This weekend is the anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre in 1921. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” but I know too many white Americans who have never even heard of it. White mobs took to the streets and even to the air to firebomb the most financially successful Black community in the US. Thirty-five city blocks were burned to ash. Hundreds of Black residents were killed and at least 800 injured. Thousands of people lost their homes and their livelihoods. Most never recovered a single dollar of what was robbed of them by those raging mobs.
Also Today, I have seen several white folks chiding people of color for alleged vandalism and looting following protests for the police murder of George Floyd. Apart from the fact that many of those doing the damage are agents provocateurs (people purposely doing damage to change public opinion against protesters, who may also be white supremacists or even undercover police), or that police response to peaceful protests have been aggressive (tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray), and that Black activists have been assisting in clean up efforts, we white folks have no position of moral agency to scold anyone.
Human life supersedes property. And after centuries of ethnic cleansing, genocide, the African slave trade, massacres, Jim Crow, anti-Chinese immigrant laws, lynching, internment of Japanese citizens in concentration camps, residential schools, segregation, redlining, grossly unequal justice systems, crime bills that target Black and Brown youth for minor offenses, police brutality, “Stop and Frisk” harassment, caging Latin American immigrant children, and continued systemic and cultural discrimination, white people should be the last ones to lecture any person of color about the virtues of non-violence.
Kenn Orphan May 2020
*Photo is the aftermath of the Black neighborhood of Tulsa in 1921.