By Farayi Mungoshi
AFRICAN Americans and Africans have been repeatedly labelled as being lazy by Westerners and recently by US President Donald Trump.
Though some might seem to have given up on life and cannot be seen to be bothered about work, especially in America’s projects/ghettos, there is a reason for this.
I will refer mostly to the documentary, Black Wall Street, Little Africa, Tulsa, Oklahoma, compiled through interviews with survivors of the 1921 lynching in Tulsa.
I will also refer to the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation by D. W. Griffith in our attempt to show that black people are not lazy but rather they are hard workers who have been repeatedly robbed by a system that is designed to keep the blackman poor as a means to control him and keep him subdued.
The Oklahoma, Tulsa lynching of hundreds of black men, women and children in June 1921 is a story America doesn’t want the world to know; the reason being that they killed and murdered hundreds of people because they were jealous.
This story is missing from the history books in American schools.
Black Wall Street or Little Africa, as it was known, was a black neighbourhood (Greenwood) in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It was dubbed Little Africa or Black Wall Street because of the wealth and prosperity the blacks there had managed to create.
It was truly majestic, with its own churches, hospitals, schools, planes and even a bus line.
Historian Ed Wheeler said that it would seem the best black minds in the US had come together. Indeed, they were doing such a good job there was no mistaking which was the better or more prosperous side of Tulsa, the black side or the white side.
Let us bear in mind here that there was segregation already in 1921, which meant that blacks were restricted to one side of the city and whites on the other.
Little Africa was so prosperous they had a railway line running straight to it for business purposes.
The black businessmen there had so much money they would even loan some to white businessmen in need of capital to inject into their businesses.
No wonder whites became so jealous and envious; after all, these blacks were the same people they considered unintelligent and stupid as shown in Griffith’s Birth of a Nation! How come they were making more money than them?
They were living in mansions while whites could hardly get jobs in a state that was considered wealthy because of the oil found there.
At this stage, white war veterans had just returned from the First World War and were hoping to get jobs so as to take care of their families, but unfortunately there was no work.
Now imagine having gone to war believing you were serving your nation; losing friends and colleagues to the war only to return home to find out that the blackman you once considered your slave is now richer than you and is living in a mansion while you can hardly take care of your own family and in a country you consider your own.
Obviously there were going to be repercussions and it wasn’t going to turn out well for the black folk there just like the inhabitants of the Greenwood community found out on the eve of May 31 into June 1 1921 when the white community, with the help of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), decided to retaliate.
The KKK was formed in 1865 to intimidate blacks.
They imposed a reign of terror that lasted 15 years but by 1915 there was really no Klan to talk about.
All this changed when Griffith did his movie, Birth of a Nation.
The film portrayed black men as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the KKK as a heroic force that would fight blacks to protect their women’s (white) honour and pride.
According to Wikipedia, the film’s release is also credited as being one of the events that inspired the formation of the ‘second era’ KKK in 1915.
Eventually this would be the same force that would bring a terrible end to one of the most successful black neighbourhoods ever to grace the US.
On that terrible day in 1921, over a dozen planes flew over Greenwood dropping bombs on the unsuspecting families there.
And as they ran out of their homes looking to escape they were met with bullets from 500 armed whitemen.
The whitemen barricaded the city, shooting dead any blackman trying to escape.
They cut off the railway, telephone and telegraph lines into the city — nothing could enter or leave Tulsa that day.
Even though white-owned newspapers recorded the number of casualties as 30, it is known that over 300 blacks were killed in Tulsa alone.
The bodies of the dead were quickly disposed of that same night therefore making it hard for us to ever know the actual number of people killed that day but accounts show that at least between 1 000 and 1 500 people lost their lives that day.
Mary Jones Parish, a teacher and survivor of most probably the biggest single lynching in American history wrote: ‘Every negro was the same that day’ whether one was a surgeon or doctor he was no different from a lowly paid dustman.
She writes that if ever there was a lesson to be leant from that event, it was that one negro alone could not rise any higher than his fellow negro.
After having chased the blacks out of their homes, the whites went door-to-door looting every house of furniture, money, jewelry and anything of worth they saw, after which they then set fire to the houses.
It is not that blackmen are lazy, but rather the understanding that even if one is to sow seed, the taker is going to come and reap where he did not sow.
But that is no reason to sit back and do nothing.
What made Little Africa so prosperous was the unity among the people which in turn gave them the strength needed to succeed.
I am reminded of Muammar Gaddafi, who died for trying to unite and empower Africa.
We, however, should not give up. Instead we must draw positive lessons from such tragedies and begin rebuilding on what the whiteman destroyed; starting with our minds, programming ourselves and constantly reminding one another that we are not failures but winners and that there is an enemy who would rather see the demise of every black person.
Sadly, some of us cannot see this when it is right before our very eyes.