May 30, 2020 | Karen Hardin, IFA Contributing Writer
The 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre this weekend, the worst race riot in America’s history, documents the danger when fear and prejudice take over.
That incident took place from May 31-June 1 1921 in Tulsa’s Greenwood District. The district, dubbed “Black Wall Street,” was the most prosperous African-American community in America. Within hours it was gone; ravaged by a white mob.
According to History.com, it was comprised of luxury shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, jewelry and clothing stores, movie theaters, barbershops/salons, a library, pool halls, night clubs, and offices for doctors, lawyers and dentists. Less affluent African-Americans lived there as well, working as janitors, dishwashers and domestics. It had its own school system, post office, bank and hospital. Money earned outside of Greenwood was spent within the district, where every dollar changed hands approximately nineteen times before it left the community.
But all of that disappeared in a mere eighteen hours when virtually every building in a forty-two-square-block area of the community was destroyed.
According to Tulsa author Janice Ponds, “A black teen shoe shiner was accused of sexually assaulting a white female elevator operator. The story spread quickly and almost immediately escalated to violence. The shoe shiner was jailed. As word circulated of plans to lynch him, a crowd showed up at the courthouse. A confrontation between the white community and black community quickly spread to the Greenwood District. Homes, schools, churches and businesses were burned to the ground. Reports estimated 300 black Tulsans were massacred and approximately 8,000 left homeless and penniless.”
Thousands of African Americans spent the winter of 1921-1922 living in tents. In the end, no charges were filed against the African-American teen. Although reports vary, it is believed he tripped and bumped into the female elevator operator, causing her to scream, leading to the sexual assault allegation. As word spread, the story grew. The senseless massacre that destroyed Black Wall Street was in part the result of an article published in the city newspaper carried by word of mouth. Fear turned to hysteria sparking a rampage for “justice.”
Yet, it was all a lie.
How quickly we can be stirred into a frenzy because we believe something to be true without waiting for facts. As a result, in the Tulsa riot, black families lost loved ones, their homes, and businesses. Black Wall Street was decimated and never rebuilt. That is what racism does.
Fast forward to George Floyd.
I may anger some readers with this statement, but personally I do not believe the majority of American’s are racist. I do not believe that most of us see people by the color of their skin. Furthermore, I do not believe President Trump is a racist. In fact all evidence from the past forty plus years show a man who has befriended people of all ethnicities all over the world.
But this isn’t about Trump. It is about us.
Since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis rioters have flooded the streets burning and looting buildings–some owned by black business owners. Why? It hasn’t brought justice. But it has resulted in more needless death.
While we know the Tulsa Race Massacre was due to racism, what do we know about Floyd’s murder? That question may anger some, but if we call this racism simply because the police officers are white and the victim black—that statement in and of itself is racist. We have made an assumption based on skin colors.
The only fact we know is what we see in the six-minute video which clearly shows that Floyd should be alive today. He suffered and died at the hands of a white police officer now charged with murder. The question that demands an answer is, “Would this tragic death have happened if the man had been white or if the officers had been black?”
Whether we like it or not, racism is woven into the fabric of America’s history. But it didn’t start here. Racism is an ancient evil which can be seen in many countries and around the world. And it’s not just white vs. black. It’s found wherever pride regarding skin color or culture drive our emotions and decisions. The only way to be rid of it is for it to be pulled up at the root.
Areas like Black Wall Street, which were never restored, create a festering wound. Although white pastors in our city have repented to black pastors and their congregations for what took place almost a hundred years ago, the root of distrust remains in my city and in our nation. And with reason.
What will it take to see it removed? We must deal with the root, which isn’t about the color of our skin, but an attitude of the heart.
Until then division will continue.
Unfortunately, some want division to continue. These incidents have been intentionally used to stoke the fire of racism. Why? Because reconciliation will bring unity. And unity is a powerful force.
Over the last ten years, I have watched the race card intentionally used again and again to create division. It is happening now. It seems almost every news story is contingent upon first stating the color of one’s skin. That is the core of racism.
When pride in our ethnic and cultural identity becomes the reason for our decisions, emotions, allegiance, or even our vote, we have succumbed to this ancient evil.
Healing can only begin when we are willing to address the issue in our heart.
There is a simple instruction in the Bible that covers the heart issue found in Mark 12:30-31:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Before we can see this divide heal, we must address two issues in America today.
- People who don’t love themselves and so they don’t know how to love their neighbor.
- People who love only themselves and have no concern for their neighbor.
If we truly followed God’s command to love our neighbor (red, yellow, black or white) it would eliminate the issue.
When the first commandment–to love God is ignored, it’s no wonder we find ourselves imprisoned by the hatred of racism. The commandment to love God and love our neighbor have been rejected as irrelevant, but it’s completely relevant. Because racism is a heart issue.
It is past time that we see the racial division that has marked our country come to an end. Until we learn to love our neighbor, the divide will remain.
It requires we take off the glasses of offense and pride and recognize God created us all in His image. All men/women are created equal. We must look at the inside, not the outside.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Sam 16:7).
Lord, we ask you to heal the divide between races and culture. Help us to recognize that You created us all equal. May the spirit of pride, that exists within us all, be brought low so that “pride” in our color and heritage is no longer what drives our decisions or actions or what causes offense.
May our relationship with You and Your word to “love our brother as ourselves” determine our response. Lord we ask you to restore what was stolen. I pray not only for the wound still present in the city and Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but every area in our nation that experienced destruction due to racism.
We pray for justice in the tragic death of George Floyd and pray for his family. We pray for Minneapolis and ask for wisdom. Lord protect us from those who would use this tragedy for their own benefit and narrative. We pray they would not succeed. We pray for the business owners who have had their businesses destroyed due to no fault of their own. We pray for revival and restoration not only of the businesses, but in that city and our nation.
We ask that the disparity between races in educational and economic opportunities come to an end. Lord, may shaming, prejudice, hatred, and offense bow its knee to the name of Jesus and we ask that you would heal our land and our homes and bring unity. Amen.
Karen Hardin is a literary agent, author, and intercessor. In addition to her writing, she also leads prayer teams to Washington, DC to pray for governmental leaders. Her work has appeared in USA Today, World Net Daily, Intercessors For America, Charisma, CBN.com, The Elijah List, etc. For additional information you can contact her at www.prioritypr.org, www.karenhardin.com or https://destinybuilders.world/