The Turk in Tulsa

The Independent/June 18, 1921

NOT riot, but massacre was the Tulsa crime. The Turk massacres the Armenian because a subject race, once denied civil rights, has gained freedom, prosperity and created envy by his ownership of the good things of life.

The single lynching of one criminal may be an outburst against the crime; but when a prosperous negro quarter is attacked, fair dwellings are set aflame and slaughter dealt to men that have done no wrong but that of rising from the lowly level to which they once were held by law, by custom and by prejudice—this is massacre and nothing but massacre.

The men who committed this massacre put the American in the same public international pillory as the Turk. World public opinion does not draw the distinctions we would like. Exactly as we hold Turks as a whole responsible, when massacre succeeds massacre, so Americans are held responsible, as a whole, when negro massacre succeeds massacre, as for two years past. Tulsa is, at least, to pay the cost of the dwellings destroyed. This is just, lawful and salutary. The payment ought to include damages for every life lost, paid to the family left without support. Nothing checked riot in Northern cities like the heavy sum taxpayers in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania were forced to pay for the damages caused by the railroad strike of July, 1877, in all, $4,014,022. Responsibility for damage done and lives lost by massacre or riot needs to be made more immediate and direct.

No possible question exists that in the streets of Northern cities as well as Southern, the negro, a “citizen of the United States,” by birth and by every constitutional right, has again and again lacked “the equal protection of the laws,” pledged by the Fourteenth amendment. If Congress were to enact a statute mulcting city, county and state in heavy damages for every instance where this “equal protection” did not exist, “our best citizens” in cities, counties and communities, North and South, would do something more than “express regret” for these “lamentable occurrences” and make sure their property was not cast in damages for American citizens slain in race massacre.

Race prejudice is treason to humanity. When it brings massacre, it also lays bare the criminal failure of all American communities to provide adequate force to keep the peace and thereby afford “the equal protection of the laws” to all. Our city police is too small for emergencies, in all our municipalities. So is our National Guard. Our countryside is undefended. States are without an efficient constabulary.

If the States continue to fail in their duty the American people will place the task in Federal hands. “The poor shall not always be forgotten; the patient abiding of the meek shall not perish forever.”