A year ago a Black man named George Floyd lost his life under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. Floyd’s death sparked massive civil rights protests around the world and a painful racial reckoning in the United States that is far from resolved.
One hundred years ago a white mob destroyed Greenwood, a prosperous Black district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a two-day rampage of looting, burning, and shooting that killed as many as 300 people and left some 10,000 homeless. The attack on what’s remembered as Black Wall Street is one of the worst acts of terrorism in U.S. history—and I’m embarrassed to admit that until recently, I’d never heard of it.
In many respects, the distance between 1921 and 2021 is enormous. So much about our country has changed, and that includes significant progress on extending equality and opportunity to all. And yet, in other ways and places, echoes of a segregated and hateful past remain. There are still massive economic disparities between Black people and white, and massive disparities in incarceration rates. And, as we have seen in the killings that preceded and followed George Floyd’s death, systemic violence continues to claim Black lives.