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Policing in Tulsa Segregated by Race and Economic Class Human Rights Watch Says

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Published 09/25/2019 | Reading Time 1 min 20 sec

By BWSTimes Staff

According to the Human Rights Watch’s telephone interview with Pastor Ray Owens, a highly-respected minister in north Tulsa, “the racial and class dynamics of modern-day policing in Tulsa exist in the context of a highly segregated city.

Racial divisions and economic underdevelopment, particularly in North Tulsa, contribute to crime which serves as a rationale for aggressive police activity. Imposition and enforcement of criminal debt takes money from poor people, and people of color in Tulsa, who tend to be poor, draining resources from their families and communities'”.

The Human Rights Watch also interviewed Reverend Gerald Davis, minister of Church of the Restoration and concluded that “The poverty and lack of economic development of North Tulsa result from a variety of factors, including historical neglect dating back to the destruction of Greenwood in 1921.

Reverend Gerald Davis said that there is a great deal of investment in economic development in South Tulsa, including street improvements, bus lines, sewer lines, and other infrastructure, but politicians tend to ignore North Tulsa. A prevalent attitude among people with political and economic power is ‘you don’t want to go there, build there, buy there'”.

The HRW report added that “Davis attributes this neglect, in large part, to ‘systemic racism’, and says that it has persisted from the time of legalized racial segregation. Systemic or structural racism is caused by public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms working in various, often reinforcing, ways to perpetuate racial group inequity.

These policies, practices and norms serve to benefit and privilege white people while denying basic rights and limiting opportunities for people of color. Systemic racism does not depend on racism of individuals or on overt discriminatory intent, but it can exist even in a culture that disavows racial bias.”

The HRW said that “many community leaders from North Tulsa agree on the need for structural change in the neighborhoods where crime occurs, including investment in education, job training, infrastructure, business development, entrepreneurship, and employment opportunities, not more abusive policing.” 

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