Today marks the 95th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot. A recent article at Smithsonian.com highlighted the recovery of an eyewitness account of the events. Clearly the event was not a riot.
Maybe worse than assigning the event the wrong category is the lack of reference to the event in Oklahoma history text books.
Racism Is More Than a Feeling
Recently Senator James Lankford gave a speech and referenced the Tulsa race riot. When asked about his encounters with racism in Oklahoma he noted,
I don’t encounter a lot, but I do encounter some. When I talk to folks in the African-American community and the Latino community, they still feel it. And so the challenge that I have is making sure every opportunity really is there.
Is racism more a feeling today than a reality? A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted the development of the American highway system. One line from the article suggests racism to be more than a feeling.
The completion of I-81 had the same effect it has had in almost all cities that put interstates through their hearts. It decimated a close-knit African American community.
After listening to an episode of The Diane Rehm Show, one may find it hard to ignore racism as embedded in systems of which we are unaware.
Telling My People
Dr. Barbara Holmes described the struggles of Blacks in America. She related an incident in a recent talk she delivered. A white gentleman asked if she would come tell his people these stories. She replied, “You tell your people. You know your people.”
Today on the podcast I am glad to share a conversation I had with Adam Clark.
Adam Clark, Associate Professor of Theology at Xavier University, is committed to the idea that theological education in the twenty first century must function as a counter-story. One that equips students to read against the grain of the dominant culture and inspires them to live into the Ignatian dictum of going forth “to set the world on fire.” To this end, Dr. Clark is intentional about pedagogical practices that raise critical consciousness by going beneath surface meanings, unmasking conventional wisdoms and reimagining the good. During his tenure at Xavier, Dr. Clark has received several distinctions in teaching including Teacher of the Year Nomination by the Alpha Sigma Nu International Honor Society and The Faculty Support Award by the Black Student Association. His courses on Black Theology, Jesus and Power, Faith and Justice and Religion and Hip Hop contribute to the Jesuit practice of educating students in the service of faith and the promotion of justice. He currently serves as co-chair of Black Theology Group at the American Academy of Religion, actively publishes in the area of black theology and black religion and participates in social justice groups at Xavier and in the Cincinnati area.
My aim is to enlist Adam to help tell my people.
Let’s Not Celebrate, Let’s Create a Counter-Script
How is it that we use the word celebrate to commemorate an event of terrorism? But we do. It is an ironic move. That is, it helps us minimize the event if we can at least make a reference that we are remembering an event, celebrating as it were. Some will talk about the move to restore the Greenwood area by the 100th Anniversary of the event on May 31, 1921 and feel better.
There is no feeling better when we do not look underneath. We cannot fail to account for the eyewitnesses that undermine the dominant culture narrative. We cannot fail to give heed to the ways racism without racists works in our systems. Think about your City and its Interstate system.
Instead, we might listen to Adam’s call to create a counter-script, a counter-story in the world as it is so there may be more than the feeling that there is Good News. After all, the realities we live are more than feelings.