Robert Joseph Greene
I’d like to speak of two peoples, who at the hands of white America, have suffered centuries of deceit, slavery, and injustice for the sake of white prosperity.
With the recent murders of innocent Afro-Americans at the hand of the police, the Black Lives Matter movement has spread to an unprecedented global collection of rallies.
In the midst of this Black Lives Matter movement, I’d like to applaud that there have been incredible changes for Indian Country. It was brilliant to see a collaboration of allies join together as our world has seen a final change to the R*dskins name to the Washington Football team.
In addition to a great many statues getting removed, George Preston Marshall's statue was taken down, as well as a plethora of horrible icons of dark history.
Today, as America claims more egalitarian governance, they still struggle with it’s past and the laws of the courts are designed to protect America from retribution.
If America was truly sincere in its equality, the Ku Klux Klan—an American white supremacist hate group whose primary targets are African Americans—would be labeled a terrorist organization and the statutes of limitation laws would have an exemption clause for minorities.
This is what the city of Tulsa hides behind by not paying restitution to the Afro-American victims of the Tulsa Race Riot.
The Tulsa Race Riot
Known as one of the worst race riots in American history, the Tulsa Race Riot took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when hundreds of white Americans—many of them given weapons by nearby local officials—attacked Afro-Americans.
They were attacked in their homes and the businesses of the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma were destroyed. The primarily Afro-American Greenwood District of Tulsa was known as the "Black Wall Street,” a famous nickname given to the district by Afro-American activist Booker T. Washington after he had toured the city.
In 1996, the Oklahoma State Legislature approved a commission to look into a detailed study and to make recommendations.
In 2001, the commission recommended actions for substantial restitution to the black residents, listed below in order of priority:
1) Direct payment of reparations to survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre;
2) Direct payment of reparations to descendants of the survivors of the Tulsa race massacre;
3) A scholarship fund available to students affected by the Tulsa race massacre;
4) Establishment of an economic development enterprise zone in the historic area of the Greenwood district; and
5) A memorial for the reburial of the remains of the victims of the Tulsa race massacre.
To date, no financial payments have been made to the victims nor the descendants of the Tulsa race massacre.
In 2003, elderly survivors sued the state of Oklahoma (Alexander, et al. v. Oklahoma, et al.) and lost due to the statute of limitations laws. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
This is the ‘racism of the past meets the racism of today.’
Here is where Oklahoma tribes can help
Restitution to an aggrieved racial group isn’t unprecedented. In 1988, the US Government passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which gave redress cheques to over 82,000 Japanese Americans for their internment during World War II. However, this was legislated and not through the courts.
On July 2, 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that about half of the land in Oklahoma, including parts of Tulsa, is within a Native American reservation. This decision will have major consequences on the territory as it stands now.
As tribal nations discuss the transfer of rule or financial settlement of the land, it would be within their rights to ask and include restitution be made by the United States government to those African Americans who suffered losses and loss of life a rightful payment for such a horrible time in American history.
About the Contributor: Canadian author and activist Robert Joseph Greene, has been fighting for social justice in children’s rights in Russia, LGBT rights globally, and social justice for Afro-Americans. Wikipedia lists Greene as Canada’s only dedicated male romantic writer. He is best known for his book The Gay Icon Classics of the World II (978-1469914152) which is a collection of gay love stories from different cultures from around the world. In these collections, Greene has two Indigenous stories from Canada and Australia.