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  • Santosh Ninan

TULSA 1921 - AN AMERICAN HORROR STORY



Greenwood Tulsa Oklahoma after the Tulsa Massacre - May 31 1921.


On May 31 1921 an outburst of genocidal violence took place against the black community in Tulsa Oklahoma. The Tulsa massacre saw 300 black men, women and children killed. An entire prosperous black neighborhood was razed to the ground. There were even air attacks by the white community.


The irony is not lost on me that the 100 year anniversary of this demonic act happened to fall over Memorial Day weekend. A time when we reflect and are grateful for the men and women in uniform who paid the ultimate price to secure liberty and freedom for this nation.


America has a selective memory in terms of her past. We celebrate our victories and suppress our failures. The Tulsa massacre is one such suppressed part of our history. I have friends in their 40's and 50's who had NEVER heard of it until this year. How can that be?


Sadly the white American church has been complicit in past (and present) racist attitudes and ideologies. Listen to the words of a pastor after the Tulsa massacre:


"There has been a great deal of loose-mouthed and loose-minded talk about the white people of Tulsa being equally to blame with the blacks. This is not true. Any person that makes this assertion makes an assertion that is false to the core. It should be a lesson learned, once and for all that the colored man is a colored man and a white man is a white man, and there can never be anything like social equality between the races. Many negroes realize this and are the better element of the colored race." - Rev. Harold Cooke, Centenary Methodist Church.


We do not live in 1921.

But 1921 has played a part in forming 2021.

History lives.

Trauma and sin do not respect generational divisions.


I have lived and worked in predominately white American churches for the past 8 years in Ithaca New York. Here are some actual statements said to me from some of my white Christian brothers and sisters:


"I got no problems with the blacks."

"The blacks need to stop whining and get going."

"Black men coming out of the inner city are like wild animals."


Remember - these statements are from Christians!!!


Progress in racial equity and justice will continue to be stalled until we come to terms with the entrenched racism that has yet to be rooted out. I have been engaged in anti-racism efforts for more than a year now. Last year, I was struggling about whether or not this should continue to be a part of what God has called me to do as a pastor. During a time of prayer, I felt God ask me, "What do you want to do?" I knew that if I continue on this path, I will have to pay a price. I will be called a cultural marxist, anti American and a casualty of the progressive woke attack on the church. And I decided the cost would be worth it because the cause for racial equity is right. So now, there will be churches and conferences that will not invite me to speak because of what I believe. And that's ok because racial justice and equity is a gospel issue.


In the coming years there will be a continued fissure in white evangelicalism in America. On one side we have traditionalists who want to maintain the status quo by refusing to engage the issue of racial inequities. On the other side will be Christians who know that racism is embedded in our systems and pollutes the very air we breathe. And we stand on the side of the oppressed and the brutalized. And in the end we will win, because racism is wrong.


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