1221 GMT October 19, 2021
Joe Biden on Tuesday became the first sitting US president to visit the site in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where hundreds of Black Americans were massacred by a white mob in 1921, and he said the legacy of racist violence and white supremacy still resonates.
Biden came to Tulsa to put a spotlight on an event that epitomizes the country’s history of brutal racial violence, according to Reuters.
“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know,” Biden said in a speech to the few survivors of the attack on Tulsa’s Greenwood district and their descendants.
“We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides, and we’re a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and rebuild,” according to AP.
Biden said the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and efforts by a number of states to restrict voting were echoes of the same problem.
“What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism, with a through-line that exists today,” Biden said.
“Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they cannot be buried, no matter how hard people try,” Biden said. “Only with truth can come healing.”
“Just because history is silent, it does not mean that it did not take place,” Biden said. He said “hell was unleashed, literal hell was unleashed.” And now, he said, the nation must come to grips with the subsequent sin of denial.
Biden’s commemoration of the deaths of hundreds of Black people killed by a white mob a century ago came amid the current national reckoning on racial justice.
He also warned against complacency, saying, “Hate is never defeated” but “only hides,” according to ABC News.
“Folks, we can’t – we must not give hate a safe harbor,” Biden said. “Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today – not ISIS [Daesh], not Al-Qaeda, white supremacists.”
White residents in Tulsa shot and killed up to 300 Black people on May 31 and June 1, 1921, and burned and looted homes and businesses, devastating a prosperous African-American community after a white woman accused a Black man of assault, an allegation that was never proven.
Insurance companies did not cover the damages and no one was charged for the violence.
Biden said one of the survivors of the attack was reminded of it on Jan. 6 when far-right supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol while Congress was certifying Biden’s 2020 election win.