Frequently Asked Questions
Questions: Why should I have to pay for someone elseís mistakes? Not only was I not born, but neither were my parents and we didn't even live in Tulsa when we were born. Why should I pay when I do not feel that I should be responsible for repayment of something that I nor any of my ancestors had anything to do with?
Answer: The City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma are an entity that existed both now and in 1921 when the race riot occurred. Those entities are culpable for the riot that happened and the damages that occurred. This is akin to reparations paid to the Japanese Americans for involuntary internment during WWII. The Federal Government has spent billions on the Oklahoma City bombing, yet we the taxpayers had nothing to do with the setting of the explosives.
As American citizens we pay huge sums of money to help people anywhere in the world who have suffered devastating losses due to natural disasters or acts of war. Events for which we were not, are not, responsible.
The events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot resulted in devastating losses to a community of American citizens. They were not protected by their government from the actions of a vicious white mob. In fact there is evidence that government appointed officials participated in the destruction.
The real question is: Why in the world would we not pay reparations?
Question: The local Indian tribes suffered much under the "white man" and so did the slaves prior to the Civil war...but to what end will it serve and just how far into the future are we to go?
Answer: There have been (and continue to be) injustices in this world. Each group that has had an injustice taken against them has a right to initiate a process to correct that wrong. We have chosen a single, specific, and well documented event that can be resolved before all of those who have lost property and family have faded from history.
Question: I am a women and I want to be compensated by all men who denied women their rights. What can you do for me?
Answer: Our group is not organized to correct all of the wrongs in this world. We are organized to address only this event. If you have been denied rights then we encourage you to create an organization to address those offenses.
Question: Funds are tight. The poor, the homeless, the addicted are with us now and require all that we can give. Is it fair to them to fund past wrongs to those who have overcome their trials already?
Answer: This issue is not about "giving away" money to those that suffered through the Tulsa Race Riot. It is payment for loss of life, property and liberty 80 years ago. It is the fulfilling of a promise from the City of Tulsa to help rebuild Greenwood. The money for reparations is not a "gift" to those that were in the riot, it is a debt that has been owed for many years and never paid.
The Greenwood community, now referred to as "Black Wall Street", was very vibrant at the time of the Tulsa Race Riot. Greenwood was a self contained and thriving community. Even 80 years after the riot Tulsa is still without a viable African American business community.
Question: There where race riots all over the United States. Why can't these people just get over it?
Answer: Indeed there have been many race riots and reparations have been paid for many injustices. The riot in Rosewood Florida was resolved in just such a manner. I am not sure how to tell a survivor how to "get over" the fact that his / her father was killed in the Tulsa Race Riot.
Question: I have heard that NCCJ is in Tulsa to bring dialogue and resolve all of the issues surrounding the Tulsa Race Riot. Why doesn't your group join them?
Answer: The NCCJ is working on a 2 year dialogue that will help with racial problems in Tulsa. While we fully support NCCJ's efforts, they have specifically not made Reparations a top issue. The survivors are dying (the youngest being over 80 years old)
and in two years many more will have passed away. We want closure as soon as possible for the survivors, the City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma on this issue.
Question: If we pay reparations for this then that creates a precedent for reparations for many other issues (slavery, Native American Tribes, etc.). Why should I support this issue?
Answer: Reparations have already been paid for many issues that are like this, specifically the Rosewood riot. The precedent is already there for reparations payments. This well documented riot is merely the City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma paying for aiding in the destruction of a community of American citizens. The fact that it happened 80 years ago or yesterday has no bearing on the issue. You should support this effort because the City of Tulsa has made numerous promises to rebuild that which was destroyed, but has never come through on that promise.
Question: How many descendants of race riot victims are there?
Answer: As of August 10, 2001, there are 127 survivors, and 275 descendants. As we envision how reparations would be paid, the "survivor" (or the survivors estate) would be allocated funds according to the loss incurred by the survivor's family at the time of the riot. Those funds would be either fully allocated to the survivor, or allocated to the estate as per the survivors last will or per the state laws. This is, of course, only one method for the fair allocation of funds. The final decision on how to allocate would be part of the dialogue.
Question: Where will the necessary funds for the reparations come from?
Answer: It is our expectation that the funds will come from City of Tulsa funds, or the State of Oklahoma. Those are the governmental entities that have been identified in the Commission's report as culpable parties in the Tulsa Race Riot. Susan Savage, City of Tulsa Mayor, said "I really believe in reparations for survivors, cash payments, I stated that at the press conference the governor had, but I don't know what amount and I don't know how we get to that money."
Question: Why is the State of Oklahoma culpable for the riot? Didnít they just dispatch the Oklahoma State Guard to protect the citizens?
1) A legal term called "Creation of a Climate of Culture" states that:
If a state allows a "climate of culture" where groups of citizens are denied their constitutional rights, where they are not protected from violence in their state, then the state is legally culpable. This certainly happened in Oklahoma. e.g. Jim Crow laws, Ku Klux Klan and/or mob violence (23 lynchings of Blacks; only one lynching a a white, 1907-1921); Allowing creation and perpetuation of the mental climate of
racism in the state to go unchecked. That kind of mentality allowed White Tulsa's elite to exploit Black Tulsans politically, economically, and socially, and it allowed White mobsters to murder Black Tulsans and to loot, burn, and destroy their entire Black Wall Street business and residential district.
2) Collusion/Collaboration of Oklahoma National Guard unit, Tulsa with mobsters. National Guard, under State control, pays salaries of County officials. Tulsa County - much collusion/collaboration with mobsters.
3) The burning down of the wealthy black residential area on Detroit Avenue AFTER the National Guard troops from Oklahoma City arrived in Tulsa.
4) State - loss of key documents (newspapers, military documents, etc.). Inference
in this was deliberate.
5) 75-year conspiracy of cover-up.
Question: What about the Greenwood Enterprise Zone?
Answer: For many years the businesses in the south and east portion of Tulsa have
benefited from the race riot. Business that used to stay in the Greenwood area went to these areas of town. There were no businesses in the Greenwood area, they had all been burned out. The Greenwood enterprise zone would be an area nurtured by the State of Oklahoma and the City of Tulsa with special tax breaks and incentives to open and run businesses in the North Tulsa area. These businesses would enrich the area, provide jobs for the residents in North Tulsa and would improve the property. Eventually these businesses would give back to the city and the state by paying sales taxes and land taxes that would otherwise never be realized.
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