1921 Tulsa Disaster Humanity

Men not of color saved their neighbors family of color. Social theory of deviant and emotional transfer theory may yield insight about group/ mob behavior based upon their individual sense of character. Even in the face of danger few men seldom heard about, during Tulsa disaster appeared. Few, but none the less, men dared to show humanity toward neighbors of a different race and protected them during the 1921Tulsa massacre.

The following statements yields minimal knowledge of commerce or business knowledge by the mob. “There were boys in the bunch from about 10 years upward, well-armed with guns. They would go into the houses, take what they wanted and burn the house down saying ‘These D — negroes have better things than lots of white people. The city ought to be sued for selling D — niggers’ property so close to the city.’

What if there is a reason why some people follow the crowd while men others go against the grain even at risk to themselves. Humanity may be lost when cruelty, and violence are the only stories told.

Below are partial accounts and quotations which support deviant and emotional transfer behaviors by a few participants in the Tulsa Disaster with connection to above social theories.

Amit Goldenberg, author of the study of a Stanford University doctoral student in psychology, explains:

Deviant subgroups influence their group’s behavior by convincing others to think as they do. He elaborated. “There are, of course, beneficial side effects like increased identity with your own deviant subgroup and feeling morally superior,” he said. Despite potential danger to self, the father of one neighbor not of color set an example for his son of humanity, character and decency. No accountability blaming others for their lack is an easy rational to sell oneself. According to Goldenberg, deviants are in all social groups …hiding in a crowd empowers deviant behavior.

Jones, Mary E. Parrish’s book Events of the Tulsa Disaster. In 1921, yields historical accounts writes “no respect of a person because of money, education, voting rights” she said were considered during this massacre.

James T West, High school Teacher, similarly said, ‘After lining up 30 or 40 men. Forced to run through the streets to Convention Hall, keeping our hands in the air all the while. While running, some ruffians would shoot at heels of men not allowed to put on their shoes and swore at those who found it difficult to keep up.”

Mobs drove a car into the bunch and knocked down two or three men. They herded people in like cattle. Shot in the back as they tried to flee to safety. People sick and wounded were dumped out in front of the building and remained without attention for hours. Minimal knowledge of commerce or business is implied.

Due to “emotional transfer” Goldenberg theory, shows when people become angry or guilty about their own group not responding appropriately to a situation — then they redirect their emotions from their group to outsiders, or the situation. Men not of color acted with empathy, compassion, and protected people of color.

The behavior of the conduct of neighbor seems to support “emotional transfer” theory. Richard J. Hill, Atty., International Bible Student said after usual Bible study group. Neighbors, people not of color knew their negro neighbors, and the mob actions were unwarranted and unjust. They instructed him and his family to remain in the house until some folks came.

Told us if we wanted protection, we had better go to the Convention Hall at once. This we promptly did, leaving our door opened. About two o’clock, we were called upon by White friends and brought back to our home tumbled around, but no severe damage.

We found a White gentleman in charge of the house, who related that himself his son and a few neighboring White friends had prevented any further molestation of our home. They were ready to stay with us all night if we thought it necessary to ensure that we would not be molested. My principal loss was a two-story brick.

When things did not form a straight line, grandmother would say “I have to rethink this thing”. Thus, in conclusion, we might revisit the assumption that people not of color act indecently solely because of racism. This view is not based upon fact. This mob verbalized envy, destructive, anger void of a moral compass. The violence and destruction of this event and others like them include misplaced anger, lack of information, independent reasoning, thinking and education. No accountability blaming others for their lack is an easy rational to sell oneself.

While the events of the past are brutal, unjust, working from a space of confrontation, blame and accusation, we could explore some formation of unity. It begins by acknowledging human nature in the good and bad. Working for meaningful change begins when we work together, find common goals within the group. Acknowledgement of the decent behavior of a few in a time of crises should be noted, applauded, and encouraged. People all have the same needs and ability to do what is right.



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Valorie Kelly

Valorie Kelly

I am a spiritual woman of color. My passion is to call to action, by written word, educate, inspire, support the vulnerable among us.