100 years ago in Tulsa

The story of the Tulsa Massacre is a very, very ugly one. It’s one that you may have heard about recently, as there is no longer immense pressure to keep the whole sick and brutal event on the down-low.

The effects and the legacy of this shameful attack are almost too great to assess. It’s truly hard to wrap one’s mind around it all.

Because I spent the better part of nine years in the City of Tulsa — including my three semesters in Seminary — it’s something I’ve paid quite a lot of attention to lately. I say lately as I only learned about it approximately five to six years ago. Simply by browsing the content of an internet forum.

There’s no need for me to try to add anything to the work done by so many about this traumatizing, racist event. I merely want to say that I feel — as I look back over my time in Tulsa — that it is remarkable that I never had the slightest clue that Black Americans had been attacked and massacred on the north side of the city where I lived, the city I had grown to love.

Tomorrow will mark the 100th Anniversary of the massacre which claimed at least 300 lives and burned a 35 square block area to the ground. There were many events to mark that somber event. One will be that President Biden will travel to Tulsa and meet with community leaders and the last three survivors.

Another event will be the prayer and commemoration in front of the last standing wall of the Vernon AME Church in the Greenwood District.

There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that there were active efforts to keep the event under wraps. It’s almost inconceivable that I could have lived and studied in that City for most of the decade of the ’70s and had no idea that I was living about ten miles from the site of what was almost certainly the greatest, most violent paroxysm of racist white violence on black Americans in our — at that time — 200 year history.

I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around that. But it highlights once again that the perpetrators of racist violence will always go to great lengths to minimize, justify and hide their crimes.

And to avoid any accountability. The last thing that should be noted about this murderous, horrific and traumatizing act of violence is that no white person was ever arrested or put on trial for the rampage.

Ben Lawrence Basile

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