Samantha Laine Perfas/The Christian Science Monitor
Robert Turner, pastor of the Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, marches to City Hall from the church and back, calling for reparations for the victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, on Sept. 30, 2020.

Why Black Americans say both parties are failing them (audio)

Ahead of the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, the Republican-led city is attempting to reconcile the past with how far it still needs to go. We wondered, how are Black Tulsans finding their political agency? 

Black Wall Street: ‘The Illusion of Inclusion’

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Tulsa is gearing up for the centennial of the 1921 race massacre, a violent incident of racism that almost entirely destroyed the city’s Black community 100 years ago. The commemoration is putting a spotlight on Black Tulsans’ long, painful struggle toward racial equality – a struggle echoed throughout U.S. history in Black communities across the country. Coupled with a divisive presidential election in which race and racism are central issues, the sense among many Black voters in Tulsa is that neither party really has their interests at heart. 

“They feel it doesn’t matter either way, Republican or Democrat,” says Mareo Johnson, a local pastor and founder of Black Lives Matter Tulsa. “Nothing is going to change in my situation, my circumstance, my surroundings.” 

America understands the election primarily through partisan politics. Each side is claiming the soul of the nation is at stake. But what about the voters whom both parties have failed – not just today, but consistently and systematically, for generations? How do they decide whom to support? And where do they find hope? 

In this episode of “Rethinking the News,” we speak to Black Tulsans about their politics, and see what lessons the rest of the country can learn from the city’s struggle to find racial unity.

Episode transcript

Samantha Laine Perfas: Welcome to “Rethinking the News,” a podcast by The Christian Science Monitor. Here, we create space for constructive conversations across a range of perspectives, to give you the information you need to come to your own conclusions.

I’m Samantha Laine Perfas, one of the producers. This is the second of three episodes we’re doing out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is preparing for the 100-year commemoration of one of the worst incidents of racist violence in U.S. history. In 1921, a group of white residents attacked the Black neighborhood of Greenwood in North Tulsa, burning and looting and killing. Some Black residents fought back. Many more fled the city. Tulsa’s white leadership, far from stopping the violence, either encouraged it or turned a blind eye. 

In the aftermath, the city government tried to put laws in place to make it harder for Black Tulsans to rebuild. They did eventually, but for years afterward, almost no one – Black or white – talked openly about the massacre. 

My colleague Jessica Mendoza and I went to Tulsa at the end of September to understand how Black Tulsans are wrestling with this history. In our previous episode, we heard the story of the massacre, and what it means to Tulsa residents today. If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to check it out. 

In this episode, hosted by Jess, we talk politics. It is, after all, an election year. But when your history is marked by such a huge failure of leadership – and when your lived experience today says those leaders, regardless of party, still are not addressing your needs – where do you put your hopes? 


Just a warning. This episode contains descriptions of violence, including gun violence and trauma inflicted on Black Americans. Please be advised.


[Audio clip from The Oklahoman: “...more police are killed in this country every year…” // “...hands up! Don’t shoot! Hands up – don’t shoot!”]

[Audio clip from ABC News: “...we begin tonight with the news from Tulsa, Oklahoma, authorities there declaring a civil emergency ahead of President Trump’s massive campaign rally there tomorrow night…”] 

[Audio clip from TODAY: “...already Oklahoma seeing positive cases surge past 10,000 over the weekend...”]

Jessica Mendoza: Even by 2020 standards, it was a stressful summer for Tulsa. Like the rest of the country, Tulsans are dealing with all the strain and anxiety related to the pandemic and the election. But the city is also gearing up for the commemoration of the 1921 race massacre – a particularly violent incident of racism that destroyed almost the entire Black community in Tulsa 100 years ago.  

You might be thinking: What does a hundred-year-old event have to do with anything we’re dealing with today? 

Well, for one, it’s churning up a lot of pain and resentment, especially for Black Tulsans, at a time when race and racism are already very present political issues for much of the country. When we talked to members of the Black community in Tulsa, we heard a lot of exhaustion and cynicism. A sense of: No one really cares. Not now, not for a long time. 

Audio montage: 

Robert Turner: This is not just a Democrat or Republican thing. You got racist people who vote for Democrats. You got racist folk who vote for Republicans. 

Ty Walker: I tell the Republican Party, you know, you’re no different than the Democrat Party because if the Democrat Party puts something in place that’s not really beneficial for the people, the Republicans don’t change it. They let it ride.

Tiffany Crutcher: And it’s just crazy, but you know, I don’t know why we continue to vote for parties that don’t serve us well, that don’t serve our best interest. 

Mareo Johnson: A large majority of Black America, they feel it doesn’t matter either way, Republican or Democrat. ‘Nothing is going to change in my situation, my circumstance, my surroundings. Nothing is gonna change it.’


Jess: So much of how we understand the election is through our partisan politics. Each side is claiming the soul of the nation is at stake. But what about the voters whom both parties have failed – not just today, but consistently and systematically, for generations? How do they decide whom to support? And where do they find hope? 


Tiffany: I woke up with this eerie feeling. It was just a blah feeling. I couldn’t even put my finger on it. I wasn’t sick. It was Friday. My – my colleagues, they were like, ‘What’s going on with you? You’re not your bubbly self.’ And I said, ‘Well, nothing’s wrong.’ And I happened to pick up my phone and I pulled up a picture of me and Terence. And they said, ‘That’s a nice picture of Terence, what is he doing today?’ I said, ‘Well, he’s getting ready to start his first day of class.’ And that was that. 

Later that evening after I got off of work, I got a call from a cousin who lived in Dallas. And she said, ‘Have you called home? When was the last time you called home?’ I said, ‘It’s been maybe a day or two.’ And she got really quiet. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘I think you should call home. And I said, ‘Spit it out. Something is wrong.’ She said, ‘It’s about Terence. I heard that he was shot and he’s dead.’ And my entire body went numb.

Jess: This is Dr. Tiffany Crutcher. She’s founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, a nonprofit named after her twin brother, who was shot and killed by Tulsa police in 2016. The story, by this time, will sound unfortunately familiar: On September 16th, police received a call that an SUV had stopped in the middle of the road. 

[Audio clip from The Wall Street Journal’s copy of the police videos: sirens and police officers talking over the radio]

Officer Betty Shelby was the first to arrive, as she was on her way to another dispute. She found Terence on the scene, and was soon joined by other officers.  

Multiple videos, including one from a police helicopter with an on-board camera, show Terence walking on the road with his hands in the air. One officer in the helicopter can be heard calling Terence a “bad dude.” 

[Audio clip from police videos: “...that looks like a bad dude too…”]

On the ground, officers follow Terence as he approaches his vehicle. Then Officer Shelby pulls the trigger, and he falls.  

[Audio clip from police videos: “...shots fired!…” “...three-twenty-one, we have shots fired, we have one suspect down…”]

Tiffany: Betty Shelby was indicted for first degree manslaughter within the week. And for the first time in the history of Tulsa, a police officer was indicted. For the first time in the history. And we thought we were making progress. They released a video, so we thought they were being transparent. I said, ‘It’s gonna be different this time. We’re gonna be different here in Tulsa.’

Jess: The trial took place in May of 2017. Officer Shelby told investigators that Terence did not comply with requests to stop and get on his knees, that he seemed to be under the influence. She said she thought he was reaching for a weapon, and that she feared for her life. The Crutcher family pointed out that he was unarmed, with his hands in the air. Terence did struggle with addiction. But the Crutchers’ attorney said the police didn’t have to approach the situation with deadly force. 

The trial was followed closely by the community and received national attention. And then, on May 17th

Tiffany: She was acquitted of all charges. Acquitted but not exonerated, because the jury attached a letter to the verdict saying that, ‘We don’t believe that she’s blameless. She should never be a patrol officer again. But because of’ – and I’m paraphrasing – ‘because of how the law is written, we have to render this verdict.’ 

Jess: The letter explains why the jury did decide to acquit Betty Shelby, breaking down each aspect of the case. For Tiffany, though – 

Tiffany: – I had to figure out a way to face the world.


Jess: What happened to Terence Crutcher is all too commonplace. And this is usually the point in the narrative when it becomes a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats will often see totally different meanings in the events that took place. And many will use a tragedy like this to rile up supporters. But for Tiffany, it is about so much more than partisan politics.

Tiffany: This is my lived experience. You know, just to give you a little bit more intel about my family, we’ve been through so much trauma. We’ve had every single issue hit us. Back in 2008, my oldest brother’s children, they were victims of gun violence. Leaving church, two o’clock. Broad daylight. Donovan, my oldest nephew, was only 16 years old, and he was hit 36 times. His brother, Adrion, was also 16. They were eleven months apart, he had just turned 16. The bullet went through a spinal cord, and paralyzed him from T7 down, never to walk again.

My first cousin, Jeremy, was in the car. He was the church drummer. His right eye was shot out. And another cousin was hit in the stomach. Strict case of mistaken identity. They were riding in the same color and make car of gang members that these guys were looking for and they got the wrong little suburban kids. 

Fast forward, my oldest brother. Less than two years before Terence was killed, we lost him to stage four colon cancer at the age of 44. And then finally, I lose my twin to police brutality. And I said, I’m not going to lose this. 

Jess: After her brother’s death, Tiffany moved back to Tulsa from Alabama, where she’d been working as a physical therapist, and started her foundation. She’s since become deeply involved in advocating for Black civil rights in Tulsa, and even considered a bid for mayor. She instead wound up throwing her support behind Greg Robinson, a Democrat who was one of seven candidates to run against sitting Republican Mayor G.T. Bynum in August. (Though people in Tulsa, Tiffany included, are quick to note that their mayoral race is nonpartisan.) 

For all her frustration with politics, Tiffany gets that the change she wants to see will have to happen in the political space. At the same time, she knows that the way our institutions are set up, there really isn’t any space to operate outside of the party system.  

Tiffany: The viable options are the Republicans and the Democrats. That’s all we have. And until we can do something different, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.

Jess: Tiffany’s story is complicated and difficult to hear – a close look at what it’s like to be Black in this country today.

She says – and we heard this a lot – the fight for racial equality within the Black community has been a long one, nonstop. And to many Black Americans, that fight is clearly connected to a history that we as a country are often eager to dismiss or move on from.  

Both parties are also failing Black communities, and have for a long time – though, in our conversations with Black Tulsans, we heard different explanations for how they’ve failed, and what people need to do about it. 

Take, for example, the Rev. Robert Turner. We heard from him last episode. He’s the pastor of the Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church. Over the past two years, he’s become a weekly sight outside Tulsa City Hall: a tall man in a sharp suit and a megaphone, calling for reparations in his booming preacher voice.  

[Audio clip from Rev. Robert Turner marching in front of Tulsa City Hall: “...You may not like saying the words, Mr. Mayor or Mr. President. But to God, Black lives matter…”]

Rev. Robert Turner: And while I’m out there, you know, I tell people: This is not about a political party or political agenda. The Democratic Party has done nothing to support what I do. Absolutely nothing. In fact, unfortunately, they’ve run away.

Jess: Rev. Turner sees his work as a necessary step toward racial justice. And to him, that justice is based on faith and moral values, not party politics. But he says political actors need to participate for justice to happen. 

Samantha Laine Perfas/The Christian Science Monitor
Robert Turner, seen here September 30 in Tulsa, says reparations are crucial to any effort on the city's part to wrestle with its racist past. "We need to digest and marinate on what we did to a group of people ... solely because they were Black," he says. "I’m all for moving forward, working together. But let’s understand where we come from."

Turner: This is, at its foundation, a spiritual movement. But it calls for physical, political remedies. If this is political, it’s just as political, or not more political, than Moses telling Pharaoh to let God’s people go. It means you have to emancipate your slaves, right? 

Jess: He says that that kind of fight is always going to ruffle feathers. The way America is divided today, that may mean more Republican feathers than Democratic ones, but, he says: 

Turner: It’s not just one party, it’s not just Republicans. John Conyers for decades introduced H.R. 40, calling for a commission to study the effects of slavery and have reparations.

Jess: The late Rep. Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, was the longest-serving Black member of Congress. He first introduced the bill back in 1989, and faced resistance over it for years, even from within his own party. In recent years, some Democrats, particularly Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, have been more supportive of H.R. 40. But reparations is still divisive among Democrats. The reverend’s point is that the machinery of party politics isn’t really built for change, especially not around race.

Turner: It just shows you this is not just a Democrat or Republican thing.

Jess: And that’s why he marches, why he’s so convinced that moving forward as a nation will require something of Americans that they’ve never given before.

Turner: It requires a lot on this generation of white people. I give them that. I’ve heard similar sentiments, ‘Well, you know, it just feels like, you know, as a white man in America, we just under attack, we can’t do anything right. We’re the problem. We’ve done all this and it’s like we can’t catch a break.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sorry that you have been able to benefit for the last 400 years. That whiteness has been the innocent victor in American culture for the last 400 years.’

And I’m all for moving forward, but we need to digest and marinate on what we did to a group of people solely because — it wasn’t because Blacks were uneducated, it wasn’t because Blacks weren’t Christian — solely because they were Black. And we have not fully digested that yet. I’m all for moving forward, working together. But let’s understand where we come from.


Jess:We did meet people in Tulsa, including members of the Black community, who would rather focus on the here and now than on a history that’s long gone.

Samantha Laine Perfas/The Christian Science Monitor
Tyrone Walker smiles in front of Wanda J's, the restaurant he runs that's named after his mother, on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. Mr. Walker, a Republican, says he supports the GOP because the Democratic Party focuses too much on what government should do for people or say about them.

Ty Walker: We’re fighting things that happened in the past. I’m not discounting it. You know, I think it’s great. But at the end of the day is it really going to change the community’s economic situation?

Jess:This is Ty Walker. He’s a Tulsa native, a minister, and a military veteran. He runs a restaurant on Greenwood Avenue called Wanda J’s Next Generation.

Ty: Wanda J is my mother. We’ve been around since 1974. I was eight years old, I believe, when she first started.

Jess: The business is Ty’s pride, and also the heart of his political philosophy. His experience running it is one of the main reasons that he decided as an adult to identify as a Republican, after being raised in a primarily Democratic household. He acknowledged that being Black and a Republican is seen as taboo these days, but he feels that the priorities of the Republican Party align much better with his values. 

Ty: Everything we do always comes back to economics. To pull people up the ladder is to change their economic situation. We keep saying government intervention is the key. And then we keep relying on somebody to say they’ll take care of you – and can’t no man take care of you. You have to learn to provide for yourself.

Jess: Ty says the weakness of the Democratic Party’s position is too much emphasis on what other people should do for you or say about you, and not enough on taking charge of your own life. He has six daughters, and he says he teaches them to fend for themselves. To not let race or any other label define their lives.  

Ty: I don’t want them to ever get caught up in labels because once you get caught up on the labels, name tags and things like that, guess what? You become that. But I teach them to be business women, and understand that you can be who you are regardless of the color of your skin.

Jess: This is a big part of why Ty decided to run for mayor this past summer. He focused his campaign on developing business opportunities for all Tulsans, and tried to convince voters that he was a unity candidate. On his campaign site – and during our chat – he emphasized that he’s lived on both sides of the tracks that literally divide Tulsa’s majority-Black community from the rest of the city. He won just under 3% of the vote.


Tulsa’s current mayor – who won reelection in that race – is also Republican. We heard from him last episode. G.T. Bynum was a Tulsa city councilor for eight years before being sworn in as the city’s 40th mayor in December 2016. He says he has always tried to make the needs of Tulsa’s Black community a priority. 

G.T. Bynum: I ran for mayor largely because I was so upset by the fact that studies showed that kids that grow up in the predominantly African American part of Tulsa are expected to live 11 years less than kids elsewhere in the city. That disparity is a symptom of many other things that we’re trying to focus on and address.

Jess: Throughout his term, Mayor Bynum has been praised for speaking openly about Tulsa’s racist past. In 2018, he reopened the investigation into where the bodies of those killed in the 1921 race massacre might be buried. 

Bynum: There are members of your family who have disappeared, and you have no idea where they are. And the response of the city government and of the leaders at the time is you need to just move on and get over it. And then we wonder why we have issues of racial division all these years later. And so I think we have a – just a fundamental human responsibility to the victims of this event to try and find their remains and allow them to have a proper burial, and for their families to know what happened to them.

Jess: Just this past summer, on the anniversary of the massacre, a group of Black leaders – including Tiffany Crutcher – met with the mayor to support his commitment to police reform.

That support has since wavered, after the mayor told CBS Sunday Morning that Terence Crutcher’s death had more to do with drugs than with race. (The mayor later apologized.) He also disappointed many Democrats when he allowed President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in June. Most recently, he’s received flak for the removal of the Black Lives Matter mural that was painted on Greenwood Avenue – illegally, the mayor points out.    

Still, Mayor Bynum says he believes party politics don’t have to get in the way of providing for marginalized communities, including the Black community.

Bynum: The coalition that I built both to be elected and then to govern has not been partisan. I don’t even know the party makeup of our team in the mayor’s office. I don’t care. Political parties are very much focused on federal policy, and when it comes to city government, I don’t think either party has a monopoly on good ideas or hard work. 

Now I am a Republican, and in the time that I’ve been mayor, I routinely have Democrats tell me, ‘You’re the only Republican I’ve ever voted for,’ or ‘I can’t believe that you’re a Republican.’ And I always think that’s a shame, because the Republican Party, at least that I believe in, is focused on the individual and the liberty of the individual. And you can’t do that if you have individuals in your community that are being robbed of a decade of their life just because of the part of town that they happen to be growing up in. We have a responsibility to build a better community.


Sam: Hi everyone, Samantha Laine Perfas again, one of the producers on this show. Because of listeners like you, we’re able to devote time to a podcast that goes deep into today’s issues. If you enjoy “Rethinking the News,” the best way to make sure we produce more work like this is to subscribe to The Christian Science Monitor. If you already do, thank you! But if you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that at csmonitor.com/subscribe. We really appreciate your support. Again, that’s csmonitor.com/subscribe. Thanks for listening.


Jess: The idea that Black voters would have such a wide range of political ideologies, or that they don’t feel like they really fit in either party, runs up against a powerful narrative in American politics: that of the monolithic Black vote. While Black Americans do tend to vote as a bloc, their politics are anything but monolithic. What we heard in Tulsa isn’t all that different from what Black politics look like across the country. To learn more about this, we called Theodore Roosevelt Johnson III.  

Ted Johnson: Just about a quarter of Black Americans identify as conservative. Just over a quarter identify as progressive or liberal. And about 45 or so percent identify as moderate. So what this suggests is that Black folks span the spectrum of political ideologies just like every other race and ethnicity in the United States.

Jess: Ted is a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice who studies Black politics and voting behavior. And yes, he’s named after the president. 

Ted: It’s a bit odd for a Black guy from the South to be named after a rich white Republican from a century ago. But at the time that my grandfather was given this name by my great-grandparents – he was born in 1918 – it was standard practice for Black Americans to identify as Republican, to the extent that they could vote.

Jess: Ted makes the case that how Black people vote often doesn’t reflect what they actually believe politically. 

Ted: What we see from the outset, from 1867 forward, are Black Americans voting for the same party.

Jess: In the late 1800s, that was the Republican Party – 

Ted: – the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party that championed the abolishment of slavery, the party that fought for the enfranchisement of Black freedmen after the Civil War. 

Jess: That began to change in 1877, after President Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, agreed to pull federal troops from the Southern states. This opened up the former Confederacy to Jim Crow laws – a brutal period for Black Americans. And after a while, they did what any oppressed people would do, if they could: They left. Black people began heading north and west. In some places, like Tulsa, they built communities like Greenwood.

Ted: And as these Black folks in the South begin to spread out across the country, they change the politics of the states to where they move. So for a period from about 1930 through the 1950s, there is a pretty healthy competition for Black voters at the state and local level at various places around the country.

Jess: Then, in 1948, it looked like Democratic incumbent Harry Truman was about to lose the presidential election to Thomas Dewey. In July, President Truman made a drastic move

Ted: He signs the order desegregating the federal workforce and desegregating the military. 

[Audio clip from British Pathé: “...Courageously, President Truman said, ‘We must make the government a friendly defender of the rights of all Americans. Again, I mean all Americans.’ …”]

He does this because he recognizes if he can get Black voters in Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Jersey to support him, then he has a chance of winning the presidency. The strategy proved true.

Jess: And it was the start of two decades of political realignment. The Democratic Party continued to court Black voters with civil rights legislation, and the party’s white Southern delegation began to move to the GOP. 

[Audio clip from British Pathé: “...with the battle cry, you shall not crucify the South on this cross of civil rights…”]

Jess: The deal was sealed in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.  

[Audio clip from The LBJ Library: “Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.”]

Jess: Today, about 87% of Black voters either identify with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic.

Ted: And so what we’ve seen over the sweep of American history are Black people voting in a bloc for the same party despite their political diversity, as a means of countering the electoral power of white racial conservatives, who would much rather the country pump its brakes on racial equality and racial integration.

Jess: What Ted is saying is that Black Americans today aren’t necessarily voting for Democratic presidents because they think that the Democratic Party is serving them well. Nor is it because they agree with Democratic ideology across the board. Ted’s own family is proof of that.  

Ted: While my father is certainly more conservative, it’s the conservatism that leans on the belief that hard work, self-determination, individualism, education may not erase racism, but it gives you the best chance at success. And he also had a very strong sense of racial pride and racial identity, in that the government’s not going to be there for us, and so we have to learn to make our communities self-sustaining. 

Jess: Which, incidentally, sounds a bit like the politics of Ty Walker, the conservative restaurant owner who ran for mayor in Tulsa. Ted’s mom, on the other hand, had ideas that reflected those of Tiffany Crutcher, whose brother was shot and killed by Tulsa police. 

Ted: She held a lot of those same beliefs about the importance of hard work and self-determination and education. But she believed it was the government’s responsibility to ensure our civil rights protections above all else. If they were falling short of that, we don’t let them off the hook by doing for ourselves. We demand even more stridently that they fulfill that.

Jess: And yet on Election Day, especially a presidential election, the choice for Black voters often leaves very little room for those political ideologies. Because – and this is Ted’s ultimate point – Black participation in our democracy has been driven, and limited, by the necessity of voting for whichever party happens to be championing civil rights for Black Americans at a given moment. 

Ted: And so when every presidential election is essentially a single-issue election around which party is better at civil rights protections, then what Black voters lose is their political agency. They lose the ability to express themselves fully in the political arena on the range of issues that should be presented in elections. And they are robbed of that luxury by being forced to consider the party that will protect and extend civil rights, and the party that is looking to dial those rights back.

And when people don’t – when they’re unable to exercise their political agency in full, they feel like they’ve been excluded from the nation. They feel like government is not responsive to their needs, that it’s not interested in what their community needs. And they see politics as nothing more than the pandering that happens every two or four years that may deliver election victories but doesn’t actually deliver change. 

Jess: When we talked to Tiffany Crutcher, she put it another way: 

Tiffany: I definitely don’t think that the Republican Party speaks to the Black needs of Tulsa. And as far as the Democratic Party, there’s racism within the Democratic Party as well. I do believe that our votes a lot of times are taken for granted, especially Black women. We come out and vote in droves, and we’re never afforded a seat at the table. And to me, that’s an illusion of inclusion. And so I don’t believe that our needs have been met by either party. 

I’m tired of politics as usual. I’m tired of negotiating with politics, if I live or die because of the color of my skin. Don’t we have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Isn’t that the American way?

Jess: We met Tiffany at the new offices of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, on the first floor of the Greenwood Cultural Center. The walls were still bare, but she’d laid out some news clippings and photographs she plans to put up. As we talked, she would go from anger to despair to exhaustion to relentlessness, and back again. 

Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Tiffany Crutcher stands in front of a mural just off Greenwood Avenue that celebrates the history and legacy of Black Wall Street on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ms. Crutcher, whose twin brother Terence was shot and killed by Tulsa police in 2016, says part of her fight is to get voices like her family's heard in a political system that doesn't prioritize Black experiences.

Tiffany: Tulsa has a history of racially biased policing, evidenced by the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. The same police culture and state sanctioned violence that burnt down Greenwood is the same culture that killed my twin brother. Nothing has changed. They blamed the Black folks for the massacre. They blamed my twin brother for his own death. 

And so I often sit back and think about what my great-grandmother was thinking when a white mob came to burn down her community. I often sit back and wonder what she was thinking when she had to jump on the back of a truck and run. Then I think about what Terence was thinking when the helicopter was looming, saying that he looked like a bad dude. He wasn’t a fleeing felon. Terence needed help. But he got a bullet. And so this is the climate that we live in today. Nothing has changed.

Jess: And so we asked her: What keeps her going? How does she bring herself to do this work every day?

Tiffany: I’m simply following the blueprint of my ancestors. Our ancestors were resilient. They were strong. They rebuilt in the face of adversity. And that’s all I’m simply trying to do, is rebuild in the face of adversity. 

Jess: Tiffany says she puts her hopes in people. And she keeps going because she has to. 

Tiffany: We have so much work to do. White people ask me all the time, ‘What can we do? What can I do? What can you tell me?’ And I just don’t think it’s my burden to teach white people how to not be racist. Go ask other white people. You get what I’m saying? How come I have to carry that burden too? It baffles me. But what I can do is share my perspective and my lived experience with you. 

And I will say that post George Floyd, we’re having hard conversations. People are waking up and attitudes are shifting. And we’re changing hearts and minds. And so I think that’s the silver lining right now. 


Jess: Thanks for listening, everyone. Next episode, we’ll be looking at how Tulsans are finding ways to own their story using music, art, and the spirit that built – and rebuilt – Black Wall Street. 

This podcast was hosted by me, Jessica Mendoza. I reported and produced this story with Samantha Laine Perfas. Our editors are Clay Collins and Clara Germani, with additional edits by Mark Sappenfield, Judy Douglass, and Arielle Gray. Sound design by Morgan Anderson and Noel Flatt. And a special thanks to Steph Simon, for letting us use music from his album ‘Born On Black Wall Street’ throughout this episode.  Additional audio elements from ABC News, The Today Show, The Oklahoman, the Wall Street Journal, British Pathé, and The LBJ Library. Brought to you by The Christian Science Monitor, copyright 2020.