This week we marked two somber anniversaries: the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer; and the one hundred-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Both are reminders of the ongoing history of violence against African Americans in this country. Today my focus is on Tulsa.
I didn’t learn about this event until a few years ago, and the silencing of this history is part of the story. In 1921 the thriving “Black Wall Street” community of Greenwood in Tulsa was burned to the ground by a white mob, aided by the white government. Dozens of churches, businesses, restaurants, theatres and homes were burned; Black people were shot in the street while airplanes dropped bombs; and hundreds died. Those who survived lost their wealth and their homes, and were traumatized for the rest of their lives. The story was either not told or was twisted so as to somehow blame the Black residents for the white mob who massacred them.
An article in the New York Times this week told some of this history with virtual maps and models of the neighborhood that was destroyed. Here is the link:
I learned about this event in some depth in a class I took as a seminary student, spending a week in Tulsa and visiting the UU churches there, including All Souls, one of the largest UU congregations in the country. Last night my class had a reunion with our professor and other Tulsa students from other years. The professor asked us – most of us ordained ministers now – what we are doing in our anti-racist work and what strategies we have found to be effective in countering white supremacy culture.
What strategies have you found, what actions have you taken, to counter white supremacy culture in yourself, in your life, in your congregation?
This is a hard question and one that I continue to sit with. I don’t have a quick answer. The problem of racism is so deep in our culture that it is hard to feel any success against it. My small successes are internal: doing the work within myself (imperfectly, haltingly, but with perseverance) to recognize and root our racism. We have small successes in our congregation as well: participating in the New Day Rising workshop; studying the book White Fragility; having a conversation about micro-aggressions.
What about you? What work are you doing in yourself, in your circle of loved ones, in this congregation?
The anniversary of this horrific event in American history is a chance to name the violent anti-Black racism that is part of our heritage. It is a chance to ask ourselves and each other what we are doing to make a more just and peaceful society. And we are not doing it alone – I’m doing it, the 25 ministers and seminarians in my reunion last night are doing it, and you’re doing it. Let’s keep doing the vital work of anti-racism together.
Spirit of Life and Love, Spirit of Justice and Remembrance, be here now. Divine spirit, be with me as I sit with the feelings of guilt and anger and sadness remembering the Tulsa massacre. May anger lead to action; may guilt give way to healthy introspection; may sadness remind me that every life is precious.
May all who endeavor to work for a more racially just society be strengthened and encouraged in their work. May all know that we do this work together, not alone.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
May 27, 2021
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Drew's office hours are suspended until further notice. However, he is reachable at any time via email, phone, or text.
Day off: Monday
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