Home Global News Black fear of Tulsa police continues 100 years after the massacre

Black fear of Tulsa police continues 100 years after the massacre


Tulsa, Okla – There has been undeniable progress in the relationship between the Tulsa police and the black community over the past 100 years. Then, it is hard to imagine that it could have gotten worse.

Complaints about police bias and the lack of sufficient minority officers remain. But the police chief is now a black man from northern Tulsa, once the richest black business district in the United States.

In 1921 – decades before the civil rights movement – not even a black police chief was imagined. That year, Greenwood – the black neighborhood north of Tulsa, which includes the area known as Black Wall Street – was completely burned down with the help of Tulsa’s all-white police department. A 19-year-old black man has been charged with assaulting a 17-year-old white girl in an elevator, killing 300 blacks and displacing thousands of black residents in Tulsa. Thirty-five square blocks were set on fire and millions were injured.

The Tulsa Police Department interrogated white groups and provided them with weapons. Numerous reports show white men setting fire and shooting blacks as part of a Greenwood attack. According to an Associated Press article at the time, blacks who had driven hundreds from their homes shouted, “Don’t shoot!” As they rushed through the flames.

Awareness has increased in recent years after the massacre was largely ignored for decades. Police Chief Chuck Jordan stood in Greenwood in 2013 and apologized for his role.

“I can not apologize for the actions, inaction or carelessness of these individual officers and their boss,” Jordan said. “But today, as your boss, I can apologize to our police department. I am sorry and sad that the Tulsa police department did not protect its citizens in the sad days of 1921.”

Some see Wendell Franklin’s appointment as Jordan’s successor last year as a benchmark for progress. But black Tuls say that is not enough.

“I think this is what society should see,” said Inna Sharon Mitchell, a 70-year-old woman who grew up in northern Toulouse. “But with the change of doors, how far does that change go?”

In the Gallup-Tulsa Citivoice 2018 survey, which is designed to measure quality of life, only 18% of blacks said they trusted the police “very much”, compared with 49% of whites and 46% of blacks in Tulsans. Police Department “not at all” or “much” compared to 16% whites.

According to the Tulsa Equality Index, produced in partnership between the city and the Social Services Council, black teens were arrested more than three times more than white youth by 2020. Black adults were more than 2.54 times more likely than white adults and 2.65 times more likely to use force.

In 2016, Betty Shelby, then Tulsa Police Officer Terence Cracher, shot and killed an unarmed black man. Shelby – a white woman – was acquitted of illegal murder. He was appointed to a new department before resigning. For the Black Tulsans who grew up learning what happened in Greenwood, Kracher’s murder brought old pain back to the surface.

“I believe that the murder of my brother really took away a century of racial tensions here in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Tiffany Cracher, Terence Cracher’s twin sister, who also celebrates the anniversary of the massacre.

Kratcher said the relationship between Tulsa police and the community is still strained.

“In Tulsa, there is clearly no clear relationship between law enforcement and the black community, black and brown communities,” he said. “The relationship is not good at all. There is no trust there.”

Craccher founded the Trans Craccher Foundation with the goal of creating fear and mistrust among black communities and law enforcement. He is disappointed with the lack of progress in Tulsa and especially with Franklin.

“This person does not believe – someone like me – that the Tulsa police department has a problem with racially motivated police,” he said.

“So there is no problem. So for me, I do not care what color you are, but if the history of building relationships with the community and doing what is fair in the police force, I can deal with them by putting someone in it. “The situation seems to be just a shallow job for us to put lipstick on a pig.”

Franklin did not respond to several interview requests. During his tenure, he said, the police need better training in dealing with people. But he also testified in the Oklahoma Legislature after the nationwide protests in 2020 over racial bias against police that hiring new officers is difficult because of growing public anti-law sentiment.

“Quite honestly, who wants to do this with everything that has been imposed on us,” he said.

Greg Robinson, 31, founder of the Demanding a JUSTulsa Institute and director of family and community ownership at the Met Cares Foundation, said there was no transparency in the Tulsa Police Department.

“I think the main problem is that there is no system for monitoring and holding citizens accountable,” he said. “I think that ‘s really where we fall. It’s not that all cops are bad because they are not. But not everyone in our community is guilty. And sometimes, we feel like we’re like cops. Let’s go. “

Mitchell said there were more black officers in the 1950s and 1960s, and that created a sense of cooperation. It’s different now – according to the agency’s annual report in 2019, 8.4% of employees were black, while 15.1% of the city’s population was.

“Most police officers were like me when I was a child and growing up,” he said. “They lived in the community, so the relationship between the police department and the community was one-on-one. They knew the kids. They knew the schools they wanted. You don’t have that now.”

Robinson, who is also a board member of the Trans-Crusher Foundation, still hopes for change. He believes that this ideally starts with the help of the police and local monitoring and the entry of the black community. The fact that Franklin is from the neighborhood helps Robinson stay optimistic.

“I hope that through his tenure he can really start injecting society into the changes we have advocated,” Robinson said. “It hasn’t happened yet, but he’s certainly someone who grew up in the north. He has to understand that. And I hope he’s brave enough to really engage us and engage us.”

Craccher has taken his battle beyond Oklahoma. He said some of his recommendations in the George Floyd Act are being considered in the judiciary. He said this spring in Washington, along with the Floyd family, who were killed by police in Minneapolis last year, and relatives of Bottham Jean and Eric Garner, who were killed under police pressure, called for the bill.

He said his brother told him in his last conversation that he intended to make him proud and that “God is going to glorify my life.”

“I believe what I have done – this righteous struggle – the fact that we are on the precipice of some kind of change – is a living proof of Terence’s latest remarks to me,” he said. “But we have a lot of work to do.”


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