The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 represents one of the darkest and most shameful periods of American history. On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a thriving Black community often dubbed the “Black Wall Street” in Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma was attacked by a White supremacist mob. An estimated 300 people were killed and over 10,000 rendered homeless due to the violence.
But it did not end there. Following the massacre several laws that sowed the seeds of systemic racism were brought in that led to housing segregation and made it virtually impossible for the once thriving community to build back their lives.
Today, President Joe Biden visited Greenwood in Tulsa on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the first American President to ever visit the memorial. He visited the Hall of Survivors at the Greenwood Cultural Centre. Addressing a gathering of survivors like Mother Randal and Mother Fletcher, both women well over 100 years old, descendants of those who died in the massacre, civil rights leaders as well as members of the Black Caucus, Biden said, “We simply can’t bury pain and trauma forever. At some point there’s going to be a reckoning, an inflection point, like we are facing right now as a nation.”
But instead of just treating the opportunity as a photo-op or only making a rousing speech, the Biden-Harris administration has decided to walk the talk and announced a comprehensive plan to build Black wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap.
In a statement released, the Biden-Harris administration acknowledged the historic injustice, “The destruction wrought on the Greenwood neighborhood and its families was followed by laws and policies that made recovery nearly impossible. The streets were redlined, locking Black Tulsans out of homeownership and access to credit. Federal highways built through the heart of Greenwood cut off families and businesses from economic opportunity. And chronic disinvestment by the federal government in Black entrepreneurs and small businesses denied Black Wall Street a fair shot at rebuilding.”
As a part of its action plan, the administration has made a series of commitments, saying that it will:
- Take action to address racial discrimination in the housing market, including by launching a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals, and conducting rulemaking to aggressively combat housing discrimination.
- Use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years, and helping more Americans realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
The Biden-Harris administration has also highlighted elements of its American jobs plan that are aimed at offering greater access to opportunities to create wealth and sustainable livelihoods for historically oppressed races. For example:
- $15 billion for new grants and technical assistance to support the planning, removal, or retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure that creates a barrier to community connectivity, including barriers to mobility, access, or economic development.
- $5 billion for the Unlocking Possibilities Program, an innovative new grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take steps to reduce needless barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes.
The Biden-Harris administration further acknowledged, “More than 50 years since the Fair Housing Act’s passage, access to wealth through homeownership remains persistently unequal.” They said, “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has now sent both its proposed rule on countering housing practices with discriminatory effects and its proposed interim final rule on the legal duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing to HUD’s Congressional authorizing committee in the Senate and the House of Representatives for review and will publish them in the Federal Register next week. These proposed rules will align federal enforcement practice with the congressional promise in the Fair Housing Act to end discrimination in housing and will collectively provide the legal framework for HUD to require private and public entities alike to rethink established practices that contribute to or perpetuate inequities.”
Additionally, “President Biden is charging Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge with leading a first-of-its-kind interagency initiative to address inequity in home appraisals. The effort will seek to utilize, quickly, the many levers at the federal government’s disposal, including potential enforcement under fair housing laws, regulatory action, and development of standards and guidance in close partnership with industry and state and local governments, to root out discrimination in the appraisal and homebuying process. These are the kinds of policies and practices that keep Black families in Greenwood and across the nation from building generational wealth through homeownership.” *Feature image: Aftermath of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Public Domain image from US Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.