Editorial: Remember Greenwood? I didn’t

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

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I’ve heard and seen enough about the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

If I had heard of it before this year, it didn’t make a wrinkle on my feeble brain. With the goings on in this crazy world in recent years, I think my brain may be all wrinkled out.

How far have we come since 1921 as far as racial justice?

Not very far, really.

Not trying to be woke (according to Webster’s, “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially issues of racial and social justice) here, or maybe I am, but we are still way too prejudiced. It seems we fear what is not like us, and there may be some historical references to back that feeling, as well. For as long as there has been man, it seems we want to fight with people who are different than we are. Different color. Different nationality. Different ideologies. Different religion. You name it; if it’s different than us, we don’t like it.

Why was there even a Black Wall Street in Greenwood in 1921? It had been over 50 years since African Americans had been declared free, so shouldn’t there have been less segregation, not more?

That’s not the way it worked.

In the years leading up to 1921 and beyond, black people became more educated. Black people began taking jobs that once only whites had held. Black people began standing up for their rights they thought had been granted to them in 1865.

At the same time, the KKK was making a resurgence. And statues of Robert E. Lee riding triumphantly atop his horse started popping up in front of courthouses all over. The reason? To intimidate black people. Why weren’t they erected just after the Civil War, when many statues and monuments honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their cause were erected?

The reason is simple. White men still controlled the government. Black men were becoming more and more successful. The white men (and women, the Daughters of the Confederacy were behind many of those statues), got scared, and did what they could to intimidate the black man into submission.

Unfortunately, in too many cases such as Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, it worked. It seems the black men in Greenwood didn’t trust the white men in government. And those white men didn’t trust the black man, either. It all started over two teen-agers in an elevator. The girl was white. The boy was black. She made accusations. He denied them, but was arrested. A white lynch mob was formed. A black mob formed to stop that lynching. The result was the annihilation of the black neighborhood.

It shouldn’t have mattered the color of the skin of either of those two teenagers.

The result is what we’ve been bombarded on television news with for the past couple of weeks. I agree that it’s a story worth remembering, but the amount of coverage it has received seems a bit overboard. And as news outlets do these days, these reporters spill forth with their opinions at every chance. Yes, racism is bad. We already know that.

Think about it. Enslaved people of color were set free in 1865. It was more than 100 years later that our governments officially recognized that fact.

Laws were changed, as they should have been. The laws were changed so that everyone would be treated fairly. What those laws didn’t do was change what’s in people’s hearts and minds. We’ll need a different kind of revival for that.

Changing laws again to favor one race over another, or one religion over another, is not what America is all about. We’ve already done that. We’re supposed to be free here, remember? We’re also supposed to respect that freedom.

What looks like an abdomination to you may look like freedom to someone else.

To quote Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?’

– Mike Barnhardt