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On a Different Note: Watchmen Did Something

I’m over superheroes at the moment. My partner is a walking encyclopedia of all things superhero and comic books and I told him after End Game, I’m done. It’s been 7.5 years of this shit. Because of this, he’s been watching all the shows without me (except Doom Patrol), including Watchmen which he started last night.

I was in the kitchen when I heard him ask me what city the Bombing of Black Wall Street took place. The question was so random and the reason he was asking was because that was how Watchmen premiered the show, with a depiction of the Tulsa Race Riots Massacre.

Don’t trip if you didn’t know about this; Oklahoma didn’t even acknowledge the worst incident in history of racial violence until the late 1990s. The only reason I know about it was because I was listening to an episode of The Read and Crissle was going off about something and brought up the Bombing of Black Wall Street.

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Still new into a new century, Tulsa had a black district called Greenwood, which was developed on Indian Territory, the vast area where Native American tribes had been forced to relocate, which encompasses much of modern-day Eastern Oklahoma (something I just learned.) The link also says that some of the black people were also former slaves of these tribes and were integrated into tribal communities and allowed to be given land (does anyone know more about this?) Soon, this area became known as a safe haven for Black people and many flocked to it.

The district did extraordinarily well for itself. It thrived. The black residents owned many, many, many businesses and redistributed their wealth among its middle and upper-class residents. I’ve seen articles talk about how Black Wall Street was the epitome of a self-sustaining community but it’s because they had to be. Racist white Americans were not going to help out a black community at all but it certainly caught their eye that this community was doing so well. That and oil, which helped the Black community flourish as well so it could give back to itself. White people got jealous, envious and mad and decided to destroy Black Wall Street, the city and its residents because they didn’t like how they were living.

Here is the wikipedia page about it. The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district:

The riot began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. He was taken into custody. A subsequent gathering of angry local whites outside the courthouse where Rowland was being held, and the spread of rumors he had been lynched, alarmed the local black population, some of whom arrived at the courthouse armed. Shots were fired and twelve people were killed: ten white and two black.[16] As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded. Thousands of whites rampaged through the black neighborhood that night and the next day, killing men and women, burning and looting stores and homes. About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($32 million in 2019).

These evil shits attacked, planned and implemented ground and sky attacks. That’s how mad they were at the success of Black people. An eyewitness account by Buck Colbert Franklin said “I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top,” He continues:

“Lurid flames roared and belched and licked their forked tongues into the air. Smoke ascended the sky in thick, black volumes and amid it all, the planes—now a dozen or more in number—still hummed and darted here and there with the agility of natural birds of the air.”

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The aftermath is that it was swept under the rug. It wasn’t until 2018 that it was addressed in school curriculum for Oklahoma’s schools and the Greenwood District isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

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On NPR this morning, the Watchmen showrunner, Damon Lindelof (who believes that the Watchmen creator has put a curse on him; I’m just saying this because if you google him, that will pop up), was on NPR this morning and said that the Watchmen from before had reflected the fears of current society which is why they focused on the fear of nuclear war. This current reiteration focuses on the fear of white nationalism and Lindelof said he was reading books about reparations when he got the call to do the show. He decided to make the opening about the destruction of Black Wall Street.

He thought the depiction of this could be an origin story for a superhero, an allegory to say Krypton being destroyed, with a black youth surviving the destruction of his community (it’s in the first few minutes of the show, so it’s not a spoiler-spoiler, but a young black child is taken to a safe spot by his Black Wall Street parents who leave a note with him that says “Please take care of this boy.”

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Once again, I’m done with superheroes for the time being, but this caught my attention. If it takes a television show based on a comic to bring national awareness to the Tulsa Race Riots  Massacre, cool.

ETA: Here’s the scene, courtesy of Rooo.

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