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Stop Whitewashing America's History, Tom Hanks.
Racism

Stop Whitewashing America's History, Tom Hanks.


In a New York Times opinion piece, self-described armchair historian Tom Hanks argues that every child should learn about the 1921 destruction of "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

With his essay, which was published on Friday, the actor jumped into a culture war currently being waged by conservatives over critical race theory, an academic term referring to the ways racism has influenced history that has become a right-wing boogeyman. Just this week, former Vice President Mike Pence said systemic racism exists in America is a “left-wing myth.”

“How different would our perspectives have been if we had all been taught about Tulsa in 1921, even as early as fifth grade?” Hanks wrote.

Schools, according to Hanks, should “also halt the battle to whitewash curriculums in order to avoid student discomfort.”

“America’s history is complicated, but understanding it makes us wiser and stronger,” he wrote.

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial.

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial..Over the course of two days in late May and early June 1921, white Americans stormed Greenwood, the prairie city's economically thriving Black neighborhood, and burned it to the ground, killing an unknown number of Black Americans.

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial..Over the course of two days in late May and early June 1921, white Americans stormed Greenwood, the prairie city's economically thriving Black neighborhood, and burned it to the ground, killing an unknown number of Black Americans..Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of Black victims, with thousands of people left homeless.

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial..Over the course of two days in late May and early June 1921, white Americans stormed Greenwood, the prairie city's economically thriving Black neighborhood, and burned it to the ground, killing an unknown number of Black Americans..Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of Black victims, with thousands of people left homeless..Survivors of the attack told Congress last month that some of the dead were simply dumped into a river; Viola Fletcher, 107, said she still sees "black bodies lying in the street."

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial..Over the course of two days in late May and early June 1921, white Americans stormed Greenwood, the prairie city's economically thriving Black neighborhood, and burned it to the ground, killing an unknown number of Black Americans..Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of Black victims, with thousands of people left homeless..Survivors of the attack told Congress last month that some of the dead were simply dumped into a river; Viola Fletcher, 107, said she still sees "black bodies lying in the street.".” Excavators are currently excavating a mass grave in Tulsa that is thought to contain the remains of some of the victims.

The Tulsa riot recently celebrated its centennial..Over the course of two days in late May and early June 1921, white Americans stormed Greenwood, the prairie city's economically thriving Black neighborhood, and burned it to the ground, killing an unknown number of Black Americans..Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of Black victims, with thousands of people left homeless..Survivors of the attack told Congress last month that some of the dead were simply dumped into a river; Viola Fletcher, 107, said she still sees "black bodies lying in the street.".” Excavators are currently excavating a mass grave in Tulsa that is thought to contain the remains of some of the victims..

Recent television shows such as HBO's "Watchmen" and "Lovecraft Country" that have addressed the Tulsa attack have highlighted how few Americans remember learning about it in school.

Hanks marveled in his essay that he only learned about it through a New York Times article last year, writing that failing to teach about Tulsa and patterns of extreme violence against Black Americans had the effect of “placing white feelings over Black experience — literally Black lives in this case.”

“The truth about Tulsa, and the repeated violence by some white Americans against Black Americans, was systematically ignored,” Hanks wrote, “perhaps because it was regarded as too honest, too painful a lesson for our young white ears.” As a result, “our predominantly white schools didn’t teach it, our mass appeal works of historical fiction didn’t enlighten us, and my chosen industry didn’t take on the subject.”

“Today, I believe historically based fiction entertainment must depict the burden of racism in our country for the sake of the art form's claims to verisimilitude and authenticity,” he said.

The complete essay can be found here.

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