Living (and dying) on Tulsa time

 

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The Black  section of Tulsa burning during the race riot  of 1921.

 

Maybe Colin Kaepernick is right. Maybe it’s finally time to admit that there are so many racist cops killing black men, it can’t be ignored anymore.

I grew up in Tulsa. I was saddened by but not surprised when a Tulsa police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black man named Terance Crutcher. Tulsa police say they are investigating, but it’s apparent from the chilling video of Crutcher being shot while he held his hands in the air that it was yet another senseless murder of a Black man by a cop who will probably get away with  it.

Like many big cities, Tulsa is a dangerous place to live if you’re Black. Tulsa, and Oklahoma in general, have a dark history of racial killing, from KKK lynchings to the 1921 Tulsas race riot, when thousands of whites stormed into the Black section of Tulsa, killed 300 people and burned the black neighborhood to the ground. It was a massive attack on the Black  population, including aerial assault from airplanes dropping incendiary devices on roofs. Many of the victims were buried  in a mass grave. It was hushed up, swept under the rug, and mostly forgotten.

Growing up in a white Tulsa neighborhood in the 1960s, I had no idea it had even happened. I had no idea that being Black in Tulsa was life threatening. But then, I don’t remember any Black students at my high school. I do remember one afternoon when a Black man knocked on our door and my mother took me into the  bathroom where we hid until he went away.

I didn’t  know just how bad it really was until the early 1980s when I went to work as a writer at the Muskogee paper. Reporters who had been covering the cops for years whispered about the cops targeting and killing young Black men on the street routinely. They knew how to get away with it. If people at the newspaper knew about it, why didn’t they try to expose it?

It was a different time in the 1980s. Things were really corrupt. The editor of the newspaper and the police chief were buddies. The chief supplied our office parties with confiscated liquor. Part of the narrative that went around was that the cops carried an extra gun, a “drop gun” to plant on the dead victim. The fix was in solid. Blacks were hunted in some towns for sport by the cops. Being on the street a night was all it took to get you killed.

It was many years later before I understood how much this must have upset me. When I started writing short stories, one of  the first I  wrote was about racist cops running wild and killing Black men on the street. I was using writing as therapy, to try to get it out of my head.

But it seems it just won’t go away. This  latest killing in Tulsa is just the most recent in a never ending string of killings, and it won’t be the last, not by a long shot (pardon the pun). If you don’t understand why Black people in America are in the street with signs, why pro athletes are kneeling during the national  anthem, and why cops are more trigger happy than ever, it’s time to wake up and smell the bigotry and injustice.

No, not all cops are bad. But the good cops still cover for the bad ones, the ones that are committing  cold blooded murder. Is it going to take another big deadly race riot, like  the one in Tulsa in 1921 before we wise up?

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A New Low

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I don’t think I could forgive myself if I didn’t  speak up about this nasty presidential election that is unlike any I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a few. Harry Truman had just become president when I was born. Yeah, I’m old. The first time I voted for president was in 1968,  the year of the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was Hubert Humphrey vs. Richard Nixon. I voted for Humphrey, and for the past half century, I’ve voted in every presidential election.

But I’ve never seen a campaign like this. I’ve liked and disliked different presidential contenders, but  until this election I’ve never feared that someone would be elected. But please God, I pray, if you exist, don’t let Donald Trump become the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

Donald Trump is a racist, a liar, an egomaniac. He’s a pompous boor, a con man, a vanity queen. I’m not sure he can tell the difference between reality and his own bullshit. He’s unfit to be a dogcatcher. He’s filled with hate, derision and bigotry for everything about America that isn’t white.

Here’s what’s even worse, that racism is still widespread enough in our country to propel him to the nomination of a major party. No, not all his supporters are racists, but they are a big bloc and without the support of racists, he wouldn’t be in this race. I mean, less than eight years ago when Americans elected the first African-American president, we had cause to believe that we had progressed against the forces of racism. Guess not.

The big ugly truth of this election is that racism is alive and well in America. When Trump started putting out his racist clarion calls directed  against Latinos, African-Americans, Women, Gays and even the handicapped, the racists came running. They’d been seething and fomenting for eight years over the indignity of having a Black president. They’re locked, loaded and white. Trump’s base is lily  white. None of America’s minorities support him.

Just hating Hillary is not a good enough excuse to vote for this monster Trump. You  have to be a full-on  bigot to back this blowhard.  I know Hillary isn’t the most appealing person to seek high office. Frankly, I wish the first woman president  (please, God, please)  wouldn’t have gained name recognition by being the wife of a president. But she’s smart, experienced and qualified. Three things that can’t be said for Trump. If Hillary lapsed into a coma tomorrow, I’d still vote for her, because the very idea of Trump being president is unthinkable. I’d vote for slime mold before I’d vote for Trump. His being a candidate is embarrassing. A Trump presidency would be disaster.

I’m truly disappointed we’re at this point in America. The rest of the world thinks Trump is a ridiculous clown. Sure, Putin and the Russians would love to see an idiot in the Oval Office. So would the Chinese, the North Koreans, and the Iranians. All our country’s enemies are hoping Trump gets elected. But that doesn’t bother his base, which is fueled by hate and conspiracy theories.

I think this is a crossroads in American history. We are now a multi-cultural society but a large portion of white people cannot accept the fact that they’re no longer in charge of everything. They want to take America back, like a hundred years back. In this election, we will either move forward by electing our first woman president, or we will return to the dark days of white supremacy by putting a racist in the White House.