Tulsa, Oklahoma

The burning of Black Wall Street
The burning of Black Wall Street

By Alexander Blum

The death of Terence Crutcher was a modern day lynching.

Crutcher, killed in cold-blood, also resurrects the past of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city with a unique history of anti-blackness.

In May of 1921, the thriving hub of black ownership once known as Black Wall Street was besieged by white terrorism.

A black man from the neighborhood had been falsely accused of raping a white woman, and in response, hundreds of whites descended upon Tulsa armed to the teeth, razing the neighborhood of Greenwood to the ground.

Dynamite was dropped from the sky, killing up to 75 people. Whites inside these planes fired upon the city with rifles.

On the ground, whites burned, looted and slaughtered until Tulsa was literally on fire.

This mass lynching is a hidden moment of American history, known only as the Tulsa Race Riots.

Up to 300 people in Tulsa were killed.

In the Bombing of Black Wall Street, the Oklahoma National Guard arrested or detained 6,000 black folk. The Police Chief of Tulsa was later fired, but individual white rioters, white terrorists, were not charged for their crimes.

Today, lynchings persist when committed by those who are above the law.

Police officer Betty Shelby executed a black man in Tulsa.

If she is indicted and convicted for second-degree murder, then indeed, justice will have been served.

However, if she avoids indictment, then the precedent continues to be set that police are allowed to engage in white terrorism.

I use the term ‘white terrorism’ to challenge the norms of defining terror, as apparently a drone strike in Yemen is not terrorism, nor is providing aid and comfort to states like Israel and Saudi Arabia, who constantly violate human rights.

Additionally, the reason why we must say Black Lives Matter is because pockets of white terrorism go unpunished today, particularly in the American police force, where the subtle and benevolent nature of evil leads officers to avoid conflict with their fellow officers, and allow violations of the right to life and liberty to go unpunished.

How ironic, that in the 21st century, it is considered radical to call for the rule of law.

As journalist Chris Hedges wrote, we are living in an age where “universities destroy knowledge, lawyers destroy justice, the press destroys information, banks destroy the economy, and religion destroys morals.”

And yet, the inverted ethics of our world call for a religious point of view.

The black church persists because black suffering persists.

The greatest work of modern Christian theology is James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree.

Cone poses this simple question:

How can a religion built on a political lynching overlook the lynching of black bodies?

The lynching tree was merely a cruder cross. And Christians, the white church, stood by without concern as their savior was crucified over and over again in their own communities.

The white church idolized the Christ’s story without applying Christ’s message to the present day.

They did this because the message of Christianity is too hard for them to follow.

The root of Christianity is a justification of suffering, an acceptance of eternal sin and a recognition of the power of the powerless.

The power of the powerless may be our only hope, and Christianity is uniquely a religion that is built upon this contradiction.

“The meek shall inherit the Earth”

The lynched and the burned are the most holy among us, they are the martyrs.

To the Christian, to be lynched is to face Longinus and be impaled by his spear, and through your wounds, to attain a transcendence beyond the world of material power.

To a suffering people, this message is enormously powerful.

To the powerful, this message is a threat to their monopoly on force. Those with nothing to lose are the most impossible to control.

I do not know what the future brings. America, whether it dies under Trumpism or neoliberalism, is an empire reaching its natural decay, circling the drain.

All empires rise and fall, and all individuals will die.

All we can do is keep fighting, and ultimately, make peace with the end.

For this reason, Christianity will always define the lynching tree, and beyond the institutional church, the message rings true.

Alexander Blum is the author of 21st Century Slave.

His website on politics, philosophy, religion and art can be found here: www.alexanderblum.net