100 years ago to the day, June 2 nd 1921, the vast majority of Americans simply woke up to just
another day. Oblivious to one of the most heinous events in an already deeply troubled country,
just over the two days before, Tulsa, life would go on as normal. 100 years later, and the true horror
of the Tulsa massacre is scaling the heights of prominence that it deserves.
For two days, May 31 st and June 1 st 2021, the affluent, predominantly Black Greenwood district of
Tulsa, Oklahoma was subject to an all-out military-style assault by nothing more than what can be
described as white terrorists. On the flimsy pretext of a fabricated account of a Black man assaulting
a white woman, Greenwood was brutally attacked. And this wasn’t just an attack by a pitch-fork
waving white mob (bad enough as that would have been), but by the likes of machine guns and low-
flying aircraft. Nobody knows exactly how many died in the massacre, but it was certainly in the
hundreds. The supposed assault of the white woman was a pretext for the volcanic venting of white
resentment at Black prosperity and success in Greenwood. The idea that white law enforcement
would have somehow stepped in to stop the carnage was unfathomably ludicrous.
For decades after the massacre, white privilege America did its very best to sweep the crime under
the carpet. It was not reported on or referenced in contemporary newspapers or history books. It
was a blatant attempt to airbrush the atrocity from the annals of history. White Tulsa residents,
complicit in the bloodshed either overtly or covertly, would talk of it in hushed tones and would
change the subject when another would enter the room. This was an exercise not only in savagery,
but in moral cowardice too.
Unbelievably, it wasn’t until 2019 that the Tulsa massacre entered the mainstream psyche of
America. An Emmy-winning series, Watchmen, based on the horror of Tulsa, ignited wide-spread
public curiosity, and revulsion, across the country. Sadly, the massacre was yet another example of
American exceptionalism of the most ghoulish kind. The US had emerged victorious from the First
World War and was on the cusp of taking over the mantle of dominant Western power from the UK.
The 1920s were, up until October 1929, years of economic boom, prosperity and societal progress.
Unless of course you were a successful Black artist, banker or doctor in Greenwood, Tulsa. If so, you
were a legitimate target in the eyes of hate-filled white terrorists who seethed with resentment at
your lifestyle that was supposed to be only for them.
Tulsa is, finally, getting the recognition it deserves. Yet still there are plenty in the country who
would rather say “meh” and move on. The creed of “that was then, this is now” allows them the
convenience of no addressing an historical horror. Which is of course a palpable nonsense that the
relatives and friends of George Floyd will confirm for you. Just a week or so prior to the 100 th
anniversary of Tulsa, the German government formally apologized to the people of Namibia (known
as “German South-West Africa” while under late nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial
rule) and agreed to pay the country nearly two billion dollars in reparations. The Germans had
waged genocide upon the Herero and Namaqua peoples of the colony, convinced of their white right
to do so and to do that with impunity. Greenwood Tulsa anyone?
Germany is looking to come to terms with its prior racial excesses. Not only Namibia, but it also fully
accepts its responsibility for the horrors of the Holocaust. The US? He