The Dallas Express/June 21, 1921
The Following Comments on the Tulsa Tragedy are Worthy of Note for the Differing Sentiments Expressed by their Authors
The Disgrace of Tulsa
(From the Tulsa Daily World)
Proud, matchless Tulsa, comes before the bar of Christian civilization this day, and, with head bowed, the mantle of shame upon her cheek, and, we sincerely hope, with deep regret in her heart, asks that she be pardoned the great offense some of her citizens committed during Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
There is not a man worthy of the name whose heart is not afire with indignation against that which has been done. Members of a superior race, boastful of the fact themselves to degenerate into murderers and vandals, permitted themselves to deal their home community the foulest blow it has ever received in its history.
Tulsa boasted that she was not Ardmore. And now a negligible number of men have plunged the reputation of the fair city into the depths of infamy. Language is incapable of painting the wrong which has been committed against the community and its peaceful, law-abiding citizens or of expressing the indignity one inevitably feels toward men incapable of controlling their passions and their prejudices.
It is true that the pride of race as well as its prejudices is a consuming fire in the veins of every nationality. On this ground one would like, if it were at all possible, to condone or excuse the hysteria of Tuesday evening and night, when the streets of the city were suddenly transformed into a raging torrent of hate-impelled men. The imprudence of the Negroes in arming themselves and visiting the county jail permits something to be said for those who responded to the riot impulse and set out to satiate the blood lust or racial pride.
But nothing that the mind is capable of conceiving permits a word of defense or excuse for the murderous vandalism which set in at daylight the next morning. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property-the homes of women and children, black in color, to be sure, but guilty of no other offense-went up in smoke. Semi-organized bands of white systematically applied the torch while others shot on sight men of color.
The Colored section of the city was wiped out, and a long line of hopeless, destitute, pitiful refugees fled northward from the burning town. The German invasion of Belgium with its awful consequences was no more unjustified or characterized with any greater cruelty. In the conflagration a splendid church but recently erected and one of the handsome educational edifices of the school district was lost. To such property the vandals applied the torch to make sure of their terrible purpose.
The entire “race war” was an unjustified as it was unnecessary. Because of it Tulsa is blazoned as a community where tolerance does not exist, where the constitution of the United States can be enforced or suspended at will; where prejudice and race bigotry rules, and where law and order haltingly flexes the knee to outlawry. Ten thousand citizens have been rendered homeless and made exiles on the face of the earth.
Will Tulsa accept such a reputation willingly? Will this city tolerate such injustice-accept meekly the sudden ending of its dream of primacy and glory? If not, then the substantial, constructive citizenship must immediately get into action. There is but one way in which Tulsa can rehabilitate itself either in its own eyes or the eyes of the outside world. That is by rebuilding that which has been destroyed.
Vandalism has taken the homes and the savings of thousands of people. Tulsa must restore that which has been taken. The sins of a comparative few are thus visited upon the whole community. But it is a cross that must be shouldered willingly and heroically. This restitution, not because of affectionate regard for the Colored man, but because of an honorable and intense regard for the white race whose boast of superiority must now be justified by concrete acts.
Not else can the wound of passion be healed or the scars of intolerant hatred be soothed. In this moment men of Tulsa stand at the crossroads in the city’s destiny. One way leads to a greater and more glorious future; the other certainly leads to retrogression and decay. There must not, there cannot, be any hesitating.
Doubtless the first of that train of causes which culminated in an orgy of murder, incendiarism and vandalism at Tulsa, probably the most horrifying mob-crime ever committed in this country, is to be found in a spirit of insolence and lust among a few Negroes which inevitably arouses and makes resentful the white race’s consciousness of superiority, as well as its determination to maintain that superiority and the integrity of its blood. This much of responsibility for that sickening outbreak of savagery seems fairly to be chargeable to the Negro race, though it is likely that, in the individual sense, relatively but a very few members of it could justly be implicated.
But once we advance from this incipient cause, we but accumulate evidence that the guilt for that frightful crime attaches itself mostly to the white race. First reports indicated that the warfare manifested itself initially in the attempt of a mob of white men to lynch a Negro who had been arrested on a charge of assaulting a white girl. Subsequent reports have not corroborated first ones in this respect. But any doubt they may create is dispelled by the account of the Tulsa World. That journal declares that “the rioting followed a movement early in the night of a crowd of 150 white men” to lynch the Negro who had been placed in jail. Thereafter 300 Negroes, most of them armed with rifles, revolvers and shotguns, “gathered at the courthouse wiih the avowed intention of preventing the threatened lynching.” The Sheriff succeeded in dispersing them, but the members of the white mob were impervious to his appeals and threats. Finally a few of them fired their guns in the air. That gathered again the Negroes, who, though they had dispersed, had continued to ride about the city in automobiles, and then followed the war that did not end till the next day and until thirty men had been killed an the homes of thousand of Negroes had been reduced to ashes with the torch.
It is the fruit of mobocracy, a harvest true to the sowing. That is the fact to be imprinted indelibly upon the mind. It is indeed the only one which there were any profit in emphasizing. The temptation to dilate on the significance of the indictment which that crime brings against our civilization and of the shame which the spectacle at Tulsa casts upon the residents of that city is strong. But once could indulge in it to no practical end.
One whose intelligence and impulses not make him immediately sensible of those consequences will not be made so by preachments. And, in fact such a use of the subject would only touch the superficial details of it. In its extent and certain incidents the tragedy at Tulsa is distinctive. But it is mere characteristic in relation to its causes. The spirit which begot it is not peculiar to Tulsa, nor to Oklahoma. It is pervasive, and particularly so in the Southern States, the honest commentator must acknowledge, however reluctantly.
It is the spirit of anarchy, assuming whatever mien, of patriotism, of piety or of racial righteousness, that it thinks will win a tolerance and condonation of its crimes against the rights and defenses of organized society It is the spirit which vents its vengeance by lynching the law, as well as the victim of its wrath an generates a disposition to lawlessness which must grow on sufferance until eventually social warfare alone will suffice to re-enthrone the processes of law.
The Lesson from the Tulsa Riot
THIS IS THE LAW of the white race. And that without regard for the Mason & Dixon Line: Whenever a black brute attacks a white woman, he invites death for himself and for other members of his race.
This is the law which has been written in letters of fire at Tulsa.
That is the law which runs from the Rio Grande to where Maine touches the Canadian border and far beyond.
The cause of the Tulsa tragedy?
Not the superficial but the abiding cause?
Why camouflage? The cause is that the Negro must not even touch the hem of a white woman’s garment save in utter respect.
Nor shall Negroes attempt to rescue a suspected ravisher unless they are prepared to withstand the wrath of the whites showered down pitilessly on their heads.
Nor can all the societies of the North that would establish social equality between the races advance so much as one step in that direction.
Already a certain mischievous society that exists remote from the race problem has been responsible for Southern race tragedies. So long as it exists and continues to stir the Negro to vile dreams impossible of consumation, so long will the Negro suffer bitter penalties from this ill directed dreaming.
The riot at Tulsa is deeply regrettable.
But it is not a thing to be charged to the South.
Those of the North who hold up their hands in holy horror are Pharisees. For wherever the Negro attempts to overstep the bounds prescribed for him by an immutable law, there he will meet his doom. North or South, East or West, the law is the same.
Wise Negroes know this. Wise Negroes counsel against any effort to overturn the statutes of unchanging nature. We have such Negroes in Dallas. May their tribe increase. For they are the real friends of their own kind.
The lesson from the Tulsa catastrophe, though not the lesson that ignorant “wise men” may deduce, is simply this:
When the Negro keeps his place, all is well for him. He will find the white man of the South his sincere friend. When he attempts to leap from that place into the white man’s home, the leap will ever be fatal.