Siege Diaries 6/1/2020

Ninety-nine years ago on this day, after riots the previous day involving both blacks and whites, the Tulsa Massacre culminated in roving bands of white assailants (fueled by the KKK) rampaging through Greenwood, a vibrant Black neighbourhood, looting and setting fire to everything in their path. Over 10,000 people were made homeless and close to 1000 people were killed or injured. This had erupted in response to the arrest of a Black man accused of an assault on a white female elevator operator. Word had spread that a lynching was in the works, and the previous day the Black community had mobilized and come to the courthouse, where a mob of whites with all the hallmarks of a lynch mob had assembled. A armed battle broke out between the two groups, resulting in several deaths. Eventually, the whites attempted to storm the courthouse, but were turned away by the sheriff. The next morning , Greenwood was destroyed. The National Guard was called in, and in the aftermath, those Black residents who had not fled were rounded up and detained. Greenwood was never again a Black neighbourhood, and no one was ever convicted in its destruction. It wasn’t until 2001 that there was even an admission that a crime was committed.

History seems to be rhyming way too much lately. Protests have broken out all over the US in reaction to the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police. Peaceful protests have descended into riots with looting—although it seems increasingly clear that many of those now looting had nothing to do with the protests. The National Guard is now deployed in numerous US cities, and suspected white supremacists are setting fires and looting. Many police forces are simply standing by and letting this happen, or are lobbing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protests. The US president (he who shall not be named) is threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act, last used in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots, but this is far more widespread than that was.

Racism has done this. As it did in 1921, and 1968, and many other times before. The ruling party in the United States will do anything now to hold onto power. Anything. The Constitution? Only applies the way they want It to apply. Pandemic? They’ve already caused thousands of needless deaths—what’s a few more, especially if it gets rid of Black people?

I am appalled. I am numb. I am not surprised, however. Such is the way of dictators. The Reichstag is burning.

And here I sit, on a glorious spring day, where Canada now looks to the south, helpless to do anything but watch. I see steps being taken here around some of the same conversations around racism, and I see protests here—mostly peaceful. I see our Prime Minister condemn anti-Black racism in his daily press conference. Our government is different, but the issue still festers here, too, and the alt-right is already sounding their dog whistles.

I started off calling these the Siege Diaries, and they still are, but there’s a new war being fought. So much of what I loved about the country of my birth seems now to be built on lies. But because I still love my friends, my family, my memories, and because there are still those who are standing up to defend the ideals I believed were common to all good Americans, I have some hope. The time for complacency is over. Racism is a disease worse than any virus. This siege has been going on for at least 400 years, and it’s far from over.

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