The perversion of Justice

By Dr. Eric M. Wallace

Is it possible to seek justice when it is based on a lie? Isn’t the lie itself a perversion of justice? Black lives Matter and the 1619 project have been rewriting history in a way that challenges their credulity. The Story of the Tulsa Riot in 1921 is a case in point.

It is now common knowledge that June 1st, 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma riots of 1921. A new documentary, "Tulsa burning: The 1921 Race Massacre," has been released to remember this horrific event in the history of our great country. I write “riots” here because it used to be called a riot; however, it is now more often referred to as a “massacre.”

I don't know about you, but I'm suspicious of people who bring up Black History these days with all the rewriting of history from the 1619 project to the more recent push to teach Critical Race Theory in our schools. Frankly, the social justice warriors make new documentaries suspect to me, especially since CRT, in many cases, lacks fundamental truths and facts. According to them, truth is subjective, and narrative is more important than actual historical fact.

That being said, I decided to watch another documentary first, entitled Black Wall Street: Full Documentary, which happened to be another History Channel documentary included as part of the "In Search of History Series." The posted date on YouTube says July 13th, 2016. I don't know when it was filmed, but clearly, it was before the obscuring of truth by many today. Therefore, I felt I might get a more honest telling of the Tulsa story.

I then watched the newer documentary by the History Channel produced by Russell Westbrook. The basic story leading up to the riot was the same. The flourishing of Greenwood and testimony to what Black people can achieve, even under challenging circumstances. The evidence that Capitalism can work for Black people when the laws of justice are equally applied. The doctors, lawyers, dentists, shoe salesman, hotel and theater owners, and more, proved that even in 1920, some 57 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Black people were advancing in education, business, and industry. This was evident in both documentaries.

Also evident was the inhumanity, racial hatred, death, and destruction described and depicted in each of the documentaries. The riot, lit by the match of falsehood concerning an alleged sexual assault on a white woman by a black man in an elevator, would take the lives of men and women black and white and change the course of history for many. It was heartbreaking.

The notable differences that emerged were that the older documentary accounted for 50 whites killed in the fighting. Another difference was that the older version mentioned that Greenwood, despite the riot and without help from the city or state, was rebuilt by the Black residences who persevered to rebuild their businesses, schools, churches, and homes. One of the main lessons we all can take away from this tragedy is the resilience of the people who strove to obtain an education and build a thriving community for both themselves and their families. They would not be seen as victims but as victors. The old documentary mentioned that the new Greenwood was more prosperous than the old Greenwood. A recent article entitled 100 years: The Rebuild of Black Wall Street said the same thing. The report stated that by 1925 Greenwood was rebuilt. The Greenwood cultural center noted that by 1942 that the district had "250 businesses, exceeding the number of businesses before the Massacre." This information is absent from the account given in the Black Lives Matter version of the documentary.

For Liberal progressives to have leverage, they must continue to paint Black people as victims who are helpless to defend themselves or capable of rebuilding their communities. This became clear in the 2021 documentary's scene at the radio station. They wrongly suggest that Black Wall Street never recovered. Then you have a lawyer, who I guess represents the reparations case, mentioning the same thing and showing the ruins of what was left of the once-thriving hotel.

The problem is the story they tell is simply not true. As noted earlier, Greenwood was rebuilt and continued to prosper until the 1960s, when segregation was abolished and Urban Renewal (a government program) kicked in. The truth is the hotel was never rebuilt; however, that was only one business.

The story of Black Wall Street is a Story of Black resilience and fortitude that is, too often, lacking in our communities today. We face a fraction of the racism that Blacks faced in the early 20th century. Yet, they became educated, started families and businesses grabbing hold to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for themselves. They even took up arms when necessary to defend themselves from an imminent threat.

When I look at Greenwood, I see heroes, not victims. Their story represents a group of proud Black Americans, a generation after slavery, who overcame the racial hatred surrounding them. Rejected from white society, they determined to build their community to live life on their terms, to be fully free. Nothing would stop them, not even a riot that would destroy much of their community. So, from the ashes, they rebuilt.

Racism could not destroy their dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Conversely, in many respects, the new documentary ignores this part of their story in an attempt to write a new narrative. A false narrative that says nothing has changed since 1921. That all Blacks are still victims of white supremacy. Case in point, the new narrative connects the 2016 police shooting of Terence Crutcher to the riot.

However, this attempt does a disservice to the memory of those who lost their lives and those who survived the 1921 riot in Greenwood.

The new documentary says it wants justice. I contend that you can’t ask for justice based on a lie. Lying is inherently unjust. The Bible says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16; Duet. 5:20). “You shall not spread a false report; You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:1-3) Unfortunately, this new documentary follows in the footsteps of BLM, CRT, and the 1619 project with a narrative that bears false witness (lies) to an event we should collectively remember and learn from—both the good and the bad.

We are Kingdoms in Konflict!

[Editor's note: this commentary is taken from my final thoughts of an interview with Eddie Huff on Kingdoms in Konflict]

[Dr. Eric Wallace is an African American scholar and the cofounder of Freedom’s Journal Institute (FJI), an Illinois-based nonprofit organization addressing contemporary social, political, and religious issues on behalf of African Americans. FJI’s mission is to "advance the Kingdom of God through sociopolitical education and engagement rooted in a Biblical Worldview." FJI vigorously challenges liberal ideology with conservative principles, essential to promote and sustain thriving families. He is also the host of FJI's flagship television program "Kingdoms in Konflict: A Matter of Faith, Race, and Public Policy" found on the NRBtv Network and other media platforms.]

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