Greenwood: I didn’t know what I didn’t know
Many of you probably watched “60 Minutes” this evening and saw the segment about the Greenwood riot and massacre in Tulsa in 1921. And you probably heard about it last year during all the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
The Tulsa community once known as Black Wall Street was attacked by white Tulsans, looted and burned. Some 36 square city blocks were destroyed. An estimated 150-300 residents were murdered. Of the 10,000 homeless survivors, 6,00 were herded into temporary internment camps.
During the “60 Minutes” segment, one individual spoke of being educated in Tulsa schools but never hearing about the massacre. Another mentioned calling out his Black History professor at OU, insisting that the professor was wrong, that he (the student) had gone to school in Greenwood and had never heard of the massacre.
I was not surprised to hear that. In fact, I was relieved. Relieved because I grew up in Oklahoma City, was educated in OKC schools, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1965. I lived in OKC for the next 30 years, yet don’t recall ever hearing about the Greenwood incident before last summer. I’ve been questioning my own memory, but now I’m convinced the incident was never mentioned in my classes or textbooks. Not even in the required course on Oklahoma history. If people younger than I, who live(d) in and were educated in Tulsa, had never heard about it, then I’m reasonably sure I never did.
I’m shocked but not surprised that something so historically significant was, in essence, hidden from me. And apparently, from many in the next generation or two. No wonder it’s taken so long to sort out this nation’s race problems. Like those Tulsans on “60 Minutes,” I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
NOTE, May 26: I’ve been hearing a lot this week about the Greenwood massacre, since it’s the 100th anniversary. It seems almost no one had heard of it. Truly shocking that such an event could have been hidden so well for so long from so many people.