Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Mayor Bynum apologizes for city's role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
0 Comments

Mayor Bynum apologizes for city's role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

  • Updated
  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}
G.T. Bynum (copy)

In a statement posted to Facebook, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Monday apologized for the city government’s role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Mayor G.T. Bynum apologized Monday for the city government’s role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The apology, posted on his Facebook page, comes 100 years to the day that violence erupted in the historically Black neighborhood of Greenwood.

The racial violence of May 31-June 1, 1921, destroyed 35 blocks, killed at least 37 people — and likely many more — and left thousands homeless. At the time, Greenwood was one of the most prosperous Black communities in the country, with its commercial district known as Black Wall Street.

“While no municipal elected official in Tulsa today was alive in 1921, we are the stewards of the same government and an apology for those failures is ours to deliver,” Bynum wrote. “As the Mayor of Tulsa, I apologize for the city government’s failure to protect our community in 1921 and to do right by the victims of the Race Massacre in its aftermath.

“The victims — men, women, young children — deserved better from their city, and I am sorry they didn’t receive it.”

Bynum said that although there is much debate over how to end racial disparities, the community is united in its desire to do so.

“When you have people with such a diverse range of life experience and passion striving to address an issue they care about deeply, it can sometimes get heated and personal,” Bynum wrote. “But at its best, Tulsa is a community of neighbors who love one another — so we should expect this to be personal.

“And all of the most powerful improvements in American history were forged through a vigorous exchange of ideas.”

Bynum said it was important to note that Tulsa is not the only city in the country with disparities among its residents.

“What is unique to Tulsa is that we are being completely transparent about the existence of those disparities in our city and are uniting our community behind eliminating them,” he wrote.

Bynum was referring in part to the city’s Equality Indicators reports, which look annually at access to transportation, income levels and dozens of other metrics to assess how various sectors of the community are faring.

Bynum has also consolidated the city’s major economic development boards and commissions into one organization whose stated mission is to promote shared prosperity and reduce racial disparities.

Bynum is not in favor of reparations in the form of cash payments for Race Massacre descendants.

“The challenge I have with that is, where does the cash come from? In most approaches that I have heard about, it would come from a legal settlement that would result in a property tax being levied through our sinking fund,” Bynum told the Tulsa World in an earlier interview. “And so … you would be financially penalizing this generation of Tulsans for something criminals did 100 years ago, which I can’t support. You would also be taxing the descendants of victims, which I can’t support.”

Bynum said the other approach to reparations, one which he embraces, is acknowledging disparities and working to address them.

During his time in office, the city has established a Resilient Tulsa strategy and created the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity to carry out the strategy. More than $1 billion in private investment has been directed into the city’s historically Black neighborhoods in north Tulsa since he took office, Bynum said.

“I don’t have an issue with trying to find a way to make things right by the victims and their families. That is the whole reason we are doing the (Race Massacre) grave search, that’s the reason we are doing so many other things, is to close the racial gaps that exist in our city,” Bynum said. “Direct cash payments do not solve larger issues that have been allowed to fester in Tulsa for a century.”

Mayor’s statement

Here is the entirety of Mayor G.T. Bynum’s Monday statement on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial:

“Today marks 100 years since the worst moment in our city’s history. For those of us who love Tulsa, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre represents the opposite of everything we want our city to be: hate rather than love; division rather than unity; destruction rather than creation; wickedness rather than faith.

“As mayor, I hold our local government to the highest standard. Tulsa’s city government failed to protect Black Tulsans from murder and arson on the night of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and from discrimination in subsequent decades.

“While no municipal elected official in Tulsa today was alive in 1921, we are the stewards of the same government and an apology for those failures is ours to deliver. As the Mayor of Tulsa, I apologize for the city government’s failure to protect our community in 1921 and to do right by the victims of the Race Massacre in its aftermath. The victims—men, women, young children—deserved better from their city, and I am so sorry they didn’t receive it.

“In the last five years, we’ve seen Tulsa’s city government place the fight against racial disparities at the forefront of the City’s work. And it is important for Tulsans to recognize the disparities that exist in Tulsa today are not unique to Tulsa. The same disparities unfortunately exist in many cities around the United States. What is unique to Tulsa is that we are being completely transparent about the existence of those disparities in our city and are uniting our community behind eliminating them.

“Tulsans are united in wanting to end racial disparity. People in all parts of our city—people of different backgrounds, races, religions, political parties—want Tulsa to be a place where every kid has an equal opportunity for a long, successful life. And they want to play a part in making that happen.

“There is a lot of debate in Tulsa right now about the best ways to make that happen. When you have people with such a diverse range of life experiences and passion striving to address an issue they care about deeply, it can sometimes get heated and personal. But at its best, Tulsa is a community of neighbors who love one another—so we should expect this to be personal. And all of the most powerful improvements in American history were forged through a vigorous exchange of ideas.

“All of us engaged in this work know that it will take years of sustained effort to correct inequalities that grew over more than a century in Tulsa. I am thankful for everyone in our community who is committed to this work for the long term.

“Each of the initiatives below include many strategies being deployed to close gaps and make Tulsa a better city. Each of those strategies provides an opportunity for engagement, based on your level of expertise or interest. I hope all of my fellow Tulsans will find a way to join in these or other efforts. If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that Tulsans can overcome every great challenge when we work together.”

For those who want to engage particular aspects of the City of Tulsa’s work to make ours a better city, there are a number of options:

To read our annual report that statistically measures inequality in Tulsa (the Tulsa Equality Indicators report): https://csctulsa.org/tulsaei/

To read our 6-year plan for addressing racial disparities in Tulsa (the Resilient Tulsa Strategy): https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/7673/reslient-tulsa-digital-web.pdf

To learn more about the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, the team we established to follow through on the Resilient Tulsa Strategy: https://www.cityoftulsa.org/government/resilient-tulsa/

To follow our search for the graves of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims: http://www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves

To learn more about the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity, our new authority established to use economic development as a driver of equality of opportunity in Tulsa while streamlining development processes and consolidating several old authorities: https://www.thenewlocalism.com/newsletter/tulsa-and-the-remaking-of-urban-governance/

Black Tulsa never really recovered from the devastation that took place 100 years ago, when nearly every structure in Greenwood, the fabled Black Wall Street, was flattened and as many as 300 people were killed.

0 Comments

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News