Can We Correct For Past Traumas If the Data is Missing?
Reflecting on what data we have 100 years after the Tulsa Massacre.
he night of May 31 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa race riot (also known as the Greenwood Massacre or the Black Wall Street Massacre), when a mob of white residents descended on the Greenwood District of Tulsa, burning, looting, and destroying thousands of Black-owned houses and businesses. The 1921 attack is considered “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
My hope was to write a piece looking at the past, and the long term effects the massacre had on Black wealth in Tulsa, informed by property ownership, financial assets, and other indicators of economic success. Understanding the effects of this event would help us understand how Black people have been systematically disadvantaged. As generational wealth is exponential, my hope was to shed light on how reparative justice could play a part in making this community whole. To repair the wounds of our past, we should know just how deep they are. Instead, what I discovered is that much of the necessary data is nonexistent, or at best hiding in an archive somewhere, undigitized, and inaccessible via internet research.