Welcome to Tulsa, President Biden.
The president of the United States is one of many dignitaries scheduled to visit Tulsa Tuesday to help mark the 100th anniversary of the city’s worst days, the race massacre of 1921.
A racist mob reigned for two days, killing too many and burning 35 blocks of Black-owned homes and businesses in the Greenwood district.
The city did effectively nothing to protect its Black citizens and then frustrated their efforts to rebuild.
The city fathers covered up the massacre’s shame and never offered a timely acknowledgement, much less an apology or restitution.
We make no effort to excuse the crimes of 1921. We offer no alibi for the endemic racism that sparked the massacre and that continued long after the fires were extinguished.
Tulsa was not exceptional in its attitudes in 1921. Its racism was the racism of much of the nation. This doesn’t excuse or even properly explain the crimes.
But it does give them context, and it helps define why it is proper that the president join in the 100th anniversary events: Tulsa’s sins are the sins of the nation.
The nation’s original sin was white privilege, expressed in the wars of extermination against the native population and chattel slavery, refashioned after the Civil War in segregation and discrimination. Anyone who claims those are the issues of the past, that they deserve no further notice, is willfully ignoring history and seeking to continue the dangerous course of comfortable ignorance and self-delusion.
What message do we hope to hear from Joe Biden during his visit? What can the president of the United States say to heal wounds of a crime 100 years old?
That we must acknowledge the wrongs fully, honestly and contritely, and ask for forgiveness.
That all people are created equal and deserve equal protection under law.
That human rights do not come in shades of black and white, but apply the same to everyone.
That life is sacred — equally sacred whether the life is rich or poor, privileged or challenged.
And simply this: That Black lives matter.
Welcome to Tulsa, President Biden. We are a city that is willing to take a steely-eyed look at its own past and that hopes to hear your call to us, as a community and a nation, to be better.