Black Wall Street Reaction Paper

Excerpt from Reaction Paper :

Tulsa Race Riot: What Happened and Why

In 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma, like many other American cities, was a hotbed of racial tension and the Ku Klux Klan was large, accepted and active in "keeping blacks in their place." Although Jews and Catholics were also targeted, African-Americans were far and away their primary targets. Blaming these minorities for the mainstream society's problems was a simple answer to a complex problem. The brutalities that were visited upon the African-America community in Tulsa were so severe and widespread that the event should be called the "Tulsa Race Massacre."

The prosperity that was being enjoyed by many blacks in Tulsa at the time in an area known as "Black Wall Street" and the nice homes that the whites could see from downtown Tulsa served to infuriate many of them to the point where any excuse would be sufficient to exact their revenge for being so "uppity." Moreover, the residents of "Black Wall Street" were successful professionals, including doctors, lawyers, PhDs, and entrepreneurs and an African-American newspaper was published there. Merchants and residents in the nearby "Little Africa" community were also highly prosperous. In fact, "Little Africa's" mainstream, Greenwood, was referred to as "Black Wall Street." These were the cream of the African-American crop, so to speak, having been attracted to North Tulsa by virtue of this business community and apparent opportunities. Indeed, many of these residents were millionaires and it is easy to understand how poor white people that were blinded by racism and outright hatred for African-Americans would envy this prosperity and success.

The catalyst for this turning point in Tulsa's history was something that would likely go completely unnoticed today, but when "Diamond Dick" Rowland stumbled while entering an elevator so he could use the bathroom on the 10th floor of the Drexel Building, he reached out and accidentally touched the white female elevator operator who responded by yelling "rape." Rowland was arrested and things spiraled out of control after that point.

This documentary produced both physical and emotional reactions, including feeling sick to my stomach and ashamed that I was part of a race that could treat human beings in this fashion, even if the riot was almost a century ago. The numerous images of black people hanging from trees, surrounded by foolishly grinning whites carrying guns and acting proud were highly disturbing. It is nearly unbelievable that these things actually happened right here in the United States where everyone enjoys the protections of the Bill of Rights by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The fact that the riot was provoked in large part by a falsified article concerning the incident, the "perpetrator" and the victim in the now-defunct "Tulsa Tribune" and an editorial that called for Rowland's lynching was an…

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Moreover, even if the charges had been true, the white community's reaction was blown so far out of proportion that it is clear that whites in Tulsa were looking for an excuse to do away with "Black Wall Street" and put the prosperous blacks "back in their place." In order for an event of this magnitude to have occurred, the groundwork must have been in place and the growing strength and increasing popularity of the Ku Klux Klan in Tulsa was matched in other cities in the country as well. All of this indicates that if Rowland had not stumbled, the white community in Tulsa would have likely manufactured another reason for a race riot against the blacks in their city because of this overarching unfettered racist-based hatred. The riot's actual beginnings were also bizarre, with gunfire erupting after a group of blacks assembled at the courthouse to protect Rowland from the lynching that was clearly intended to take place that night.

Although people still talk about how bad race relations are in the United States, it is apparent that the country has come a long way since whites rioted in 1921 in Tulsa and it is reasonable to suggest that no black person anywhere in the country would receive anywhere near the reaction that Rowland evoked at this time. Indeed, it was not even considered at crime at all for a white man to kill a black man during this ugly period in Tulsa's history and the city's history is replete with examples of this happening. It was as it Tulsa existed outside of the United States and the Fourteenth Amendment entirely, existing as it were on another planet where the Constitution did not exist and human beings were judged and executed based solely on the color of their skin.

Certainly, Tulsa was not alone in its treatment of blacks during this period in America's history and two blacks were being lynched somewhere in the country each week. Many legislators in Oklahoma, like several other states, were also members of the Ku Klux Klan. Likewise, all of the elected city officials in Tulsa were elected based on their support of the Klan In this environment, although it is shocking, it is not surprising that an incident like the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 could occur. To their credit, the state has taken steps to memorialize the incident and Tulsa has established a memorial park to the victims of the race riot near Greenwood Avenue that was dedicated in 2010.

Cite This Reaction Paper:

"Black Wall Street" (2014, May 31) Retrieved April 8, 2020, from
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