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Here to Help Fill the Silence: Biden on 100 Yrs of Tulsa Massacre

US President gives emotional speech to commemorate 100 years of Tulsa racial massacre.

Published
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3 min read
File image of US President Joe Biden
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United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday, 1 June, addressed a Black audience at the site of the Tulsa Massacre. He became the first sitting president ever to commemorate and talk about the horrific incidents of the days of 31 May and 1 June 1921 in the Greenwood District in Oklahoma.

Biden called upon Americans to open their eyes to accept the heinous past of their nation.

“Just because history is silent, it does not mean that it did not take place,” Biden said, adding that “Hell was unleashed, literal hell was unleashed. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they cannot be buried, no matter how hard people try."

He said that he had come to fill the silence and bring reparation to the wounds caused by the horrific two days a hundred years ago.

“We can’t just choose what we want to know, and not what we should know. I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence wounds deepen.”
Joe Biden

President Biden drew a parallel between the racial violence at Tulsa and the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January. He announced that he appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead efforts on voting rights as the GOP carries out efforts to pass laws restricting access to the ballot.

Republicans portray such legislation as aimed at preventing fraudulent voting, but many critics believe it is designed to limit the voting of minorities, reported The Associated Press.

"What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism, with a through-line that exists today," Biden said.

He met with the three survivors of the massacre – Voila Fletcher, Van Ellis, and Lessie Benningfield Randle – and in his speech said that their stories will now be viewed in full picture and not just in dimly lit mirrors.

What Happened in Tulsa?

On 30 May 1921, a white woman, Sarah Page, told the police that a 19-year-old Black man, Dick Rowland, grabbed her arm in an elevator in a commercial building in Tulsa.

Rowland was arrested the following day from Greenwood Avenue. A local paper run by the White Tulsans, The Tulsa Tribune, accused Rowland of assaulting Page, leading to the congregation of both White and Black people outside the courthouse.

Over the next few hours, guns and explosives were used rampantly and Black residents were brutally attacked. Their homes, businesses, schools and churches were set on fire by the White Tulsans.

The number of deaths and affected people have changed over the years through enquires by different commissions. The 2001 commission estimated around 300 people died, most of them Black and over 800 sustained injuries. Thousands were left homeless, and a total of 35 city blocks were destroyed. But no one was charged for the violence.

A prosperous ‘Black Wall Street’, the Greenwood district was sufficiently marred and it took 10 years to rebuild it. Today, Greenwood Avenue has plaques identifying buildings as: “Destroyed 1921, rebuilt.”

Remedy: The Fact Sheet

The White House has come up with a fact sheet with policy changes and assistance they urge to provide the Black community to live without any fear – physical and financial.

The fact sheet talks about the steps taken by the Biden administration and their objectives in the fight against racial violence and white racial superiority. It stands for reimbursing the rights lost and right the wrongs done to the Black community. It reads:

  1. Take action to address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals, and conducting rule-making to aggressively combat housing discrimination.
  2. Use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years, and helping more Americans realise their entrepreneurial dreams.

The Biden administration has on numerous occasions called for a united America, free of racial violence. Their recent laws of the anti-Asian hate crime bill and fact sheet stand testament to its efforts in the field.

(With inputs from The Associated Press and Reuters)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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