Human rights. It’s one of the justifications that America uses to launch wars & xenophobicly attack other cultures & races. It’s why we hate the likes of China, Russia, Terror groups with vaguely Middle Eastern names, people that like Christmas, people that dislike Christmas and condemn socialism. The question is does America have the moral high ground to be judge, jury & executioner when it comes to human rights violations? The answer is no! The End, goodnight folks.
Alright before people start freaking out & telling me “well if you don’t like it here go back to your own country!”, thank you for proving my point about xenophobia! But, I do have proof that America has no legs to stand on when I comes to human rights violations. Before we do, can I just address that ludicrous statement real quick?
Anytime someone tells me to “go back to my own country” I usually say “you first Pilgrim!” After they shake off the confusion of hearing a brown man quote John Wayne, America’s manliest man that manned a manhood, I remind them that Americans are descendants of immigrants who brutally stole land from the Indigenous. This country technically belongs to the indigenous people who lived & worked with the land rather than on it using slave labor.
In fact that’s where this particular tale of America’s long history of human rights violations begins. The Tulsa Race Massacre is connected to the passage of the Dawes Act, which gave the American government the right to divide native lands. Good, because I was worried that we’d never make manifest destiny into a law! But this allowed the newly freed black people to get their 40 acres of land.
Between 1865 & 1920, Oklahoma had the largest population of black people in the country. And Oklahoma wouldn’t be a state without Black people. They were the railroad workers, cowboys & sharecroppers that built the foundations of the state. Actually come to think of it, most states wouldn’t be a state without black people!
Several black entrepreneurs helped the community of Greenwood, aka Black Wall Street, in North Tulsa flourish. O.W. Gurley built a boarding house for black Americans. Gurley would often loan money to black Americans who would use it to start a business in the Greenwood district. He would help these businesses grow and expand so people could enjoy what the businesses had to offer. I mean what a mook right?! You don’t loan money to people to help their business grow. You loan money so people are indebted to you and you can exploit them for the sake of Capitalism. Clearly, Gurley didn’t get it.
Despite that thought, Greenwood became one of the most successful areas in all of Tulsa. JB Stanford, a former slave turned into a lawyer & activist believed that black people need to pool their resources together and uplift their communities. And this was a dangerous thought because it sounds like a Commie-Pinko-Russia-Putin traitor talk. In Capitalism the only pool you need to worry about is the in-ground one built by exploited working class laborers.
But the success of Greenwood came exactly because of that. One dollar would circulate through the community of Greenwood anywhere from 19-100 times before it was spent on a white owned business outside Greenwood. For the kids to understand that would be like keeping your venmos in the community for a fortnight, #YOLO. Greenwood had its own school system with a better education system than white schools. There was a business college, banks, 2 theaters, salons, nightclubs, hotels and even a functioning public transportation system.
There are towns in America right now that don’t have a decent bus system. And in the towns that do, people don’t use public transportation because “the bus smells weird”! Well maybe if we funded public transportation more, busses, trains & trams could have better ventilation and a bathroom! We have such a backwards way of dealing with transportation. I think cars should be used for long distance travels and if you’re moving within a city, public transportation should be readily available and better funded…and they don’t smell that bad.
Greenwood even had its own newspaper called the Tulsa Star! Founded by AJ Smitherman it educated the citizens of Greenwood about their rights and would cover pieces of legislation that are either beneficial or harmful to black Tulsans. They’d cover stories that involved Oklahoma’s first piece of legislation which involved instating segregation in the state. Ah, yes, signing discrimination into law like a democracy! This legislation segregated Tulsa into a Black North & a White South, because you don’t want to mess with classic racism. Much like new Coke, new racism is gonna be weird and will make you very gassy!
Again, what a mook! Newspapers are supposed to tell you which billionaire to fawn over, how Russia is bad and where the hottest sales are happening! The Tulsa Star didn’t have any commercials and didn’t try to justify wars! It’s like they don’t even get what Corporate journalism is supposed to be about! Where is the propaganda?! You’re just educating the pleabs you fool!
The Tulsa Star advocated for an armed black populace and how taught folks how to protect themselves. It’s like they understand the responsibility of owning a fire arm and what “well-regulated” means! And I bet the Tulsa Star understood comma placement unlike the Second Amendment who used commas like a first grader who just discovered what punctuations were!
One might think that the paper was being alarmist, but this was the early 1900s when the Ku Klux Klan was still powerful and very violent. Partly because the Republican Party had shifted its views on the KKK. The party went from demonizing the Klan and hunting them out of communities to being friendly with them after McKinley turned GOP into the party of big businesses and bosses!
Greenwood’s success had caught the ire of the white communities. Most of these white folks were low to middle class working in the booming oil industry at that time. The economic solidarity of Greenwood was a threat to White Bosses who were using racism as way to keep their wealth intact. This is Classic Capitalism, unlike New Capitalism which is exactly like Classic Capitalism but in a new suit and slightly more gassy.
It’s the classic method of exploitation to convince white workers that the reason they’re poor isn’t the greed of the Bosses but rather the black men & women who are hoard their rightful wealth. It’s the dangerous mix of racism, manifest destiny & white supremacy that’s still used to this day! This is the origins of the “immigrants stole my jobs” myth! So white Tulsans were looking any excuse to attack the thriving black community of Greenwood.
And they found their excuse in Dick Rowland in 1921. A good amount of Greenwood residents had to work in the greater Tulsa area and were in the oil business. But there were some who were inspired by entrepreneurial spirit of Greenwood and started their own smaller enterprises. Dick Rowland was a 19 year shoe shiner in Tulsa, and made a pretty decent wage as one.
Because of segregation there was only one black bathroom in the city. It was in Dexter building. When Dick Rowland entered the building and got on the elevator with the operator, a white woman named Sarah Page, residents claim they heard Sarah scream and Dick Rowland run away. Rowland is arrested for potential sexual assault and kept in prison.
To this day, nobody knows what happened in that elevator. The most likely explanation is that Rowland tripped and fell into Sarah Page, causing her to scream in shock. But the Tulsa Tribune decided to run a different story. Now these guys get what journalism is about! You just print whatever. Proof comes later…or it won’t, who cares! We moved that paper baby! It’s all about dem subs!
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Also this makes the Tulsa Tribune America’s first tabloid! The next story they ran was about Woodrow Wilson’s underwear and whether Big Foot is real or not! Spoiler alert: He is not…probably.
As a mob of white Tulsans surrounded the Sheriff’s department, Sheriff William McCollough and his men barricade the Sheriff’s office and are assisted by 25-75 armed black men from Greenwood. Most of the black men were World War 1 veterans. After a white Tulsan tried to take a Black Tulsan’s gun away, a shot is fired, which erupts the Race Riot! Overwhelmed by the number of white folks, the black folks retreated to Greenwood to regroup.
The Lynch mob of angry white folks, who were now deputized by city officials and the Tulsa Police charged into Greenwood and proceeded to destroy the town and kill anyone who didn’t look like them. This was like the purge if it was racist. And look the purge is bad enough, so we don’t have to add racism to it, but boy did they! The Lynch Mob was arresting black people and imprisoning them in ballpark. This makes mass incarceration America’s favorite pass time.
1,256 houses were burned, 215 houses were looted and the business district faced irreparable damage. 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system were destroyed. Perhaps the reason the busses smell bad is because its covered with the stench of racism! This is why we can’t have nice things. Because instead of asking if they can be a part of something awesome, jealous, propagandized white folks will tear it apart.
There were reports of airplanes flying over the town dropping kerosene to spread the fire. And firefighters say they were threatened by the mob if they tried to put the fires out.
The Oklahoma National Guard was called in to stop the riot after 12 hours! Upwards of 6000 Black citizens were arrested by the National Guard. The White citizens were disarmed and sent home, which some people see as a bigger injustice than wrongfully arresting innocent people of color. The Guard ended up putting the black citizens in an internment camp and would only release anyone if a white employer could vouch for them. These released black folks were marked with green tags. The Nazis heard about this and said “Well this is an interesting idea!”
9000 Black Tulsans were homeless after this event. No one is actually certain about how many people were killed in this massacre committed by an enraged white Lynch mob. But there were many bodies buried in a mass grave or thrown down a coal mine. This coal mine eventually became a Sears parking lot, which explains the fate of Sears!
After this event, the Tulsa Tribune ran the story in the front page and a lot of other white Tulsans were selling postcards of the destruction, because Capitalism gives zero shits about anything except profits. The New York Times and Tulsa World also ran stories but public opinion of this event was not as celebratory as one would expect. Even in 1921, Lynch mobs and racial violence were unpopular.
In fact political & business leaders realized what a PR nightmare it was to celebrate a massacre like this. Just to be clear, they were cool with the massacre but just not celebrating it publicly! You do it quietly and privately like God intended! So instead of making a statement to get rid of the Klan or reverse segregation, they hid the story. The Tulsa Tribune deleted the story from their front page. The Tulsa World erased all record of it and even the proud white Lynch mobbers fell silent. When it doubt, sweep racial massacres under the every expensive rug made out of an endangered species.
I don’t really care who I offend with this statement, but if you’re a Capitalist, you’re morally bankrupt.
For decades nobody from future generations knew about what happened to Greenwood. No history books wrote about it and schools never taught it. Gee I wonder why? You know in Germany they don’t teach the history of Nazism. In Japan they don’t teach the Rape of Nanking. Leaving a gaping hole for history to repeat itself, despite your quiet shame. The only reason this story broke was because the mass graves were discovered in 1998.
Eventually a bill is proposed in Oklahoma to teach the Race Massacre in schools. But Oklahoma legislators claimed the bill to be bogus because the massacre was already being taught in schools. I’m sure one of them even said “We teach kids that slavery is bad, what more do you people want!?” Gaslighting the American populous is America’s greatest pass time. As of 2004 the race massacre is being taught in schools in Oklahoma.
The state also decided in a $33 million restitution, which is nice, but not nearly enough. Greenwood could’ve been a model for how to run this country but because a bunch of rich white people and their exploitative racism, we’ll never know how really transformative Greenwood could’ve been! I would wager to bet that we’d have far less poverty, crime, suffering and racial hatred if Greenwood would’ve thrived.
The people that committed the Tulsa Race Massacre would be same people that say ‘well black people should comply with the police’ at every murder of an innocent black person. But these white racists are the ones who blatantly didn’t comply with the police and wound up genociding a prosperous black community. That’s because their fear and hatred is far more important than authority. A society ruled by ignorance, greed & exploitation is doomed to fail. No matter how many unmarked graves you bury the truth in, it’ll resurface and show us how we squandered a good thing.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!