What My Grandmother Talked About When She Talked About Whiteness

How I Learned About the Lynching of My Cousin in the Tulsa Race Riots

Black men in Tulsa being marched under armed guard during the race massacre on June 1, 1921. (Department of Special Collections/McFarlin Library/University of Tulsa/AP).

I first learned of my cousin’s lynching when I was 10 years old.

My family never talked about his murder in my presence, and, to this day, I have not heard them discuss it since. It is almost as if it never happened. I wonder if our failure to discuss this is a coping mechanism; or, perhaps, an attempt to push the event into the back of our minds. We know there will never be anything resembling justice in the case; maybe it is easier to pretend like it never happened.  I only found out because my great-grandmother, a wizened old black woman whose face spoke of years of enduring the weight of patriarchy and white supremacy, accidently told me the story in the summer of 1992.

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Lawrence Ware is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. He is also the Associate Director of the University’s Center for Africana Studies. He can be reached at:  Law.writes@gmail.com.

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