Greenwood Cultural Center – Tulsa, Oklahoma (Image: Wikipedia)
Whiteness and the Bombing of Black Wall Street
By Max Eternity
“When you’ve gained wealth through slavery and colonialism, you will build courts, police and judiciary based on that system”
Sylvana Simons, Founder of Artikel 1
The White man’s attempt to shape the world to his liking is a terrible evil that has destroyed individual lives, communities, priceless art and architecture – rich, incredible environments, cultures and civilizations, and entire continental landscapes. It has always been about money—the unprecedented looting of vast planetary resources, and a willingness to crush anyone or anything that gets in the way.
A February 20th article by Chris Hedges, entitled “James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness,” defines in the simplest terms the definition of whiteness:
Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire.
Imagine now all the corporations in the Unites States not having to pay any wages to millions of employees—individuals owned as property in the exact same way as a dog—and too this, people and industries all across Europe inheriting, through colonization, all the land and resources imaginable from the largest and most resource rich continent on the planet, Africa, in addition to the Americas, the Caribbean and Australia, for decades and centuries on-end with zero accountability and no restitution.
Using superior technology—guns and other mechanized assault weapons that Africans, American Indians and Indigenous Australians did not have—the Europeans and their colonial descendants carried out an incalculable theft, beginning in the 1400’s, and to this date no amends have been made.
As the centuries passed the weapons changed, but the terror of Whiteness remained the same. Though it would eventually start to slow down, and reshape itself.
With the passing of the 13th amendment slavery did in fact end, but there were all sorts of loopholes essentially permitting the re-enslavement of those newly freed. In spite of this, in 1868 the 14th and subsequently the 15th amendments were passed giving Blacks the same rights to citizenship, voting, and equal protection under the law. There would, nevertheless, be yet another high price to pay for hard won freedoms.
Reconstruction began when slavery ended, only to give rise to the emergence of White Redemption and Jim Crow laws—ushering in a revitalized institutional strategy of terror against African-Americans—carried out through unmitigated atrocities and fatal abuses—whereby thousands of public mutilations, including lynching, dismemberment, castration and burning individuals alive at the stake, as way of keeping Black people in fear and in an inferior economic and political state—as a way of keeping White supremacy alive and well.
From an essay at the National Endowment of the Humanities, entitled “Reconstruction vs. Redemption”:
With these new rights, black Americans soon expanded their social and political power, electing the first black US Senator (Hiram Rhodes Revels) in 1870 and establishing the first public schools in the South for African-Americans. But what looked like progress from the perspective of African-Americans and Northerners was interpreted as anarchy and upheaval by many south of the Mason-Dixon.
By 1873, many white Southerners were calling for “Redemption” – the return of white supremacy and the removal of rights for blacks – instead of Reconstruction. This political pressure to return to the old order was oftentimes backed up by mob and paramilitary violence, with the Ku Klux Klan, the White League, and the Red Shirts assassinating pro-Reconstruction politicians and terrorizing Southern blacks. Within a few years
In spite of White refusal to accept Blacks as equals, and the fact that Reconstruction was ultimately a failure—lasting only 10 years before the arrival of Black Codes, which returned Blacks to heavily subjugated status—that brief period in time did demonstrate the great potential for equality in the United States. Because for the first time in US history, African-Americans had a glimpse of what freedom might mean in real financial terms.
The history of African-American entrepreneurship in colonial America remains largely unknown, for at least one very obvious reason. From a February 25th article by law professor and patent attorney, Shontavia Johnson:
One group of prolific innovators, however, has been largely ignored by history: black inventors born or forced into American slavery. Though US patent law was created with color-blind language to foster innovation, the patent system consistently excluded these inventors from recognition.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, America was experiencing rapid economic growth. Black inventors were major contributors during this era — even though most did not obtain any of the benefits associated with their inventions since they could not receive patent protection.
After the Civil War, African-Americans could finally begin to speak for themselves and own their own terms. Hundreds of Black-owned newspapers sprung up across the nation, and African-Americans were becoming successful in the business world, with several notable Black millionaires emerging, like Thomas Jennings, who invented the dry cleaning concept.
Nevertheless, the thought and sight of African-American prosperity was too upsetting and threating to many whites, and from this bitter resentment the Ku Klux Klan was created. From an article, entitled “How Black History Explains Donald Trump,” by Rev. William J. Barber at Ebony Magazine:
After America’s Civil War, federal Reconstruction sought to expand the political power of citizenship to formerly enslaved African-Americans. But the imagined threat of Black political power was so great that the Ku Klux Klan formed to attack White people who voted with Black people. This terrorist campaign, coupled with the White supremacy campaign of Southern Democrats, attacked inter-racial coalitions and threatened Black voters until the South was “redeemed” from Reconstruction. At the turn of the century, White preachers and politicians blessed the dawn of the Jim Crow era with speeches about our need to unite as a nation and live in peace.
The White supremacy campaign, embodied in the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t isolated to that particular group. It was a widespread sentiment—a vitriolic hatred that manifested in dozens of urban massacres (usually referred to as ‘race riots’) against Blacks, and thousands of lynching.
One of the worst of these lynch mob massacre campaigns came down on the very prosperous and highly-autonomous town of Greenwood, Oklahoma, which was so successful it became popularly known as Black Wall Street.
Greenwood was a shining jewel of democracy—of the American ideal—except there was one problem, the town was Black, not White. From Ebony Magazine, a 2013 article entitled “The Destruction of Black Wall Street”:
Greenwood, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, was the type of community that African Americans are still, today, attempting to reclaim and rebuild. It was modern, majestic, sophisticated and unapologetically Black. Tragically, it was also the site of one of the bloodiest and most horrendous race riots (and acts of terrorism) that the United States has ever experienced.
Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their White neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system that superiorly educated Black children.
Incendiary bombs were dropped from airplanes, reported to have been ordered by the governor. From a 2013 article at the [Howard] Zinn Education Project, by Linda Christensen:
During the night and day of the riot, deputized whites killed more than 300 African Americans. They looted and burned to the ground 40 square blocks of 1,265 African American homes, including hospitals, schools, and churches, and destroyed 150 businesses. White deputies and members of the National Guard arrested and detained 6,000 black Tulsans who were released only upon being vouched for by a white employer or other white citizen. Nine thousand African Americans were left homeless and lived in tents well into the winter of 1921.
Blacks were given freedom from the terror of slavery on the plantation, and at the same time terrorized for being successfully free.
A 1943 poem by Langston Hughes, entitled “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943,” speaks clearly and creatively about the confounding Black dilemma in the US:
Looky here, America
What you done done —
Let things drift
Until the riots come.
Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free.
I reckon you don’t care
Nothing about me.
You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
From the ku klux klan.
You tell me mussolini’s
Got an evil heart.
Well, it mus-a been in Beaumont
That he had his start —
Cause everything that hitler
And mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.
You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power —
And you’re STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.
Yet you say we’re fighting
Then why don’t democracy
I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight
BOTH HITLER — AND JIM CROW.
The response to Black power has usually been White terror, although it’s not the history that’s commonly told. Yet it must, nevertheless, be understood that race as we know it today exists as a social control construct to both justify and conceal the true nature of the entire reshaping of America, and indeed the world—primarily its wealth.
White liberals cast dispersion on their conservative brothers, calling them racist, as if White liberals are not also racist—themselves enjoying the spoils of slavery, and Jim Crow laws, which are calculated to have cost African-Americans over 16 trillion dollars. (Jim Crow era only, not including the centuries of slavery)
This is the truth about the historic and horrific distribution of Black wealth into White hands.
So, amends, restoration and reparations, which is to say, an unfettered Reconstruction – that is what is now needed, not another touch-feely Bernie rally or racially-coded CPAC call for even greater White entitlement.
The renewal of Reconstruction – that’s the discussion. That’s the justice that must happen. That’s the democracy that’s needed, and what will truly end the reign of White terror.