Some financial observers attribute the black community’s economic woes to our unwillingness to financially support black businesses. Well, back in 1921, in a Tulsa, Oklahoma community named Black Wall Street, a dollar circulated 19 times before leaving the community. That was before a white mob destroyed the town. Given the ferocity of the attack and the complicity of Oklahoma police, one would think that by now survivors would’ve been compensated for what they endured, but they haven’t been.
As BreakingBrown previously reported, Black Wall Street had its own theaters, grocery stores, independent newspapers, and professional black class before being demolished by an irate white mob angry over a black teen’s alleged assault of a white female.
After the riot, Mayor T.D. Evans told a commission that what happened was “inevitable” adding, “Let us immediately get to the outside fact that everything is quiet in our city, that this menace has been fully conquered, and that we are going on in a normal condition.”
And the city moved on and the people who lost everything, like Olivia Hooker, who is 99 now, have never been compensated for their loss.
Hooker, who was only a child during the riot, described to Al Jazeera how it impacted her.
“And so when this terrible thing happened, it really destroyed my faith in humanity,” she said. “And it took a good long while for me to get over it.”
There are less than a dozen survivors of the riot and they will all probably die without being compensated. All city officials have offered them thus far are empty apologies.
“I can not apologize for the actions, inaction and dereliction that those individual officers and their chief exhibited during that dark time,” said Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan in 2013. “But as your chief today, I can apologize for our police department. I am sorry and distressed that the Tulsa Police Department did not protect its citizens during those tragic days in 1921.”
Real reparations, however, come in dollars and cents, not words.