A main street called Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard runs through the mostly black northern part of Tulsa. At Greenwood Avenue, the street joins the mostly white south of Tulsa, and its name changes to Cincinnati Avenue.
The massacre of 1921 scares the city to this day. The physical signs of destruction have largely been removed, but the systemic problems for blacks living in Tulsa are profound.
Racial relations in Tulsa today are described as “shallow” by Rev. Robert Turner, a 38-year-old Alabama native pastor of the Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa. The historic church, founded in 1905, was a safe place for black people in Tulsa during the massacre. Survivors hid in the basement of the church for protection. The cellar is one of the few remaining structures from 1921.
“The trauma of the racial massacre is still there,” Turner said. “There is a great deal of distrust. Many blacks do not trust anything that is driven or originated by whites. “
Turner said the blacks had been taught not to trust the whites. Even if whites really try to help, because of the deep roots of the massacre, they may encounter resistance in the African American community.
“Even the symbolic gestures like naming a street called Martin Luther King are not enough,” Turner said. “As soon as MLK hits Archer, it turns into Cincinnati. Martin Luther King only goes to North Tulsa, the black side of Tulsa. Martin Luther King, a freedom fighter, Nobel Peace Winner, has a holiday named after him that he’s only good for [the Black side] the city?”
MP Monroe Nichols (D-72) believes there is room for reconciliation. But events like President Donald Trump’s first rally last summer, held in Tulsa the day after June 19, show that the city, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing racism.
“It’s been 100 years that you put your toes in reconciliation instead of fully accepting this ideal in the way we work,” he said. “We as a community struggle with these relationships as they relate to fascism, no differently than we do.” as a country. “
Turner said the Tulsa Race Massacre was swept under the rug quickly and that many survivors never spoke of the horrific events. “It was swept under the carpet by whites who got away with murder because blacks were too intimidated to talk about it because they feared they would be killed. If they said anything about it, they would be killed or missing, ”he said.
It wasn’t until 2002 that schools in Tulsa began teaching students about the massacre. Last year, the Oklahoma Department of Education finally developed a statewide curriculum requiring all schools to educate students about the massacre.
“We knew it was a riot, but we didn’t know about it,” said former Senator Judy Eason McIntyre, a native of Tulsa who spent her early years in separate schools. “I’ve never heard my parents talk about it. Never! Never! Not even teachers knew about it.”
McIntyre represented the 11th district from 2002 to 2010, which also included Greenwood. She learned of the massacre by Don Ross, a journalist who had served on the Oklahoma House civil rights division for 20 years.
If McIntyre had to rate racial relations in Tulsa, she would give a C.
“There is an undercurrent. People are a lot more respectful, people are aware, but it’s so ingrained in DNA, ”she said. “When you look at what’s going on economically [in the area], it’s dead. You killed it. “