Editor’s Note: Yes, yes, I know. Teddy Roosevelt not Teddy Kennedy. Thanks to my sister for being the first to point it out. LOL.
On May 31 and June1, 1921, white citizens of Tulsa, OK began the systematic destruction of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, OK. The precipitating event was a sexual assault on a 17 year old white girl and the deaths of ten white men.
It was the first time airplanes were used in an attack on an American city. Private citizens, in airplanes, fired upon black residents as white citizens stormed Greenwood, which was one of the most prosperous black communities in the United States.
For years, little was done to right the wrong. Only in the 1990’s did a bipartisan group of state legislators in Oklahoma form a commission that studied it and revealed the extent of the disaster.
We should know about the Tulsa Race Massacre. But it has been little covered in American history textbooks.
Unfortunately, much like the 1619 Project’s effort to revise American history into something it is not, the same progressive race hustlers are suggesting a conspiracy to cover up the Tulsa situation and keep people from learning about it. With the rise of critical race theory, they wish you to believe your lack of knowledge about Tulsa is some effort on behalf of the government or white people to keep the truth from you.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
You’ll be excused for thinking Memorial Day weekend is not about the American holiday that began to honor the men who fell in battle to free the slaves and now has taken on the broader meaning of honoring all our war dead. The media coverage over the weekend was way more focused on Tulsa. To be fair, it did happen at the same time as Memorial Day Weekend.
But to watch weekend coverage and read the news and hear Joe Biden and the Democrats, you’d think the nation was pausing to remember the events in a single city one hundred years ago. The elite have decided we must all know about Tulsa, we must all care, and we must all be ashamed. In fact, we should to a degree care and be ashamed, but not as some would have us think — that we are so systemically racist that even the history book writers covered it up.
The reason it was not fully covered in American history books is that American history books for public schools are set based on state standards and not federal standards. Likewise, because California is so dominant in the purchase of school textbooks, the educational standards in California have long helped shape American history textbooks. Ask yourself if the good liberals of California have been systemically racist and engaged in a cover up. The answer is no.
In fact, much of the history of the time is focused on World War I, the depression, and World War II. The racial component of American history classes tended to be focused on the reconstruction era after the Civil War or the Civil Rights struggle. The focus also tends to be on the racism of the former Confederate states. To the extent race in Oklahoma has been talked about, it has related to American Indians and reservations.
There was not some broad conspiratorial effort to not teach about Tulsa. It just fell out of the narrative norms of covering American history. We are all familiar with those norms. They look a little like this:
Early Republic and the Invention of the Steam Engine
Pre-Civil War / Indian Relations
Reconstruction/Rise of Teddy Roosevelt
World War I/League of Nations
Great Depression/Between the Wars/America Ascends
World War II
Civil Right and Vietnam
We’re out of time, summer is here, let’s cram in the Cold War, gas lines, and Reagan
This isn’t government conspiracy. It is a teachers’ committee trying to cram in as much as possible in a limited time. Also, the Confederates were bad so pay no attention to the racist Kennedy clan obstructing bussing Massachusetts and Oklahoma is bad because of Indian relations and Republicans. Also, Oklahoma was the Indian Territory and it allied with the Confederacy. In fact, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Nations allied with the Confederacy, which complicates intersectional story telling. The Cherokee Nation kept slaves until after the Civil War.
Only now, as progressives tell us America is systemically racist at its core and we need reparations, fundamental upheaval, and class struggle is Tulsa exposed. It is exposed not as it was — a terrible event local white officials helped cover up — but as proof the government of the United States has been lying and racism is everywhere.
Like the QAnon conspiracy theorists who have taken nuggets of truth and interwoven them with salacious ancillary claims, the progressives take the truth that Tulsa isn’t covered in history books and assert their wild claim that the lack of teaching it is proof of some systemic racism that history is told by white people for white people and Tulsa had to be covered up by everyone.
We should know about Tulsa. It is American history — an unseemliness we should know about. But we should also be willing to acknowledge how much we have moved on and grown. The progressives who want us to dwell on racism in America and believe it is systemically racist are the ones who also smear Tim Scott — a black man and Republican who the supposed racists of South Carolina first sent to Congress to represent the district in which Fort Sumter resides and who now represents the whole state — as “Uncle Tim” and who smeared J.C. Watts, also a black Republican, who won both statewide in Oklahoma as the first black man to do so and was the first black Republican elected to Congress from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
We are making progress. The nation is healing. The race hustlers are the ones who insist we pick at old wounds, not let time heal them, and engage in performative acts of showing we care. The race hustlers are the ones fixated on race and now claim those of us who do not are the racists.
The Tulsa Race Massacre was a terrible event. It is even more terrible to use it to smear the present.