Point of View Columns

The Tulsa Atrocity – What We Don’t Know

On this day, June 1, 2021, Joe Biden became the first United States president to acknowledge the Tulsa race massacre that took place one hundred years ago. It took a century for the head of this state of this country to not only to acknowledge the atrocity of the devastation of Greenwood and the murder of hundreds of its Black residents – in the process he also acknowledged the humanity of Black Americans – an act which has been so very difficult for this country.

The fact that an atrocity of such scope could be hidden from virtually all Americans for most of this past century makes it clear that this country has no moral standing to condemn similar atrocities in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It is also clear that even as President Biden offered more than condolences – he also made concrete proposals to address the economic disparities that have been the result of the massacre in Tulsa, and in most of these United States.

But the question must be asked – what is it that we don’t know. If the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children and the total devastation of a large and thriving community could literally disappear from national memory, it is impossible to believe that the destruction of Greenwood was an outlier, an anomaly, some kind of unfortunate divergence from decency.

We do know about the race massacres in Rosewood, Florida and in Atlanta – but what about Elaine, Arkansas where 100-237 Black people were massacred by white mobs in 1919. The point is that Black Americans have been experiencing a reign of terror for centuries in this country.

The difference in the modern era is that we don’t see white mobs decimating Black communities, but sadly we see too many out of control white police officers murdering Black men, women and children one by one. In the modern era we don’t see white mobs roaming the streets of Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant or Compton. What we do see is the systematic and systemic denial of basic human needs – housing, medical care, access to transportation, quality education and clean water.

We do not see the apocalyptic horror of roaming mobs. Instead we see the slow motion decimation of human being, denying the humanity of too many Black men, women and children in the process. And to be clear, it is not only Black Americans who suffer this indignity. And to be clear, it is always Black Americans who are first, last and always the targets and victims of this not so benign neglect.

It is interesting that telling the truth about the experience of Black Americans in this country – also known as Critical Race Theory – is actually against the law in the state of Texas, and we can be sure that other states will follow. It is interesting that too many Americans are comfortable with lies and myths and are adamantly opposed to uncomfortable truths.

Finally, what we do know is that unless and until all Americans confront and address these uncomfortable truths there is zero possibility of this nation ever attaining the ideals that are articulated in its founding documents.

This country simply cannot endure while living a lie.

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Point of View Columns

The End of an Error

End of an Error

With the end of the Trump presidency it would seem that the entire nation, indeed the entire world, breathed a sigh of relief with the hope that the Trump Pandemic would be gone. There is now no doubt that Trump was the worst president in the history of the United States vanquishing Richard Nixon, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore and Andrew Johnson in a race to the bottom. But there is also no doubt that it is at least possible that Trump has made it possible that there will be a president worse than him sooner than later.

By shattering all presidential norms, treating governmental institutions like his personal property and treating the American people as his subjects he has certainly cleared the way for another, even more malign version of himself. After all, over 74 million presumably conscious and functionally intelligent Americans voted for Trump – warts and all.

The end of the Trump presidency actually began with the inauguration of Joe Biden. President Biden delivered what was arguably one of the best inaugural speeches in presidential history. Lifting the stain of Trump from the fabric of American politics will take a long time, but President Biden spoke to this issue with the very clear statement – “Don’t tell me things can’t change”. It does remain to be seen how long it will take for things to change.

It is noteworthy that President Biden became the first president in history to declare war on white supremacy and the nihilist domestic terrorists who espouse this vile philosophy. Of course, it is also noteworthy that it was not until the year 2021 that an American president declared war on white supremacy.

And as much of the nation struggled to wrench the memories of the January 6th Insurrection from our collective memory, a true ray of hope and possible dreams made itself known. For following President Biden’s inaugural speech, and Lady Gaga had sung the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez had sung America the Beautiful, a glorious National Poet Laureate appeared. Amanda Gorman is a 22-year-old Black woman who embodies genius and spectacular vision.

She delivered a poem which was written for the moment, just as Amanda Gorman was born for this day. There would be no way to recount all of the content of that poem, but let it suffice to say that she brought tears of joy and hope and remembered pain to the face of America. It is almost a travesty to quote her poem because the entire masterpiece deserves to be quoted and remembered and memorized. The pearls that she offered to the world included:

  • Too often Just Is is not Justice
  • There’s always light if only we are brave enough to see it

And so very much more. Her words belong to all who made that day possible – indeed her word belongs to the ages already.

The celebrations of the rest of the day were amazing and uplifting and inspiring. But it remains to be seen what happens when the real work of repairing the spirit of a nation and its people begins.

And, as we witness The End of the Error, it is so important to make sure that America does not make the mistake of not taking fascist and authoritarian rhetoric and those who utter such words seriously. It is true that no one could imagine that Trump could be as bad as he turned out to be. Clearly we suffered from a failure of imagination.

America dodged a nuclear powered laser beam of tyranny and destruction……this time.

As a nation we cannot afford to ever fail this way again.

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