Circus accompanying Revs. Jackson, Sharpton is last thing Tulsa needs

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: April 13, 2012

THE Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Oklahoma City 17 years ago this month to express solidarity with black victims of the federal building bombing. Fortunately, we were spared the presence of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Tulsa won't be so fortunate. Jackson and Sharpton will descend on Tulsa just as (and because) the national media has descended on Tulsa following the Good Friday killings that appear to be racially motivated. And just as they descended on Florida weeks after Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a man whose motives are unclear.

In Tulsa, two white men are accused of killing three blacks and wounding two others. Police, prosecutors and city officials have their hands full trying to tamp down the emotions surrounding this case. The last thing they need is a media circus with Jackson and Sharpton serving as ring masters.

National interest in the case was a certainty. Connections have been made between last week's gunfire and the 1921 racial violence in Tulsa. What's the connection? None. In the earlier case, armed gangs divided along racial lines. It was certainly not a mass murder like the bombing or the Tulsa shootings. It was less a race riot than a race war.

Lingering animosity over that incident flared in the years since the Oklahoma City bombing, with outrageous, unsubstantiated claims made about the death toll in 1921. A black politician in Tulsa was envious over the attention the bombing was getting and demanded the 1921 victims get similar treatment. Calls for taxpayer-funded reparations for victims went nowhere in the Legislature; legal claims pertaining to the violence were taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, to no avail.

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