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An easel displays the image of a new grocery store that’s coming to north Tulsa. The north Tulsa community is considered a food desert.
It’s been two days since a Tulsa World editorial was published, entitled “Tulsa World editorial: North Tulsa grocery store planned. But will it last?”
As an invited and appointed Tulsa World Community Advisory Board member, I was disappointed by the writing and publishing of their impactful exposition.
For the past 48 hours, I have pondered on how to counter in a responsibly constructive way — as to not hinder the social progress that Tulsa has attained by starting the race conversation. Some citizens may even consider the content in the latter part of my last sentence, debatable. Nevertheless, I have seen White Tulsans become more socially conscious in how they treat Black Tulsans. Interestingly, the majority of Black Tulsans reside in the same general area of this new grocery store that the editorial is centered around.
Before delving into my syllogisms for why I believe their opinionated and collective essay is damaging, I would like to remind my many readers that conversations regarding race are rarely easy to digest. It will, however, always be the much-needed conversation we must face head-on as a city if we plan on not coming across as socially artificial to the world in 2021.
The institutionalization and normalization of White supremacy in the American media were well established long before this editorial became a thought. The exclusively all-White and mostly male editorial boards and newspapers of the past methodically constructed and negatively stigmatized Black neighborhoods as areas where misconduct and lawlessness thrived.
They did so intentionally because they were racist.
Notably today, I do not believe that my White brothers and sisters, seated on the Tulsa World’s editorial board, are racist. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have invited the other two Black board members nor me a seat at their table on their community advisory board.
I have, however, strategically chosen the possessive ‘their’ because, although my seat of influence as a Tulsa World ‘community’ advisory board member was actualized with good intention, the community I humbly represent and I have yet to feel part of the Tulsa World collective due to a century of propaganda and misrepresentation it has printed about Greenwood and Black Tulsans as one body.
My goal as a Black Tulsan is to rid my community of the stigma that has been unfairly placed upon it since Tulsa’s Jim Crow ideologies unfairly castigated it to the point of destruction and mass murder from a reckless article printed in the Tulsa Tribune nearly a century ago.
“But will it last?” is the probing question that Tulsans saw on the headline in the most influential media company with the most dominating voice in the region.
Every American who has developed the gift and ability to think critically can find much fault in this racially coded error.
By using inference, within the context of race and in a racially polarized city, will conclude that the headline fired warning shots to all who dwell or plan to do business in the city, that danger is on the horizon for this new grocery store.
The perception of danger is there because the white media voice has reported and projected for nearly a century that the Greenwood District and north Tulsa is full of questionable persons.
Moreover, “crime” is a word that is often associated with Black communities, seldom is systemic racism. Redlining nor systemic racism were mentioned in the article. Thus crime and Black are the married imagine that is echoed.
Furthermore, “poor sales, poor marketing, poor capitalization, and a variety of other problems” are listed next; yet plethoras of dollar discount stores litter our community, making a profit.
When you have internalized racism, it’s like living in the matrix. You don’t even realize that you are in it and that you’ve become an echo chamber of supremacy until the virus begins to disrupt. It is only then that you’ll start to see the glitches in the system.
The viruses are the messengers and the change agents obstructing the status quo.
Any racially conscious person would have never approved of such a damaging piece to be published. Moreover, if Black representation existed enough within the organization, an honest conversation would have taken place, the article would have either come out vastly different or not at all.
Notwithstanding, the new QuickTrip in north Tusla is the top producing in sales in the entire state of Oklahoma.
The reaction to the idea of a grocery store coming to the majority Black side of town is rooted in the implicit and racial bias that members of the Tulsa World’s editorial board possess.
It is internalized racism.
I believe that many of us have some degree of it, regardless of how we choose to identify racially.
Now, there is a difference between internalized racism and being racist. Internalized racism is the conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which Whites are consistently ranked above people of color. A racist person is one who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
According to Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, it is “Individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity.”
I will end with this: White and Black Tulsans will wonder if the Tulsa World’s editorial is rooted in racism, and they will draw their own conclusions.
They may even question if some of the editorial members who wrote the article are racist because of the nature for why the article is written — doubt, that any business could ever thrive in Tulsa’s Black community.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World.