Editorial: The Disgrace of Tulsa
BY Tulsa World
Jun 2, 1921
1/20/13 at 7:33 AM
Proud, matchless Tulsa comes before the bar of Christian civilization this day, and with head bowed, the mantle of shame upon her cheek, and, we sincerely hope, with deep regret in her heart, asks that she be pardoned the great offense some of her citizens committed during Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
There is not a man worthy of the name whose heart is not afire with indignation against that which has been done. Members of a superior face, boastful of the fact, permitted themselves to degenerate into murderers and vandals, permitted themselves to deal their home community the foulest blow it has ever received in its history.
Tulsa boasted that she was not Ardmore. And now a negligible number of men have plundered the reputation of the fair city into the depths of infamy. Language is incapable of painting the wrong which has been committed against the community and its peaceful, law abiding citizens or of expressing the indignity one inevitably feels towards men incapable of controlling their passions and their prejudices.
It is true that the pride of race as well as its prejudice is a consuming fire in the veins of every nationality. On this ground one would like if it were at all possible, to condone or excuse the hysteria of Tuesday evening and night when the streets of the city were suddenly transformed into a raging torrent of hate impelled man. The imprudence of the negroes in arming themselves and visiting the county jail permits something to be said for those who responded to the riot impulse and set out to satiate the blood lust or racial pride.
But nothing that the mind is capable of conceiving permits a word of defense or excuse for the murderous vandalism which set in at daylight the next morning. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property, the homes of women and children, black in color, to be sure, but guilty of no other offense, went up in smoke.
The semi-organized bands of white men systematically applied the torch while others shot on sight men of color.
The colored section of the city was wiped out, and a long line of hopeless, destitute, pitiful refugees fled northward from the burning town. The German invasion of Belgium with its awful consequences was no more unjustified or characterized with any greater cruelty. In the conflagration a splendid new church but recently erected and one of the handsome educational editions of the school district was lost. To such property the vandals applied the torch to make sure of their terrible purpose.
The entire “race war” was as unjustified as it was unnecessary. Because of it Tulsa is biased as a community where tolerance does not exist, where the constitution of the United States can be enforced or suspended at will; where prejudice and race bigotry rule, and where law and order haltingly flexes the knee to outlawry. Ten thousand citizens have been rendered homeless and made exiles on the face of the earth!
Will Tulsa accept such a reputation willingly? Will this city tolerate such injustice – accept meekly the sudden ending to its dream of primacy and glory? If not, then the substantial constructive citizenship must immediately get into action. There is but one way in which Tulsa can rehabilitate itself either in its own eyes or the eyes of the outside world. That is by rebuilding that which has been destroyed.
Vandalism has taken the homes and the savings of thousands of people. Tulsa must restore that which has been taken. The sins of a comparative few are thus visited upon the whole community. But it is a cross that must be shouldered willingly and heroically. This restitution, not because of affectionate regard for the colored man, but because of an honorable and intense regard for the white race whose boast of superiority must now be justified by concrete acts.
Not else can the wounds of passion be healed or the scars of intolerant hatred be soothed. In this moment men of Tulsa stand at the crossroads in the city’s destiny. One way leads to a greater and more glorious future; the other certainly leads to retrogression and decay. There must not, there can not be any hesitating.