In 1921, Tulsa’s thriving Black community, known as Black Wall Street, was destroyed as a result of hate, jealously and racism. The Tulsa Race Massacre is “still the deadliest and most destructive act of racial violence and domestic terrorism in United States history,” according to the Greenwood Cultural Center. Why has it taken us almost 100 years to fully recognize this tragedy? Why, in 2020, are Black Americans being killed for existing?
It would be ignorant of us to think that the murders of black and brown bodies have nothing to do with racist systems of oppression, unjust social structures and individual racial bias. We must acknowledge that as a society we have failed to give Black citizens equal access to basic freedoms and privileges afforded to many white Americans without fear of being labeled as a threat – or much worse.
Audre Lorde, a distinguished scholar, states in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.” Although we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, we cannot forget that as a nation we have not recovered from the 200+ years of the disease that is racism, which has transformed and infected our social structures. This is not a time to be silent or timid in our response, but we must move forward with understanding, compassion and intention. We must recognize our own contributions to institutionalized racist structures and identify action steps to stop the cycle of supremacist ideology and discrimination. Our community came together to respond to COVID-19, and we should demonstrate that same fortitude, care and concern as we stand together and support our Black students, faculty and staff. We have an obligation to create a campus culture where all can thrive and feel supported; especially in times of need.
University leadership has spoken out about the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and taken a strong public stand against systemic racism. TU is committed to taking action and leading by example as we examine our painful past and build a better future.
Many are experiencing varying degrees of grief, outrage and uncertainty. If you would like support or need someone to talk to, please contact TU’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) at 918-631-2200 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you need support outside of normal business hours, please call Campus Security at 918-631-5555 and a staff member will connect you to a counselor immediately. CAPS’ trained professionals provide assistance to individuals from various identities and backgrounds, including traditionally marginalized groups.
If you are looking for ways to support others, please consider the following resources:
- Donate to Black Lives Matter
- Donate and learn about Tulsa’s Greenwood Cultural Center
- Support Campaign Zero
- Support the National Police Accountability Project
- Sign a petition:
If you would like additional educational resources or information on how to support local Black-owned businesses, please contact TU’s Office of Diversity and Engagement at 918-631-2713.
As a community, we have to hold each other accountable to teach the history we were never taught, engage in hard conversations and actively challenge acts of racism, prejudice and injustice. We have a responsibility to be a leader in providing opportunities and resources to build a community, on-campus and in our city, where Black Lives Matter. In this way, we will honor the lives lost during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and engage in the lifelong commitment to advocate for a just, humane and equitable society.