist’s Burning of Tulsa’s Greenwood District in 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Massacre.

As the world watched with President Donald Trump the spontaneous reactions of so much racism, police brutality, social protests, burning and looting spread throughout the streets of America and the world over the murder of George Floyd, the world overheard Trump declare, “These Aren’t My Voters!” (http://msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-has-privately-dismissed-protestors-saying-those-arent-my-voters-report/ar-BB15pGLa)

Who Trump’s voter base consists of, and what their philosophy and ideology make up is all about, became abundantly clear once Trump announced the date and place chosen to hold his first 2020 Presidential re-election rally, following the lifting of the pandemic lockdown. It originally was scheduled to be held on June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma but a protest by Black Lives Matter forced him to move it to June 20th.

This writer’s first reaction was, “Why in the hell has Trump, a man who has declared “These Aren’t My Voters” chosen June 19th, of all dates, that Black America proudly refers to as Juneteenth, an emancipatory moment in history for Black America when enslaved Africans were told in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, that, “Hallelujah & Mercy to God”, they finally were free American citizens of the United States of America.

WHAT DOES TULSA SYMBOLIZE TO TRUMP

Furthermore, why had Trump chosen, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma to hold his rally? Tulsa’s Greenwood District the place that became, on May 31st/June 1st 1921, the ignominious location of America’s most hideous White Supremacist/Ku Klux Klan Race Riot & Massacre of Black Americans.

Given that Trump already has a well-known and well-deserved reputation of being a White Supremacist, Law & Order, Anti-Black, Anti-Minorities, Anti-Civil Rights, Anti Climate Change, Irreligious, Authoritarian President, it seemed blatantly obvious, by the date and place he chose for his re-opening firebrand rally to hold on to the Presidency, and move America and the World that much further to a place of alt-right fascism, that he was sending a clear and unambiguous message to his voter base, in the Deep South especially, as well as in the Northern states where a mere 77,000 total votes swung the 2016 election for him in the Electoral College, even though millions more had voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump’s obvious implied message was that if the majority of voters want America to stay the course and direction of where it continues to be headed “To Make America Great Again” they will have to rally around him and the flag at this critical moment in history.

Trump’s voter base are the same Americans that, during the Corona Pandemic, continue to demonstrate a complete disinterest if not actual contempt for the health and well-being of their fellow American citizens, even the welfare of their own family members – grandparents, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children – by refusing to maintain safe preventative health measures, like social distancing, wearing PPE gear, and repeatedly washing their hands. Trump’s supporters are the same Americans who one will often hear express, as well, such ideological excuses as, “wearing a mask and gloves is just a political trick by Biden and the Democrats to encourage voters not to take all these measures because it’s meant to denigrate Trump and his administration who refuse to demonstrate to the American public the importance of practicing these pandemic health measures.

Trump’s voter base are the same Americans who one will hear variously comment about the pandemic lockdown: “I don’t care if I die or kill others, but I’m not going to wear a damn mask!” “If that causes more old people to die from the virus that’s okay! It just gives young people more of a chance and right to live and prosper!” or; “I don’t have to wear a mask! This is a free country! No one call tell me what to do that’s why we have the 1st Amendment”; “This lockdown is commie talk that’s depriving me of the right to make as much money as I want!” Or the even more ridiculous religious belief of some who even naively declare, “I deeply believe that my God and my own immune system will protect me from catching the virus.” Such ignoramus comments are what underlie the basis of American Exceptionalism and what defines Trump’s election motto and desire to “Make America Great Again!”

What is most troubling and unconscionable about this widely-held attitude among American supporters of Trump is that perhaps a million more of them, when the pandemic infections and death rate still is dangerously rising in America, will willingly pack themselves into Tulsa’s BOK Centre for a political election rally, and follow his lead by not practicing social distancing or wearing protective PPE gear, just to assuage Trump’s monumental vain ego. It’s sheer madness!

TULSA’S HISTORY IS A SAD TALE TOLD ALL ACROSS THE LAND

The choice of Tulsa for Trump’s triumphant resurgent political rally to continue to “Make America Great Again” would seem not to be an accident given Tulsa’s ugly past racial history serving as fuel on the fire for what is now happening on the streets of America. For starts, in the early 20th century Tulsa, due to its racial violence and tensions, already had earned the ignominious title of the Tulsa Race War Massacre in 1921 which, aside from the many massacres committed by the American military and settlers against Native Americans, was one of the worst in modern historical times.

By 1921, Native Americans from the East and South already had been militarily marched from their ancient homelands to the barren prairie and desert wastelands of Oklahoma Territory on what became known as the Trail of Tears because so many agonizingly died along the way. An experience not unlike the Bataan Death March on which the Japanese forced marched Allied prisoners during WWII. By the 1920’s, Freed black slaves also had ventured into these barren Oklahoma territories that the white settlers didn’t want themselves. But surprise, surprise. These lands contained vast underground reserves of pure rich oil. Poor, oppressed minorities had virtually won the lottery.

Soon Black Americans and Native Americans alike were realizing wealth beyond their wildest dreams. As a result, Black Americans were able to create their own business enterprises that included hundreds of homes, grocery stores, two newspapers and numerous churches, habadasheries, men’s luxury barber parlours and ladies salon’s, and every other store or services prosperous peoples need and want to live a good life. Black professionals in their Greenwood District (doctors, dentists, lawyers, clergy) were able to independently raise their own capital to support and bring further economic and financial growth and prosperity to their District.

But this didn’t sit well with those White-American settlers who had emigrated into the area after the Civil War, many of whom were dispossessed former slave owners, who began to found towns and cities in Oklahoma once it had become a state in 1907. True to their ideological background, they immediately began to pass racial segregation laws, commonly known as Jim Crow Laws, that essentially disenfranchised most Black and Native Indian Americans who were barred from voting, serving on juries or holding local government office. These Jim Crow laws continued to be enforced until the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965, and ever since local white racists have still managed to subtly create virtual Jim Crow-type laws that, to this day, continue to prevent Black and Brown voters from casting their vote.

So, by 1921, Oklahoma had a racially, socially and politically tense atmosphere. Four years previously, in 1916, Tulsa had passed an ordinance that mandated residential segregation that forbade Blacks or Whites from residing on any block where three-fourths or more of the residents were of the other race. Such ordinances were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court by the time WWI had ended in 1918, but many Black American ex-servicemen returning from the war, who had fought and died for America and wanted to enjoy the benefits of its constitutional Civil Rights laws, found that Tulsa, like many border towns and cities in the South, continued to enforce such segregation ordinances for the next 30 years. The fallout from the days of slavery and American Civil War were still very much within the living memory of all the people.

Civil Rights was still only a dream for Black America as the Ku Klux Klan continued to resurge throughout the South, in part due to the then widely-popular White racist movie Birth of a Nation that had been released in 1916. By 1921, the Ku Klux Klan had grown in urban chapters all across America.

In Tulsa there were at least 3,200 Klan members and as many white racists in the Northern state of Minnesota where George Floyd was murdered. Minnesota the place where the roots of racial disparity in the North became the origin of still more housing segregation ordinances through the use of racial covenants (Watch: www.youtube.com/watch?vXWQfDbbQv9E) . This writer’s own home state of Colorado had the 2nd largest per capita concentration of white supremacist KKK members in the Nation, and early on spread racist politics throughout the State. (Watch: Colorado Experience KKK at www.youtube.com/watch?v=POSPMbtF!+8) Even California, where this writer was raised, had discrimination policies in housing until the Rumford Act of 1963 became one of America’s most sweeping acts that protected the rights of Blacks and other peoples of color to purchase their homes in whatever community of their choosing without discrimination.

Prosperous, affluent Black population in Tulsa’s Greenwood District did not sit well with Tulsans and such a huge presence of Klan members like W. Tate Brady. Four years earlier, Brady had tarred and feathered a group of men that the local police had placed in the custody of his Black-robed Knights of Liberty. Brady claimed at the time he had tarred and feathered them as suspected German spies he referred to as members of the “I.W.W,” who were punished “in the name of the women and children of Belgium”.

TULSA’S MAYHEM BEGINS WITH AN OFT-TOLD STORY

So this was the volatile climate of Tulsa when, in 1921, a 19-year old Black youth was charged with the assault and rape of a 16 year-old white girl. Though nothing was ever proven and only ever alleged, and the 16 year=old white girl refused to press charges, the racists and haters in those times were not concerned about such legal technicalities. The lynching of the 19 year-old Black youth became the spark that lite the fuse that set off one of America’s most bloody race riot massacres; not unlike what happened a century later in Minneapolis when George Floyd’s murder by police spontaneously created a world-wide “Enough Is Enough!” backlash against police brutality and demands for systemic changes across the board to the entire structure and substance of the United States jurisprudence-legal and criminal justice system, and the ideology and philosophy of law enforcement procedures, entire social welfare,-health and financial-corporate systems, world-wide.

The upshot of what happened in Tulsa in 1921, was that: widespread corruption in its police department; the questionable actions by racist Tulsa policemen; a white-owned newspaper, The Tribune, that printed an inflammatory, incendiary editorial titled, “To Lynch A Negro Tonight”, that incited the public, of which literally all copies of the editorial, even the missing master copy on microfilm, all mysteriously disappeared after the massacre and no trace has ever been found to this day. Each played an integral part that led to the blood bath that ensued.

While rampaging armed White mobs attacked the Black District of Greenwood from the ground; an air attack of some 12 private aircraft of all description soared over Greenwood that, as observers noted, “hummed and darted with the agility of natural birds in the air, circling, dipping low and hurling down on all its businesses and homes flaming turpentine balls.” The mass murder and destruction utterly destroyed 35 square blocks of Greenwood’s Black Wall Street at a loss, by today’s standards, of over 35 million dollars. 191 businesses, a junior high school, 1256 homes were totally destroyed, while, unofficially, 75-100 to 150-300 Blacks, depending upon who is doing the counting, were murdered, with 1,000 more wounded admitted to hospital, with over 6,000 Black Americans interned by the military authorities for several days. Martial law was declared, the Oklahoma National Guard was called out, and, in the aftermath, 10,000 Black Americans were left homeless, with thousands forced to live and die or bring new babies into this world in tents, through the blistering hot summers and frigid winters of 1921 and 1922. Yet for all the atrocities committed by White racist Tulsans not one was ever charged or convicted.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

In 1996, Oklahoma finally formed a commission to study exactly what happened. The final report, released in 2001, said the city of Tulsa conspired with the White mob against the Black Tulsans. Reparations of monies and scholarships were recommended to the survivors and their descendants, a memorial was dedicated to them and the story of the massacre was introduced into the Oklahoma school curriculum.

The question still remains as puzzling as it is obvious. Why has Trump now selected Tulsa as the place where he intends to launch his big push for re-election? Here is a President who already has openly declared “These aren’t My Voters!” He has long since proven by his actions, words and deeds that he mainly represents various groups of extremists, and is out of touch and isolated from the real America and real Americans who live on Main Street USA. He already is as if a cultural relic from another fascist, authoritarian time as he has shown by his reactions to the tragic murder of George Floyd and its aftermath. Especially when he demonstrated delusionary thoughts that he could invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and declare war on America while trampling all over American’s Constitutional 1st Amendment Rights.

Trump simply is on the wrong side of history and the democratic and generational divide. He apparently misleadingly hopes that some kind of informed consent will emerge from his campaign rally in Tulsa that will reset the tone for the rest of his election campaign leading up to November and the next four years of his fantasized regal reign.

As one homespun Australian pundit recently put it, “He’s gotta be dreamin’, Mate!”. But stranger thing can happen! If one were simply to go by what happened in the 1948 Dewey-Truman Presidential election, where, as it turned out, many believed, including the newspapers, whose banner headlines already had declared Dewey the winner, until they woke up the next morning and discovered egg on their faces.

Anything can happen when viewed from even the perspective of America’s youth and people of colour, where the only real democracy they have ever experienced or expect to receive through America’s skewed voting system and archaic Electoral College, that should have been banished a century ago, where, in one form or another, Voter Suppression of the True Will of the People has been the rule rather than the exception.

Footnote: As one last absurd heart-breaking example of so much senseless, needless racial murder and political violence in America the reader’s attention is directed to YouTube.com to watch the full-length lead up and ultimate murder of Rashard Brooks by the Atlanta police, captured in its ugly entirety by an Atlanta policeman’s own body cam.

Words (2540)

Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer and author of “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (www.turtle-island-odyssey.com), a three volume account of his travels as a spiritual sojourner, during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s, among Native American & First Nation peoples in North America. It encompasses the Indigenous Spiritual Renaissance & Liberation Movements that emerged throughout North America during the civil rights era. In addition to being a long-time political activist and organizer, Irwin has authored over the years a number of environmental, political, cultural, spiritual articles with special emphasis on Native Americans, First Nations, Australian aboriginals, native peoples of Israel, Gaza, Palestine and Syria and especially Black Americans where Irwin retired as a special education teacher at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Secondary where he worked with Black & Brown students from San Francisco’s Bayview and Hunter’s Point/Candlestick Park Districts. Irwin also is the publisher of The Wild Gentle Press. Email: jerome_irwin@yahoo.com


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