History doesn’t change to fit our wishes. We wish whites hadn’t imported blacks as slaves and had not changed immigration policy in 1965. However, in a multiracial society, history often isn’t about facts. It’s a weapon. A story about the past justifies current policy. When history doesn’t provide a suitably horrific example, invent one.
The 1921 “Tulsa Race Massacre” is for now the most important story in the country. It is so important that President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation about it on Memorial Day itself, a sign of what post-white America will be “memorializing” in the future. Yesterday, he visited Tulsa to talk about the “massacre.”
The text of his speech was demagoguery, but combined with his halting, rambling delivery, it was pitiable. There was also an implied threat. The president of the United States described the conditions that prompted a “massacre.” Unwittingly, he described what is now being prepared for whites.
President Biden charged that “literal hell was unleashed” in 1921. He made sure to talk about people being ripped apart or executed while praying. “Only in remembrance do wounds heal,” he said. Is that so? Perhaps he will bear this in mind if he ever thinks about what happened to Cannon Hinnant, Brittney Watts, Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom, the victims of the Zebra Killings, and the thousands of whites whom blacks have killed. I don’t like discussing these crimes because it appeals to low instincts for revenge, but if President Biden says it will promote healing, it must be OK.
What was the “Tulsa Race Massacre,” which is suddenly everywhere in academia, media, and pop culture? What really happened? Tulsa in 1921, President Biden explained, had a thriving black community. “One night changed everything,” he said:
It was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager. A white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held, ready to do a [mumbled] lynch that young man that night.
Was it an “innocent interaction?” On the morning of May 30, “Diamond Dick” Rowland went into an elevator operated by a slightly younger white girl, Sarah Page. At the time, The Tulsa Tribune said he assaulted her, and this story supposedly sparked talk of a lynching. What do later writers say about what happened?
NBC recently published a “fact check” that quoted historian Scott Ellsworth claiming that Rowland simply “tripped” and fell against her. Vox suggests several theories, from attempted rape to a lovers’ quarrel. A clerk said he saw Rowland run out of the elevator and that Page was “distraught.”
The Washington Post claims the two were going to defy a ban on interracial marriage, though this wouldn’t explain why Rowland ran. The same story notes that Page excused Rowland after the riot and that both survived. Rowland reportedly moved to Oregon.
There is another mystery. The Tribune supposedly ran an editorial on May 31 with the title “To Lynch Negro Tonight.” However, no copies exist. They have either disappeared or been destroyed, even in microfilm. A military officer at the time said the entire scandal was the result of “an impudent Negro, a hysterical girl, and a yellow journal.”
The 2001 official report from “The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921” said “we may never really know” what happened in the elevator. However, President Biden knows it was “innocent.”
The commission identifies historian Scott Ellsworth as “first in importance” among those it consulted, so it’s worth examining his account. Mr. Ellsworth writes that what happened in the elevator on May 30 is “anyone’s guess.” Police arrived, but apparently did not take Page’s accusation very seriously.
Two officers, one white and one black, arrested Rowland the next day, May 31 — the same day the news story about Page and Rowland appeared. The separate editorial supposedly calling for a lynching would also have appeared on May 31, but without a copy, we don’t know if it was a call to lynch Rowland, an editorial about a possible lynching, or something different.
The night of May 31, Sheriff Willard McCullough sent armed men to protect Rowland. When a small group of angry whites came to the jail and demanded that Rowland be handed over, the Sheriff sent them away. He gave orders to “to shoot any intruders [into the jail] on sight.” Thus, some whites may have wanted to lynch Rowland, but the sheriff thought he had the situation under control.
Meanwhile, black Tulsans were also discussing the possibility of a lynching (something that had happened to whites in Tulsa before, but never to a black). A black deputy sheriff tried to convince blacks that an armed confrontation with whites was a bad idea, but 25 blacks with guns nonetheless showed up and offered to protect the jail. The sheriff turned them away. However, this visit had an “electrifying effect” on the white mob. Some whites apparently went to a National Guard armory for guns, but an officer kept it locked. A menacing crowd of whites grew outside the jail, but the sheriff thought he could protect the prisoner.
After that, small bands of blacks decided to drive through the streets with guns “to send a clear message to white Tulsans that these men were determined to prevent, by force of arms if necessary, the lynching of Dick Rowland.” Mr. Ellsworth notes that whites might have thought this was a “Negro uprising.” Then, sometime after 10 p.m., another group of armed blacks — 75 this time — left their cars and marched to the courthouse, again to offer to “defend” it. The police told them to go away.
At this point, the commission report states that a white man tried to disarm a black man. A “shot rang out” and armed blacks and whites shot and killed each other. According to an account in The Nation from the period, more whites than blacks fell in the initial exchange. A white man may have been the initial aggressor, but it would be reasonable to assume that a black fired first.
Mr. Biden put it this way: “Seventy-five black men, including black veterans arrived to stand guard. Words were exchanged. Then a scuffle. Then a [sic] shots fired.”
Mr. Biden failed to mention that the blacks were armed, and note the passive language. Shots were “fired,” just as gunfire “erupts” in certain neighborhoods today.
Several facts are clear. First, the sheriff and the National Guard were not conspiring with the crowd. Second, there were blacks in the police department. Third, and most important, if blacks had not showed up with guns and shots had not “been fired,” probably noting would have happened. There would certainly have been no lynching.
President Biden’s vivid description of an ensuing random slaughter is pure provocation. Even the commission’s report, which is determined to paint the events in the worst light possible, makes the riot seem like a chaotic running battle. Neither blacks nor whites had any idea what was going on. The report almost praises the ferocity of the blacks in Tulsa who were “not going without a fight.” It includes a description of black heroes such as “Peg Leg Taylor, a legendary black defender who is said to have fought off more than a dozen white rioters.” This was no “massacre” of passive blacks.
The police did deputize whites who took it upon themselves to attack blacks, but no one was in charge. The National Guard also seemed to regard blacks as the “enemy,” but was as confused as anyone. It rushed to intercept a train that was supposed to be arriving with 500 armed blacks. Of course, there was no such train, but whites clearly thought there was a serious threat.
The 2001 Commission’s official report calls the chaos a “white invasion” of Tulsa’s black district. However, it is also filled with reports of confusion and wild rumors. Enraged whites thought they were fighting a black uprising. “Despite a valiant effort,” the 2001 Commission report says, “black Tulsans were simply outgunned and outnumbered.” This was a pitched battle over territory, what the Guthrie Daily Leader at the time called the “Tulsa Race War,” not a “massacre.”
President Biden mentioned the black Mount Zion Baptist Church, which whites burned. He didn’t mention that blacks were shooting from the belfry. White civilians, some “deputized,” used the chaos as an excuse to loot and murder. The Guthrie Daily Leader reported at the time that blacks shot at firemen trying to put out the fires and even killed a white woman. Guardsman, police, and civilians held hundreds of blacks captive. However, these were short-term detentions, in which no one was killed. The sheriff slipped out of town with Dick Rowland to make sure he was safe.
Order was not restored until 8 p.m. the next night. How many people — black and white — died? According to a contemporary report by the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, 36 died: 10 white, 26 black. The Red Cross reportedly estimated as many as 300. President Biden said “the likely number is much more than the multiple of hundreds [sic].” At the time, The Leader put the total at 76. An account from The Nation soon after the event said 50 whites died and between 150 and 200 blacks. The 2001 Commission said “perhaps as many as 300 Tulsans” died, though “some say more.” It concludes that “there is no well-documented evidence for the number of people who died during the violence.”
In July 2020, a search for a mass grave found no remains. A more recent discovery found 12 coffins with the possibility of “as many as 30 [bodies].” It can’t be confirmed whether these bodies were riot victims; this was during the Spanish Flu epidemic.
While this was no massacre, we can’t shy away from the truth that the black part of town was almost completely destroyed. The commission quotes the Red Cross’s claim that no fewer than 1,256 houses were burned, and that 215 were looted but not burned. Photos of the area after the riot look like Dresden after the bombing.
The Tulsa Real Estate Commission estimated $1.5 million in property damage, with a reported one-third of that in the business district. The commission estimated there was about $2 million in property damage, which would be about $30 million today. For comparison’s sake, the economic damage from the 1992 Los Angeles riots caused $1.42 billion in damages in 2020 dollars.
Tulsa’s political leadership was embarrassed by the riot and tried to cover it up. It did not compensate anyone for property destruction, and city has not paid reparations directly. That will probably change.
More important than Joe Biden’s overheated account is what it could lead to. There is already a push for reparations in Tulsa, but President Biden used the event to push for a general racial redistribution of wealth, specifically in housing. “Shockingly, the percentage of black homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago,” he said. Would it be unkind to note that Joe Biden became a senator in 1972 and has been in government ever since? Efforts to lower credit standards so minorities could buy houses arguably led to the 2008 financial crisis.
In Tulsa, President Biden talked about his infrastructure bill. It includes a restriction on single-family zoning laws, something even more sweeping than President Obama’s “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” policies that took zoning control from local governments.
President Biden also wants more federal funds for minority contractors. “We have a thing called,” the President said, before he trailed off, explaining he didn’t have enough time to say what he meant. He eventually alluded to the power he apparently has to increase the share of federal dollars that go to “black and brown businesses” from 10 to 15 percent.
Mr. Biden also imagined the supposed gains all of America would enjoy today if the black section of Tulsa had prospered. He repeatedly said that America needed to “repair” the damage done. If Democrats push through reparations for Tulsa, I expect we’ll see the same claim that reparations at the national level will somehow benefit everyone. The specific case in Tulsa could be the foundation for national push for reparations.
Needless to say, the President said nothing about what has happened to countless white neighborhoods over the last 50 years. Millions of whites fled their homes because of desegregation and the resulting increase in crime and collapse in property values. What happened in Tulsa was awful, but it pales in comparison to what has happened to huge parts Detroit, Newark, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and so many others.
And, of course, Mr. Biden suggested that the evil mentality that destroyed black Tulsa is still with us:
As I said in my address to the joint session of Congress, according to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today, not Isis, not Al-Qaeda, white supremacists.
Given the staggering increase in violent crime over the past two years and the near-record homicide rate in Tulsa itself, it is absurd to call “white supremacy” “the most lethal threat.” Who are these “white supremacists?” Trump voters? All Republicans?
Notice he didn't say white supremacy is the most lethal *terror* threat. That would be absurd and false enough. But that's not what he said. He said it's the most lethal threat, period. Which is just outright insanity. Not anywhere within the realm of truth.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) June 2, 2021
On May 26, the Department of Homeland Security claimed that “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists” would “probably” think the Tulsa commemoration was an attractive target. Of course, nothing happened.
President Biden fell back on phrases he used the day he launched his campaign, bemoaning “neo-Nazis” with “veins bulging as they were screaming.” He compared the 2017 Unite the Right rally to Tulsa. He told his audience to think of the “various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans,” without saying who is committing them. He added that “hate is never defeated, it only hides.” Like Oceania’s wars against Eurasia and Eastasia, perhaps there is no intention to win the fight against hate.
Some kinds of hate don’t even have to hide. Just days before President Biden went to Tulsa, armed men and women wearing New Black Panther Party shirts marched through Tulsa’s streets on Saturday, vowing “justice. . . by any means necessary.” This, the Washington Post said, was “a Second Amendment demonstration.” One of the Post’s reporters on “extremism” saw the following:
Dozens of armed Black activists from the New Black Panther Party and other groups march through Greenwood in formation. “It’s a new day, Black Tulsa! they yelled. Passersby honked, clapped, thanked them for being “our protection.” #Tulsa pic.twitter.com/3KX1pXhUk0
— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) May 29, 2021
"So once they are buried we must bury them, dig them up, and kill them again"pic.twitter.com/tDPCB6XCsq
— AntifaWatch (@AntifaWatch2) May 30, 2021
“We will kill everything White in sight.” pic.twitter.com/agcDl050pr
— Liberty News 🚨 (@LibertyNewsInc) June 2, 2021
Journalists used to accuse President Trump of inciting violence.
In today’s America, the racial double standard is the standard. The spectacle in Tulsa wasn’t about uniting the country but rubbing raw the sores of discontent to justify further action against whites. The President gave our opponents yet another reason to hate us.
We have the truth on our side but without freedom of speech, truth has little power. For now, we still have the First Amendment, but Twitter, which has the power to ban a sitting President, introduced a new policy just last night.
Specifically, we do not permit the denial of violent events, including abusive references to specific events where protected categories were the primary victims. This policy now covers targeted and non-targeted content. https://t.co/leiuuyqDbE
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) June 1, 2021
There’s one official history. There’s one group anyone can attack without consequences. Yesterday’s event brought it all together. If you’re white, under this system, you’re not in the “protected category.”