Teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre
I attended grade school and middle school in segregated southern California in the 1950s and 1960s. The history of Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, when a white mob attacked the thriving Greenwood district of Tulsa, burned it to the ground, killing an estimated 300 of its black residents, was not part of the curriculum. In fact I was not taught about any major black historical events of any kind. To include black history would have been to contradict the white narrative of this great and ever-progressing nation. How bitterly ironic is the objection that taking down statues honoring the Confederacy is “erasing history” in light of the way in which black history has been erased, a sin of omission, by design.
I was, however, taught the romanticized lesson of how Father Junípero Serra colonized Alta California through the Spanish mission system. Most fourth graders in the Los Angeles Unified School District completed a requisite art project associated with this history lesson in which a miniature version of one of the twenty-one missions was recreated — basically a slave plantation. There was no mention of California’s very own Trail of Tears —The Owen’s Valley Indian War —in which native California’s tribes, such as the Paiute, Shoshone, and Kawaiisu, were removed by either genocide or marched to the Sebastian Indian Reservation near Fort Tejon. This white narrative, the normalizing of violence against “others”, was presented to youngsters without question, and simply as historical facts.
Here is the Merriam Webster definition: “Racist is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” By definition, the foundation of our nation is racism.
Two bright young women, Autumn Gupta with Bryanna Wallace, created JusticeinJune.org a resource for naming and dismantling racist behaviors, principles, and policies. “We recognize that to truly understand the need for system change, it takes education and information that leads to action.”, say the two friends on a mission to spread truth, love, and awareness.
Today a massive presidential campaign rally is being held in Tulsa, OK, site of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in US history. This time, the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 will be front and center. Black Lives Matter. Make American Great for Everybody.