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Tulsa Murders Targeting Black Community Point to Racial Vendetta


Jill Garvey • Apr 09, 2012

Two men were arrested and charged early Sunday in a shooting rampage that left three dead and two injured in Tulsa. All the victims are African-American and widespread media speculation is that the attacks were racially motivated.

Racist violence is nothing new for Oklahoma. Perhaps the most tragic example occurred in 1921 when racial tensions turned violent in the thriving town of Tulsa. Over 300 African Americans were murdered (some estimates reach into the thousands), and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in just one day of violence by a white mob.

Young reporter and future director of the NAACP, Walter F. White, provided a chilling account of what he found in the aftermath of the riot. His words continue to serve as a stark warning nearly a century later:

“One could travel far and find few cities where the likelihood of trouble between the races was as little thought of as in Tulsa. Her reign of terror stands as a grim reminder of the grip mob violence has on the throat of America, and the ever-present possibility of devastating race conflicts where least expected.”

The legacy of violence continued in the 1990s with the rise and fall of white militia groups, which peaked with the nation’s deadliest act of domestic terrorism in 1995. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and other militia members, the Oklahoma City bombing came as a shock to most Americans who couldn’t fathom the type of organized racism that generated the attack. Sarah Ferguson writes in The Cornell Daily Sun,

“After several years of growth in the 1990s, the militias began losing power and for the past decade they have nearly disappeared. However, they are returning and with greater strength than ever. Right-wing, tax defiance, racism, sovereignty, and weapon advocacy are just a few characteristics of the newly reinvented militias.”

In 2009, Imagine 2050’s former publisher, Eric Ward, warned:

In the last decade alone nearly 40,000 hate crimes against Blacks have been recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That’s over 3,000 incidents targeting blacks per year. While the reporting of hate crimes over all continues to decline, hate crimes against blacks have remained fairly consistent (hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise). While 40,000 incidents in a decade should be alarming news, the actual fact is that that number is closer to 600,000 (that’s nearly 45,000 per year). Why? Because hate crimes are notoriously undercounted in the United States. A study done in 2005 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that hate crimes were actually 15 times higher than reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Oklahoma may have a troubled history, but today’s racist violence is not contained to one state’s borders. The despair gripping the nation as a result of Trayvon Martin’s murder is a testament to that. The nation must collectively acknowledge and confront that racist hatred leads to violence. Or the cycle of bloodshed will only continue.

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