Lessons from the Tulsa massacreWednesday, June 16, 2021
I have long found consolation in the belief that whenever a great evil is done there are always some persons who will resist it and insist on doing the right thing. History contains many examples.
White people gave their lives fighting for the abolition of slavery. Some non-Jewish Germans went to great lengths to rescue Jews from the Nazis. Many white Americans marched with Martin Luther King Jr in his struggle for civil rights in the US, and the protests against the murder of George Floyd that occurred in and outside the US are more recent examples.
Jamaica's most famous case is probably that of William Knibb, an Englishman who came to Jamaica and risked his life fighting against slavery, and for which the Government of Jamaica recognised by awarding him a posthumous Order of Merit in 1988.
I have been reading about, viewing films, and examining photographs of the Tulsa Massacre which occurred in Oklahoma, USA, in 1921. When I saw no references to any Tulsan William Knibbs or Oscar Schindlers, or any photos like that of the black man in Britain carrying the body of an injured white protester, I felt distressed, for it seemed as if that Tulsa had refuted my moral optimism.
Then I read Glenn Tucker's piece titled 'Remembering the Tulsa race massacre' published in the Jamaica Observer on June 4, 2021. He mentioned a Sheriff Willard McCullough, who opposed the attempted lynching of Dick Rowland, the African American young man who had been falsely accused of assaulting a white woman — the rumour which triggered the massacre of an estimated 300 African Americans. McCollough reportedly saved the life of this young man and assisted him in escaping from Tulsa.
When I read this I saw a glimmer of light in the Tulsan darkness. Perhaps future stories of the humanity of both whites and blacks in the city will be eventually uncovered.
A recent PBS film featured two young African American Tulsans, a female narrator, and a male youth leader. With deep sadness in her eyes, the young woman informed viewers about the massive historical research, including archaeological digs, now being done to try to make sure that this long deliberately covered up story is as truly and fully told as scholarship and political will can tell it.
I was very impressed by the determination of these two young people to learn from their history and to use the techniques that their ancestors had used to build that community, the famous Black Wall Street, that was at the time the most successful and largely self-created African American community in the history of the United States, and which, sadly, was destroyed by the racial hatred and bad mind of their fellow Americans.
I saw their determination to learn from their tragic history and to use it as a fulcrum with which to build a better a future as an important lesson for young Jamaicans.
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