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2020 Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke tours the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, dubbed the Black Wall Street by the great educator and orator of his time Booker T. Washington. (Photo by Nehemiah D. Frank)
By Nehemiah D. Frank
During political campaigning-season, most politicians will come to your city, town, or community and give a little speech. Many, give off the impression that they care about your community as much as you do.
If the candidate is running for a US congressional seat or president of the United States, your little hamlet may not even become an afterthought to them. What usually happens is: Once they leave your town, believing they’ve secured your vote, that candidate is headed towards the next municipality to implement that same strategic plan they performed on you methodically. Seldom do they look into the rearview mirror.
For 2020 Presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke, Black Wall Street wasn’t just an afterthought.
I didn’t get to see him stand on a bar, as I hoped he’d do on arrival to my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma to deliver his ideas for America. But, I did see him embrace the history of my beloved community’s extraordinary story and then amplify it through written language days later.
Mr. O’Rourke’s actions in the taking of his personal time to write his findings on our narratives, of pain and resilience, illustrate to me that not only is he a thoughtful and considerate presidential candidate but that the delivered accounts from some of my community’s leaders unquestionably had a strong impression upon him. His heart is one of compassion, and we’re thankful for his sincere visit.
Since the beginning of his quest for the White House, I have seen Mr. O’Rourke demonstrate that he can be an anti-racist advocate. And I think that’s a big deal.
In a recent tweet, he shared, “It is not enough not to be racist. We have to be anti-racist. We have to shut down white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and white nationalism.”
It is not enough not to be racist. We have to be anti-racist. We have to shut down white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and white nationalism. pic.twitter.com/6KpKGg9njn
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 19, 2019
His message resonates with me because seldom have I seen presidential candidates be so publicly vocal about fighting white supremacy.
As a person of color, I have witnessed white supremacy’s intentions to smother the flame of racial progress and unity in America that we have made since the ’60s.
Thankfully, Mr. O’Rourke seemingly understands that we undoubtedly still have a long way to go when our nation’s standardized test scores show that our schools continue producing large academic gaps between black and white children, when despite higher employment rates for African-Americans — the wealth earnings between white and black families are $100 to our $5.04, and when black families are devastatingly affected by mass incarceration.
Even today, after the ending of legalized chattel slavery, black Americans are still the most incarcerated people on the planet and Oklahoma is ranked first.
Hence, white supremacy is in full effect, and its ideology and presence must be dismantled in order for us all to have a fair chance in the pursuit of the American dream.
2020 Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke on the Real Black Wall Street Tour with Rev. Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church, and the African Ancestral Society of Tulsa.
In this present era of Trump — that often feels like we’re living in the twilight zone or a horrible, unwakable nightmare — we need unapologetic, anti-racist, presidential-campaigning advocates who are unafraid of speaking the truth about what factually happened in our community of Greenwood nearly 100-years ago and how those efforts in a newly evolved method has made our section of the city unrecognizable and nearly forgotten; furthermore, that the same approach of white supremacy’s gentrification of black neighborhoods has been strategically orchestrated across the country.
Lastly, despite the fact that African-Americans start more businesses when compared to other races — we are more likely to fail due to centuries of racist stigma and discriminatory legalized practices.
My people to all appearances are still a migrant population faced with gentrification, urban removal and the lowest homeownership in the nation — as if we had just been released from captivity.
Thank you, Mr. O’Rourke, for courageously being an anti-racist presidential candidate.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and executive editor of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a second degree in political science at Oklahoma State University. He’s a blogger for Education Post, an advisory board member for the Tulsa World and Tulsa Press Club, and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is a former elementary and middle school educator and principal, a Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He’s also a TED Talk alumnus.