House passes race riot act
BY BRIAN FORD World Capitol Bureau
May 23, 2001
1/20/13 at 8:33 AM
The measure creates the Greenwood Redevelopment Authority and
establishes a scholarship fund.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- After lengthy debate on Tuesday, state representatives passed a bill that sets
up a Greenwood area redevelopment authority and a scholarship account that could benefit as
many as 300 Tulsans.
House Bill 1178 -- the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act -- contains no state
appropriation, but that didn't stop lawmakers from debating it for the better part of two
At issue for many was a part of the bill that said the causes of the riot "reside deep in the
history of race relations of Oklahoma and Tulsa, which included the enactment of Jim Crow
laws, acts of racial violence and other actions that had the effect of `putting
African-Americans in their place.' "
The bill also cites a "conspiracy of silence" that served the "dominant interests of the
state during that period which found the riot a `public relations nightmare' that was best to
Rep. Fred Perry, R-Tulsa, said he did not oppose the scholarship account or the Greenwood
Redevelopment Authority, but he wanted the section describing the 1921 riot removed. He
maintained that the assertion that there was a "conspiracy of silence" was speculative, but he
eventually voted for the bill.
Rep. John Wright, R-Broken Arrow, voiced opposition to the bill, saying its "inflammatory
language" could open the door to litigation against the state. Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma
City, argued that the bill could lead to state reparations for the race riot.
Wright said the measure "threatens to stir up passions and emotions" and would not move
race relations in Tulsa in a positive direction.
Rep. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, said he didn't learn about the race riot until he was 15, even
though he had lived in Tulsa all his life.
"Something is happening, and we've got to remove ourselves from denial," he said.
"We may not be guilty about the sins of our fathers, but I think probably we should endorse
the end to inhumanity of generations past."
Rep. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa, said he didn't learn of the riot until he was in his 20s. He cited
missing newspaper articles concerning the riot as proof of a
conspiracy of silence.
Ross said he envisions as much as $30 million in private and federal funds being used for
the race riot reconciliation effort. The scholarship fund would be used to allow minorities to
get an education, thereby becoming taxpaying citizens instead of a drag on the system.
The House passed the bill 56-44.
In related business, the House voted 68-32 for an emergency provision for a bill funding
the state Historical Society that also contains a $750,000 appropriation
for the Tulsa Race Riot memorial. The House had failed to pass the emergency provision on
Monday. Its failure would have delayed operational funding for the Historical Society and other
state agencies for nearly two months.
Several Republicans voted against the emergency provision on Monday because of the race
riot memorial funding.
Brian Ford, World Capitol Bureau reporter, can be reached at (405) 528-2465 or via
e-mail at email@example.com .