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100 years after Tulsa massacre, Biden unveils new efforts for racial equity

By
Don Johnson & Daniel Uria
Smoke rises from the Greenwood District on June 1, 1921, after the Tulsa Race Massacre. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress
Smoke rises from the Greenwood District on June 1, 1921, after the Tulsa Race Massacre. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress

June 1 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden pledged on Tuesday pledged to bring the reality of the Tulsa Race Massacre to the forefront as he traveled to Oklahoma for the 100th anniversary.

During his visit to the Greenwood Cultural Center, Biden noted how the impact of the history of the 1921 Tulsa massacre in which a White mob killed hundreds of Black Americans has been diminished. He outlined actions to expand access to two key wealth creators -- home ownership and small business ownership -- in communities of color and disadvantaged communities.

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"My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre," Biden said. "Among the worst in our history. But not the only one -- and for too long, forgotten by our history."

The president also met with surviving members of the massacre, which along with the death toll, left thousands destitute and homeless.

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On May 31 and June 1, 1921, an armed White mob ravaged the wealthy Black neighborhood of Greenwood, a hub of Black-owned businesses known as "Black Wall Street," in Tulsa. The mob destroyed 35 city blocks.

"We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened," Biden said. "We should know the good, the bad, everything. That's what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides."

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Biden issued a proclamation on Monday to remember the attack and called on Americans to help eradicate systemic racism and further racial justice.

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"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," the proclamation states.

Biden also announced efforts to block racial discrimination in the U.S. housing market, including a first-of-its-kind interagency effort to address inequity in home appraisals.

The White House said the government will use purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50%, which it said would result in an additional $100 billion over five years.

RELATED On This Day: White mob attacks Black Greenwood residents in Tulsa Race Massacre

"I'm determined to use every taxpayer's dollar that is assigned to me to spend, going to American companies and American workers that build American products," Biden said. "And as part of that, I'm going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small disadvantaged businesses including Black and Brown businesses."

Additionally, Biden provided new specifics on measures in his American Jobs Plan that include a $10 billion community revitalization fund that targets economically underserved communities. The community revitalization fund will support civic infrastructure projects to spark economic activity.

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The jobs plan also includes a new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to initiate private investment in the development and rehabilitation of affordable homes for low- and moderate-income buyers.

To end housing discrimination, the White House said the Department of Housing and Urban Development will move toward "traditional interpretations of the Fair Housing Act" and "more vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act."

Biden will direct HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge to lead the interagency initiative to prevent inequity in home appraisals.

"These are the kinds of policies and practices that keep Black families in Greenwood and across the nation from building generational wealth through home ownership," the White House said.

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