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Op-Ed: The Road to Racial Justice Runs Through Tulsa

By Mike Bloomberg

One of the big problems with President Donald Trump’s nostalgic view of the country’s history — “Make America Great Again” — is that it has always winked at the ghost of Jim Crow. Nowhere does that ghost haunt the promise of the American Dream more vividly than the city where Trump will hold his re-election campaign rally on Saturday night: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Last week, as the country was engulfed in protests against racism, President Trump announced that he would stage his first live campaign rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic on, of all days, Juneteenth. The annual celebration of Juneteenth marks the date (June 19, 1865) when word finally reached Texas that slavery was abolished and slaves were, at long last, free. The president announced the rally on the same day he made a show of rejecting a public demand — supported by a growing group of military leaders — to rename military bases that still honor Confederate generals. This was just a few days after he had echoed rhetoric employed in the 1960s by former Alabama Governor George Wallace and Southern sheriffs.

After an eruption of public outrage, the Trump campaign pushed the rally back a day. But by holding it in Tulsa, the president is visiting a city whose history reveals how important the national uprising against racism is — and how urgently we need to reckon with it through concrete action.

Ninety-nine years ago this month, White residents of Tulsa massacred more than 200 Black residents and destroyed — looting, burning and ransacking — the thriving middle-class Black neighborhood of Greenwood. It was one of the ugliest chapters in American history, yet it remained buried — hardly spoken of — until recent years. And it was far from an isolated event.

Tragically for Black America, and our whole country, the wreckage and ruins of Greenwood are a symbol of how the end of the Civil War was followed by generations of legalized and systemic oppression and theft, north and south: of Black labor, Black homes, Black farms, Black businesses, Black wealth, Black freedom and, too often, Black lives. As a result, the typical Black family today has one-tenth the wealth of typical White families — a statistic that is nothing short of a national disgrace.

Continue reading Mike’s op-ed on Bloomberg Opinion.

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