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Tulsa massacre: Biden urges Americans to reflect on ‘deep roots of racial terror’ | Tulsa race massacre

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In a speech marking 100 years since the Tulsa race massacre, Joe Biden called on Americans to think upon “the deep roots of racial terror” in the United States and to destroy systemic racism in their society.

In hard-hitting words as part of a declaration of a day of remembrance for the hundreds of Black victims of the 1921 mass killing in Oklahoma, Biden used unusually strong language to describe America’s history of racial strife.

“On this solemn centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, I call on the American people to reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our nation and recommit to the work of rooting out systemic racism across our country,” Biden said in a statement.

Between 31 May and 1 June, white mobs attacked the historical Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area so prosperous and successful it was known as the “Black Wall Street”. They killed an estimated 300 residents, displaced many more and burnt many blocks of the city to the ground.

Though it was one of the worst acts of racial violence in US history, its anniversary has seemingly gone little marked by much of America, until anti-racism protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd triggered a reckoning over racism in America.

In the statement Biden said that the federal government had played in keeping white and Black Americans unequal in the decades after the massacre by policies that had segregated the races and favored whites.

“The federal government must reckon with and acknowledge the role that it has played in stripping wealth and opportunity from Black communities,” he said, while pledging to invest in Black communities and businesses with government programs, including a massive planned infrastructure package as the US builds back from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We honor the legacy of the Greenwood community, and of Black Wall Street, by reaffirming our commitment to advance racial justice through the whole of our government, and working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, and our hearts,” he said.

Events related to the massacre commemoration ahead of the 100 year anniversary have already begun. Friday’s Black Wall Street Legacy Festival included a parade led by Randle and two other centenarian survivors, Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis. The three were joined by community organizations and about 450 students from George Washington Carver Middle School, where the parade began.

At the parade’s start, members of the African Ancestral Society surrounded a horse-drawn carriage holding the three survivors and sang blessings, before marchers headed past tidy homes toward the heart of Greenwood.

The commemoration is slated to include a visit by Biden on Tuesday and the unveiling of the $20m Greenwood Rising museum.

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