SMH: Reparations Lawsuit Filed By Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Dismissed By Oklahoma Supreme Court

Headquarters Staff, American Red Cross Disaster Relief Headquarters, after Race Riot, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, 1922

Source: Universal History Archive / Getty

America has, once again, made it clear that it has no interest in doing even the bare minimum to make amends for the historic atrocities committed against Black people—even the Black people who experienced those atrocities firsthand.

According to CNN, the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Wednesday, siding with a lower court’s ruling that the plaintiffs, who are both more than 100 years old now, shouldn’t get damages because “simply being connected to a historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation.”

Imagine looking the only survivors of one of the worst and most notorious race massacres in America’s history right in the eye and telling them they aren’t owed anything for what they suffered. Imagine saying that to Black people who are seeking reparations, not as the descendants of the people who suffered, but as the sufferers themselves. The state Supreme Court even acknowledged that the “grievance with the social and economic inequities created by the Tulsa Race Massacre is legitimate and worthy of merit.” Did the justices even wince a little when they admitted this to 109-year-olds Viola Ford Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle knowing they were about to add a huge “but” to the statement?

“However, the law does not permit us to extend the scope of our public nuisance doctrine beyond what the Legislature has authorized to afford Plaintiffs the justice they are seeking,” the court wrote in its decision. In other words: The lower court wouldn’t give them justice, and the Supreme Court “justices” won’t either.

Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 Are Named Citizens of Ghana

Survivor: The Tulsa Massacre Source: The Washington Post / Getty

As we previously reported, the lawsuit filed in 2021 by Randle, Fletcher and Fletcher’s late brother Hughes Van Ellis, who died at 102, argued that they had a right to receive reparations under the city’s public nuisance statute. CNN noted that the suit also argued that Tulsa was getting “unjust enrichment” by promoting the site of the massacre as a tourist attraction “without returning any of those benefits to members of the community.”

Imagine that: Tulsa officials are literally profiting off of the massacre while Oklahoma courts are telling the direct victims of the massacre that they aren’t owed a dime.

None of it is terribly surprising, of course. The same year the lawsuit seeking reparations was filed, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law another Republican white fragility bill prohibiting teachings in K-12 schools that include Critical Race Theory, a college-level academic framework that is not taught in K-12 schools, as well as any other race-based curriculum that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or psychological distress” to (white) students. (Oklahoma wants to be Florida so bad.) Then, in 2022, Stitt called for an investigation into Tulsa Public Schools after claims that the school district violated the state’s anti-CRT law, which was denounced by both the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education and the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, of which Stitt had the caucasity to be a member of until he was booted from the commission for signing the law that would certainly whitewash the manner in which the Tulsa massacre could be taught—in Tulsa.

Students at Georgetown protest in favor of reparations stemming from the school's history with slavery

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

So, yeah, if officials will restrict the way Tulsa can be taught in Tulsa, they’ll certainly deny reparations to the surviving victims of white rage and violence in Tulsa.

“The destruction of forty-square blocks of property on the night of May 31, 1921, through murder and arson clearly meets the definition of a public nuisance under Oklahoma law. Faithful application of the law compels the conclusion that Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher have stated a claim for relief,” attorneys for Fletcher and Randle said in a statement after the decision. “They are entitled to a trial. Yet the Court held that Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher have asked the Court to decide a ‘political’ question that is beyond the purview of the Court.”

Only to white people, and particularly white conservatives (and their faithful Black lackeys), is racism a political issue. For Black people, it’s a social issue—a life and death issue. It’s a picture-perfect example of white privilege that allows white people to so easily trivialize and reduce it to “politics.” 

In fact, the denial of reparations to the surviving victims of the Tulsa massacre is only a reflection of the restitution that was denied to Black people shortly after the massacre took place.

From CNN:

Insurance companies later denied many claims filed by Black business owners over what today would be worth tens of millions of dollars in property damage, including the destruction of two Black hospitals and 1,256 residences, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center, CNN previously reported. 

What’s that they say about the more things change?

Anyway, attorneys for Fletcher and Randle said in their statement that they plan to file a petition for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to rehear the case and reconsider its decision, though it doesn’t seem likely that would do any good. They also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the massacre under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.

America has so many atrocities to answer for, but it persists in refusing to answer for even one.


For Black People, Reparations Are About More Than Slavery

Beyond The Tulsa Race Riots: Inside The Plan To Rebuild City’s Black Affluence


Part of Greenwood District burned in Race Riots, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, June 1921

The post SMH: Reparations Lawsuit Filed By Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Dismissed By Oklahoma Supreme Court appeared first on NewsOne.

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