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President Biden called on Americans to “reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our Nation” and “recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism” in a proclamation Monday marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre.
The president also urged Americans to “commemorate the tremendous loss of life and security that occurred over those 2 days in 1921, to celebrate the bravery and resilience of those who survived and sought to rebuild their lives again, and commit together to eradicate systemic racism and help to rebuild communities and lives that have been destroyed by it.”
The massacre, which began on May 31, 1921, and continued the following day, was triggered by the arrest of a black shoeshiner for the alleged assault of a 17-year-old white female elevator operator. White rioters, some of whom used private aircraft to carry out their assaults, leveled about three dozen blocks of Tulsa’s Greenwood district, known as “Black Wall Street” due to the local African-American community’s prosperity.
The exact number of people killed in the massacre remains unknown. A 2001 investigation by a special commission confirmed 39 deaths, but estimated the true number could be as high as 300.
The massacre, like other atrocities of the pre-Civil Rights movement era, has received renewed attention in the wake of nationwide protests touched off by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin last year.
Biden himself is expected to visit Tulsa on Tuesday to take part in the city’s own commemorations.
At Sunday services, black church leaders in Tulsa used the centennial to renew their calls for financial reparations, both for the few remaining survivors of the riot and for the wider, economically struggling North Tulsa area, where the city’s black population is largely concentrated.
Biden’s proclamation also called for the federal government to “reckon with and acknowledge the role that it has played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities” and touted the administration’s effort to address “longstanding racial inequities”.
“We honor the legacy of the Greenwood community, and of Black Wall Street, by reaffirming our commitment to advance racial justice through the whole of our government,” Biden’s proclamation concluded, “and working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, and our hearts.”
With Post wires
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