I can’t believe it’s been a year since the tragic murder of George Floyd.
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma—and this weekend also marks the 100th anniversary of one of the nation’s worst race riots in our country’s history. Maybe the very worst as it turns out now with the recent discovery of a massive, unmarked gravesite in Tulsa.
Memorial Day weekend in Tulsa, 1921. May 31-June 1.
A young black man, Dick Rowland, is falsely accused of assaulting a young white girl, Sarah Page, an elevator operator in the Drexel office building. Rumors of his arrest and threat of lynching spark the riot. Hundreds of angry white people, many of whom deputized and armed by the local police, descend upon the Greenwood District, also known at the time as the Black Wall Street.
No one really knows how many people died, but it is hundreds. 10,000 black people are left homeless. Businesses looted and destroyed. The Oklahoma National Guard declares martial law at noon on June 1—the massacre is ended.
And the silence begins. For decades.
This entire event is buried from local and state historical accounts. It is not in the history curriculum of the Tulsa Public Schools, not even when I come through in the 70’s. Every attempt is made not just to cover it up, but to ignore it, to hide it.
I am fortunate enough to have Eddie Faye Gates as my high school history teacher. Mrs. Gates is Black and has dedicated most of her life to collecting, writing, and teaching about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. She was able to collect the oral histories of a number of victims of the riot before they died. She has been nominated for a Pulitzer writing several volumes about the riot. Mrs. Gates turns 87 this year and she taught us everything she could about the riots and the black experience in the United States.
It all comes flooding back to me every time there is violence against any person of color other than white.
“What hurts one, hurts us all.” This is a quote true of all people of color, and it is true of white folks, too. What hurts one, hurts us all. All of us. All children of God.
Please don’t say to yourself “this is not who we are” because this is exactly who we are.
George Floyd’s murder may prove to be a significant tipping point in the story of racism in America. The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Dereck Chauvin on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter may not be justice, but it is accountability. Finally.
I am ashamed that there are so many other names before George Floyd and after him, too. So many victims and families whose attackers—perpetrators who have not been, nor will be held accountable. So many other names that get forgotten, dismissed, shuffled through the news cycle. Add to them the names of the victims and families of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—glaring recent witnesses to the depth and breadth of our problems.
We have normalized this and I pray that George Floyd’s legacy be the beginning of the end of this normalcy. I pray that we stop congratulating ourselves about how far we’ve come since the Civil Rights Movement and start owning our systemic racist issues and do our part to root them out. Each one of us.
I pray that George Floyd’s legacy and the legacy of each and every one of these victims and families falls on you and me. It’s only been a year, but what have we done about it?
Seriously, what would Jesus do?
Love God. Love your neighbor.
It’s on us to think globally and act locally. It’s on us to be good actors, locally, in our neighborhoods, municipalities, boroughs, and country hollows.
The beginning of the end can only start here. Right here. Right now. With you and me.