President Donald Trump is planning to appear in Tulsa, Oklahoma, next week for his first campaign rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, at a location and on a date that many are saying is incredibly insensitive and disrespectful to events in Black history in the U.S., especially in the wake of uprisings that have occurred following the killing of George Floyd late last month at the hands of white police officers.
Trump insisted that his decision to speak in Tulsa was based out of that state’s supposed handling of the disease. “A beautiful new venue, brand new. We’re looking forward to it,” Trump added, while speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt also claimed the decision to speak in the city was based on the state being a “national example in responsibly and safely reopening.”
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Yet campaigning in Oklahoma holds no strategic value for Trump politically — he already has a 19-point margin lead against his Democratic opponent Joe Biden — and the argument that Oklahoma serves as a model for how states should reopen after issuing stay-at-home orders during the rise of coronavirus is also questionable, given that hospitalizations in the state have spiked there since reopening began at the start of May.
So why is Trump going to Tulsa? Many on social media have suggested that his decision is an underhanded way to discount an important holiday for Black Americans called Juneteenth, which celebrates the June 1865 announcement to enslaved Black persons in Texas about the abolition of slavery near the closing of the Civil War. The holiday is often referred to as a “second Independence Day” among Black Americans, as the July 4th holiday did not grant freedoms to enslaved Black people when the Declaration of Independence was written.
The Trump administration is claiming that the Juneteenth date is meant to supposedly highlight “some of the progress that has been made” by the president on racial inequality, according to Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, even though unemployment among Black Americans is the highest it has been in years.
The location of Trump’s rally is also seen as a sleight toward the Black community. In June 1921, an affluent Black neighborhood in Tulsa was the site of a massacre, when white residents of the city pillaged and burned Black homes and businesses, and attacked and killed hundreds of Black people in response to an alleged assault involving a Black man in an elevator with a white woman (claims of impropriety, however, were “highly suspect from the start,” according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum).
More than 800 Black Tulsa residents were treated for injuries. It’s believed as many as 300 were killed by white Tulsans, which included firebombs from planes above the Greenwood neighborhood.
Users on social media expressed outrage at the venue and date choices from the president’s reelection campaign.
“Juneteenth is a celebration for emancipated slaves. It’s next Friday,” author Jason Overstreet noted. “That’s when Trump will have his next rally. But he chose Tulsa, where in 1921 white residents attacked black residents and businesses in what is known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. Trump is a RACIST DEVIL.”
Juneteenth is a celebration for emancipated slaves. It’s next Friday. That’s when Trump will have his next rally. But he chose Tulsa, where in 1921 white residents attacked black residents and businesses in what is known as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Trump is a RACIST DEVIL.
— Jason Overstreet (@JasonOverstreet) June 11, 2020
Bestselling author Morgan Jerkins described the choice as “not only offensive” but also “a desecration.”
“We still haven’t found all the graves of those who were massacred there back in 1921,” she added.
I can't believe that man is holding a rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, after all Black people in that city have gone through. It's not only offensive but it also feels like a desecration.
We still haven't found all the graves of those who were massacred there back in 1921.
— Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins) June 11, 2020
In response to the announcement, historian Elexus Jionde also expressed indignation. “We live in the pettiest version of hell,” she wrote.
No but seriously, the whole thing is evil. A Trump rally. On Juneteenth. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the black Wall Street massacre. We live in the pettiest version of hell
— elexus jionde (@Lexual__) June 11, 2020
Some wondered if Trump was unaware of the significance the city and the date had on Black lives in the U.S. “Trump’s first rally in months will be on Juneteenth in the city of the Black Wall Street massacre. His team might be too stupid to realize this, but what disgusting symbolism,” television writer Tyler Dinucci wrote.