Former Secretary of Education under the Obama administration and board member of brightbeam, (our parent organization) Arne Duncan recently took to twitter to ask a simple question. How many people were taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre in school?
I call this a simple question, because as it was possibly the single worst incident of racial violence in American history, it seems like the answer would be everyone.
But, as the responses to Duncan’s now-viral question show, the answer actually seems to be no one.
I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know much about the white-on-black terrorist attack that would level an entire American neighborhood, referred to as “Black Wall Street” for its black-centered wealth. I remember reading about it within the last few years, and learning that the commonly-used “Tulsa Race Riots” was just then going out of style. No, this was a massacre of Black people and their livelihoods at the hands of white citizens who went on to face no consequences.
The responses to the question were telling.
Many Oklahomans and even Tulsa residents chimed in to note they managed to go through schooling completely unaware of the mass murder that took place in their own backyard.
Another common response was that it wasn’t until seeing the HBO show, Watchmen, that they learned about the mass looting, burning and killing at the hands of a white mob.
The logical question becomes “why?” How is it possible that curriculum across the country can fail to address such a monumental, terrifying portion of our history?
As President Trump backtracks from hosting (his first COVID-era) “rally” in Tulsa, on Juneteenth, another subject schools don’t adequately teach, now is as good a time as any to push for changes to address the ways schools fail to teach our true history as a country, especially the most horrifying parts.