Poll says bias seen more by blacks
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Sunday, December 13, 2009
1/20/13 at 8:35 AM
Blacks and whites have widely different views of race relations in Tulsa, including the significance of the city's 1921 race riot, an Oklahoma Poll has found.
Blacks were much more likely to say they have experienced or witnessed various forms of discrimination in the past five years, according to the survey conducted by SoonerPoll.com for the Tulsa World. They also were much less likely than whites to say race relations in the city have improved during their lifetimes.
"I think our city could go a long way to improving relationships," said William Allen, a black Tulsa resident since 1948. "From talking to other people, we're not as good as in Oklahoma City. We're kind of behind the curve."
The clearest disagreement concerned discrimination. Blacks were about three times more likely to say they had witnessed or been the subject of discrimination in employment, housing, banking, education, health care and law enforcement in the past five years.
Even so, most blacks said they had not experienced discrimination in that five-year period. The exception was in law enforcement, where 57 percent said they had witnessed or been subject to discrimination. About half said they have seen recent discrimination at work.
Nearly 90 percent of blacks surveyed said blacks should take more responsibility for problems confronting their families and communities.
"The poll results show blacks and whites want the same things, but they see different ways of getting there," said SoonerPoll.com President Bill Shapard.
With the opening of John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, a memorial to both the late historian and Tulsa's 1921 race riot, expected early next year, almost half of white Tulsans agreed with the statement that talking about the riot "serves no useful purpose" and "stirs up old animosity and fear."
"I don't give a flip about hearing anymore about that race riot," said David Bell, a white, 64-year-old lifelong Tulsan who lives on the city's northeast side. "I want them to get over it. What happened then, I don't like. But I've been around here a long time. I've heard it. I don't want to hear that no more."
Twenty-three percent of black Tulsans said talking about the riot serves no useful purpose, and 70 percent said it should be remembered and discussed because of its importance in the city's history.
Forty-four percent of whites said the riot should be discussed.
"I think the city is admitting that it actually happened, that it was wrong, that it is not a proud aspect of our history, but we need to accept it and make sure it never happens again," said John Anderson, a white Tulsan who lives on the city's south side.
Beneath the numbers and despite some sharp disagreements, though, lay suggestions of common ground.
Anderson, who first moved to Tulsa in 1967 and has lived in the city continually since 1984, said he had seen the situation change considerably.
"In the '60s there seemed to be a lot more fear," he said. "I remember being told by someone on the mayor's staff that they had gone around and picked up bricks and things that might be loose on construction sites so they couldn't be used to throw through windows and so forth. Today I don't see that."
Anderson said his upscale neighborhood includes black, Muslim, Hispanic and mixed-race families.
"There seem to be good relations," he said. "I'm on the board for the homeowners association and I'm not aware of any issues in the subdivision."
Anderson said he was aware of problems in other sections of the city, but he puts the primary blame for them on gang activity, which he says is the city's most important issue.
"I've done some interfaith work with churches on the north side. I feel they are very open and friendly," he said.
Brenda Campbell, a black resident of north Tulsa, said she thought "the teenagers are a little bit better" at race relations. "And very young children, especially. They play together and don't have any problems."
Although with different degrees of intensity, blacks and whites generally agreed that acknowledging the 1921 riot "helps to promote social harmony." Although blacks were more pessimistic than whites, a majority said race relations in Tulsa are no worse, if not better, than in other cities.
There may have been more agreement about the 1921 riot than the numbers indicate, too. Black respondents interviewed for this story said that although the riot was an important element in the city's history, they did not think it should be overemphasized.
"Sometimes, with things that happened in the past, you have to kind of let it go and move on," Allen said. "By the same token, don't forget and move on."
Dorothy Armstrong, a black north Tulsan whose mother's family lost its home in the riot, said, "The only thing I think about talking about it now is if it would help instead of causing more of a feud.
"She would tell a little about how it was, about how they had to rebuild. I think the kids should know it happened, but it should be noted how people got over it and rebuilt. Even though it was a race riot, black and white, there were some white who helped the black."
Bell, who said he campaigned for District 3 City Councilor Roscoe Turner, who is black, says people who talk about the riot "only care about themselves."
Those responsible for the new park and memorial say they are interested only in racial reconciliation. But Bell said he speaks for many white Tulsans who believe that the real purpose for the park is so blacks can "drive by and say, 'See what whitey tried to do to us.' "
More about the
the scientific telephone
survey from Oct. 31 to Nov.
6 of likely voters registered
in the city of Tulsa. The poll
includes 608 white voters
and 249 black voters. The
margin of error is plus or
minus 3.96 percentage
points for the white voters
and plus or minus 6.14
percentage points for the
The Oklahoma Poll is
sponsored by the Tulsa
Park to open soon
John Hope Franklin reconciliation
Park is expected
to open in early 2010. It
is located across North
Elgin Avenue from the new
ONEOK Field baseball
The park is named
for John Hope Franklin,
a Booker T. Washington
High School graduate who
went on to become one of
America’s pre-eminent historians.
The park includes
Tulsa’s 1921 race riot.
Long-range plans include
a museum, library and
activity center dedicated to
the promotion of racial harmony
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365