Reparations For Tulsa | Crooked Media
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May 20, 2021
What A Day
Reparations For Tulsa

In This Episode

  • Progressive Representatives in the House led an effort to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel in a demonstration of the shifting political attitudes towards the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We spoke with Simone Zimmerman of B’Tselem USA and Yousef Munayyer at the Arab Center in Washington D.C. to get their perspectives. Also, Israel and Hamas are moving slowly towards a cease-fire.
  • We’re approaching the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma where a white mob destroyed 1,200 homes in the thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood, leaving an estimated 10,000 Black people homeless. Congress is considering reparations for victims and their descendants.
  • And in headlines: Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an extreme ban on abortion, Billy Porter spoke about his HIV-positive diagnosis, and Mitch McConnell won’t support a independent investigation of the Capitol insurrection.





Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, May 20th.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson, in for Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I am Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we’re demanding to know why no one invited us to the Friends reunion.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, obviously we weren’t in the show, but they should know we’re super fun at parties.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I would have had Joey dying of laughter. It’s a real missed opportunity. On today’s show Tre’vell Anderson is back with us again. This is amazing. They are a culture reporter and co-host of the podcast Fanti, among a bunch of other amazing stuff they do. We are so, so glad you could come back and rejoin WAD.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the WAD squad wanted more of my brilliance, so I decided to grace you all with my presence.


Gideon Resnick: What the people want, the people get.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. Coming up, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa race massacre makes the case for reparations. Plus, we’ll have headlines. But first, the latest:


[Sen. Bernie Sanders] Whereas is every Palestinian life matters, and whereas every Israeli life matters, now therefore, be it resolved that the Senate urges an immediate cease-fire to prevent any further loss of life and further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories.


Gideon Resnick: That was Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday introducing a resolution in the Senate calling for a cease-fire in Gaza,


Tre’vell Anderson: And we’ll get into more of the US’s response in a moment. But what are the updates from the Middle East?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so as we go to record at 9:30 Eastern, the known Palestinian death toll in Gaza was over 227, including 64 children. Twelve people have died in Israel, including two children. On Wednesday evening local time, an Israeli airstrike reportedly killed a married couple and their two-year old daughter in a city in central Gaza. And as we mentioned on the show yesterday, an already under-resourced public health system has been buckling, with medical supplies running short as doctors try to treat victims of the strikes. And that is compounding the already immense difficulties in treating COVID patients as well, according to a Wall Street Journal report that we can link to.


Tre’vell Anderson: What more have we learned about conversations between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems like there’s a little bit more every day. So early yesterday, Biden told Netanyahu that he was expecting a, quote “significant de-escalation” on the way to a cease fire, according to a White House press secretary. But then in public comments, Netanyahu did not seem to agree. He said that the bombing would continue, quote “until its goal is achieved.” And then later that same day, a senior Hamas official reportedly said that a cease-fire might be expected in a day or so, while Israeli officials said they don’t think they will stop until tomorrow at least. So that is kind of where we are.


Tre’vell Anderson: I need everybody to get on the same page, please and thank you.


Gideon Resnick: Yes.


Tre’vell Anderson: Earlier in the week, you mentioned this $735 million arms sale to Israel that the U.S. was going through with. But is there an update there?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, led a resolution in the House to block that sale from happening, along with Reps Tlaib, Pocan and Omar. And all this sort of speaks to how at least some of the political climate may have continued to shift in the US underneath our feet. To get more at that, I spoke with Simone Zimmerman a few days ago. She’s the director of B’Tselem USA, a human rights info center, which strives to end Israel’s occupation, and a co-founder of IfNotNow, which organizers in the US around these issues. And she said that all of this is the result of decades of grassroots activism led by Palestinians to change the minds of Democratic voters and American Jews on military assistance to Israel, but also the strong influence of these newer members of Congress.


[clip of Simone Zimmerman] Definitely one of the incredible things that we’re seeing in this moment is, for the first time, you know, the presence of the squad, the presence, the very existence of a Palestinian-American member of Congress. I mean, just Rashida Tlaib’s very existence in Congress has been completely earthshattering. Has sent, like, you know, earthquakes through our politics. And um, yeah, I think those people need to catch up. But it’s really hopeful to see that a younger generation and just a newer generation of leadership is is pushing for something different.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, she also added that the specific actions of Netanyahu and his close relationship with former President Trump may have opened the door to a broader critique of Israel’s actions.


[clip of Simone Zimmerman] The problems that we’re seeing right now did not start with Netanyahu, just like the problems that we’re seeing in America did not start with Trump. And I think that this moment that we’re living through has allowed people to see those connections much more clearly. And to understand, I would say that like people’s revulsion—I’ve seen, especially in the American Jewish community—people’s deep revulsion towards Trump and seeing that like Netanyahu was sort of his best buddy for while. I mean even after the election, Netanyahu continued to have his photo with Trump in his, like, Twitter cover photo. And I think that deep revulsion really allowed a lot of people to, to take this, the scary step of criticizing Israel for the first time.


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, Gideon, is there any sense of whether what we might be seeing in American political opinion is temporary or not?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s a tough question to answer. But another person with whom I spoke to earlier tried, Yousef Munayyer at the Arab Center in Washington, D.C. And he said it depends on whether the sentiment right now is taking a harder look at Israel and its history, or just waiting to turn the page on Netanyahu and act like things could be different.


[clip of Yousef Munayyer] We’re going to find out the answer to that question, if there is a post Netanyahu future. I’m willing to bet that over time, and I think the younger generation of the party is certainly on the side of it, that it’s the values divide that is going to ultimately determine the direction of the relationship. And I think whatever comes after Netanyahu, if one looks at Israeli politics today, is not going to be making any changes when it comes to the values of apartheid and colonialism that they relate to Palestinians with.


Gideon Resnick: More on all the soon. There is always far, far too much to cover and more voices to come as well. But let’s pivot to, well, other historical atrocities. Tre’vell, tell us about this pretty remarkable congressional hearing yesterday that dealt with a truly unspeakable part of American history.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So for those who aren’t aware, we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. If you’ve seen the shows Watchman or Lovecraft country over the last couple of years, then you’ve seen scripted reenactments of the violence that went down. Long story short, back on May 30th, 1921, a black teen entered an elevator in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was operated by a young white woman. At some point after that, the elevator operator screamed and the black teen ran away. He was arrested the next morning and rumors began to spread that he had a sexually assaulted the white woman. Though those charges were dropped days later, by that evening, an angry mob of racist white men totaling nearly 1,500 had assembled outside the courthouse, many of them armed. In response, a group of around 75 armed Black men also showed up at the courthouse in hopes of helping to protect that Black teen the mob wanted to kill. Shots rang out. Chaos ensued. Over the next few hours and into the next day, white Tulsans, some of whom were deputized and given weapons by city officials, murdered and tormented Black folks indiscriminately. They burned to the ground the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, which was known for its thriving Black business district known as the Black Wall Street. After more than 48 hours of carnage, 35 square blocks of Greenwood were destroyed, including more than 1,200 home, hundreds of Black-owned businesses, churches, schools and a Black-owned hospital. It’s estimated that 10,000 Black people were left homeless.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is a true atrocity. And this is important because yesterday in D.C., some members of Congress heard testimony in favor of reparations.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties—that’s a lot—is considering reparations for victims and their descendants of racial violence in U.S. history. Yesterday, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa race massacre testified about what she and her family experienced. She was seven years old at the time and is 107-years old now. Her name is Viola Fletcher, and she was joined by her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, who is 100-years old, and a third survivor, Lessie Bedingfield Randall, who is 106-years old. Here’s Viola:


[clip of Viola Fletcher] The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men seeing being shot. Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And others survivors do not. And our descendants do not.


Gideon Resnick: Wow. That’s really powerful hearing from her. And Tre’vell, she spoke because of a lawsuit filed by a group of Oklahomans. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?


Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. So last year, while everybody was posting Black boxes on Instagram, those three survivors were lead plaintiffs on a lawsuit against Tulsa, claiming that the, quote “brutal and inhumane attack” was carried out by white residents, as well as members of the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department, the National Guard, and other leaders of the city and county. The complaint calls the massacre an ongoing nuisance, and says that Tulsa officials are, quote “enriching themselves by promoting the site of the massacre as a tourist attraction.” Meanwhile, the residents of the Greenwood district have received no significant benefits from those efforts. Though the court filing did not include a specific amount being sought, the suit estimates that the property damage alone suffered by residents of the Greenwood area is between $50 million and $100 million today.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, I know you can’t put a number on a massacre, but that seems low if you are going to put a number on it. Am I crazy?


Tre’vell Anderson: No, you’re not. Give them all the money, OK? Now this suit falls in line with previous efforts regarding reparations connected to the Tulsa race riots. Back in 2005, actually, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal to hear a similar case, effectively affirming decisions by two federal courts that victims apparently waited too long to file their claims. The lawyers representing the group this time are using a new statute as the basis for their suit and hoping for a different result.


Gideon Resnick: Now, Viola’s testimony was really, really, really heartbreaking to hear, and a reminder that people who have lived through this history are still alive to this day. What else did Viola all have to say that stood out to you?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, there’s one line in particular that I can’t get out of my head:


[clip of Viola Fletcher] I’m asking that my country acknowledge what has happened to me, the tremors and the pain, the loss. And I ask the survivors and descendants to be given the chance to seek justice.


Tre’vell Anderson: The fact that this 107-year old woman is out here begging this country to acknowledge our collective history, to see the ways these racist violences of yesteryear have manifested in the lived experiences of generations today and those to come, all because white people don’t want to grapple with their foolishness—it’s, it’s truly stomach-churning and it’s enraging. You can see and hear Viola for yourself. We’ll put a link in our show notes. And that’s the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s Temp check, we are talking about the silent killer known as aromatherapy: a Texas man has filed a lawsuit suing Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop for five million dollars over a candle that allegedly exploded on his bedside table. The candle is provocatively called ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ but it turns out that’s not even the most interesting thing about it. Instead, it’s unique because it got, quote “engulfed in flames” after it was lit. For this plaintiff, as well as someone in England who said, quote “the candle exploded and emitted huge flames, with bits flying everywhere.” OK. Goop has described the lawsuit as frivolous, which clearly means they’ve never experienced the mortal terror brought on by a candle explosion. So Tre-vell, what is your reaction to this?


Tre’vell Anderson: There is a lot going on here, OK?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah.


Tre’vell Anderson: I have to admit, I’m still stuck on them saying that the candle smells like somebody’s vagina. I’m assuming that’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina? But then to know that it kind of exploded and became engulfed in flames. It actually reminds me of—you remember Vine back in the day?


Gideon Resnick: Oh, yeah. Yeah.


Tre’vell Anderson: OK, so there was this Vine back in the day where this Black woman, she got on her camera and she, she’s like—OK, this is what she says [laughs] she says: why you mad, because my pussy pops severely and yours don’t? And that is something that’s in my head that just gives new meaning to all of this.


Gideon Resnick: That’s incredible. That is. Yeah, I, I hope that that’s what Gwyneth Paltrow was going for with this, was [laughs] being inspired by that. I somehow don’t think so.


Tre’vell Anderson: I doubt it.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I have innumerable questions about this. I was hugely skeptical of the fact that a candle could explode. But I think now that we’ve had two instances of it, it maybe warrant a closer look, potentially?


Tre’vell Anderson: Hopefully, right? It’s, it’s really absurd. But this is what you get for spending $75 on a candle.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. Right. $75 for an item like this, even without the fire hazard, is an absurd thing to do. I have a lot of questions about this company and what they’re doing. But just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, don’t buy an exploding candle that is very expensive, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Tre’vell Anderson: Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that issues an extreme, almost complete ban on abortion in the state. The law bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected. That happens around six weeks, leaving most people without enough time to even realize they’re pregnant. There are no exceptions for rape or incest either. Texas follows a wave of Republican states passing similar anti-abortion laws. But as of now, all of them are still in limbo due to legal challenges. This law goes even further than the others with the inclusion of a special enforcement provision which gives private citizens the power to sue anyone remotely close to abortions, including: providers, clinic staff, volunteers, activists or even someone who just intends to help an abortion patient. And almost anyone can sue. All right. They don’t even need to be connected to the patient or live in the same state. Opponents of the law say it would open the floodgates for harassment and lawsuits that could shut down clinics across the state. It is set to go into effect in September, but it likely will face legal challenges.


Gideon Resnick: Psychotic, psychotic shit. Award-winning Pose actor and Met Gala show-stopper Billy Porter, revealed that he has been HIV-positive for 14 years. The news came from a Hollywood Reporter interview published yesterday. Porter described being diagnosed in 2007, a tumultuous year where he was struggling with bankruptcy and also diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Porter said he remained silent about his status over fears that he would be discriminated against in the entertainment industry. Over the pandemic, he decided to make a public announcement to help fight the shame and stigma around being HIV-positive.


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, either Mitch McConnell or the spiteful imp that takes control of his body to create chaos, said yesterday that he will not support an independent commission to study the July 6th Capitol insurrection. McConnell previously said he was open to the proposal, but this reversal means it has almost no chance of passing in the Senate. McConnell’s reasoning is that ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and congressional committees into the insurrection are enough. This differs from the argument of his counterpart in the House, Kevin McCarthy, who said he wouldn’t support an investigation of pro-Trump rioters unless it also covered, quote “political violence on the left.” Now, I’m not sure if there’s a second Capitol building that was stormed by Planned Parenthood doctors or social media managers from Ben and Jerry’s. All right. I’ll have to look that up, if y’all know about it, let me know. OK. But McConnell’s statements will please Trump and his huge base of support in the Republican Party. But they didn’t sit well with an anonymous group of Capitol Police officers who sent a letter yesterday expressing their profound disappointment. Might be worth scanning that letter so you can print it out and use it every single time Mitch McConnell opens his mouth.


Gideon Resnick: Hmm. That would be a useful use of it. OK, we have one final story about Republicans governing like parodies of Republicans, so I apologize deeply in advance. In Florida, state lawmakers approved a bill yesterday that seems to be written specifically to let Trump build a casino. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis helped negotiate and personally pushed for the bill, and not just because he wants to work at the casino as head of security. He has the perfect look, but does he have the killer instinct? We will find out. As far as the Trump carve-out goes, the law includes a deal with Florida Seminole tribe that says the tribe can’t block gambling licenses to places more than 15 miles from their casino in Hollywood, Florida. Experts in Florida geography will know that Trump’s Doral golf resort is just over 15 miles away. Coincidence? I don’t know. Trump Organization executive and B-list son Eric Trump has previously expressed interest in opening a casino at the Doral resort. So we’ll see if that happens now. Either way, shout out to Florida Republicans who set a goal of righting the world’s least important law, and exceeded every expectation. They are wonderful winners of that most prestigious prize. And those are the headlines.


Gideon Resnick: One more thing before we go. Yesterday, we said that representative Tlaib is the first member of Congress of Palestinian descent. She is actually the first Congress WOMAN. John Sununu and Justin Amash are of Palestinian descent as well.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, study Florida geography, and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just the warning labels on exploding candles very carefully like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And protect the second capitol building!


Gideon Resnick: You know, there might be people flying in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream there. It could get dangerous.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, I might want to show up.


Gideon Resnick: If they got it, I’ll eat it.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.