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Bynum Apologizes For Massacre On Behalf Of City, Supports 'Discussion' On Reparations

Chris Polansky
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum outside the Greenwood Cultural Center on Monday, May 31, 2021.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Monday morning issued a statement apologizing on behalf of the city for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, exactly 100 years after the racist attack by white Tulsans began.

"As mayor, I hold our local government to the highest standard," Bynum said. "Tulsa’s city government failed to protect Black Tulsans from murder and arson on the night of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and from discrimination in subsequent decades."  

"While no municipal elected official in Tulsa today was alive in 1921, we are the stewards of the same government and an apology for those failures is ours to deliver. As the Mayor of Tulsa, I apologize for the city government’s failure to protect our community in 1921 and to do right by the victims of the Race Massacre in its aftermath. The victims - men, women, young children - deserved better from their city, and I am so sorry they didn’t receive it," Bynum said.

Speaking to Public Radio Tulsa shortly after the statement's release, Bynum said he was unsure if the city had ever before officially apologized for the massacre.

"I thought it was really important on something this big for our community that it be crystal-clear where my position is as the mayor and where I stand on this," Bynum said. 

"I'm incredibly sorry for what happened," Bynum said.

Bynum said he supports Tulsa City Council Chair Vanessa Hall Harper's resolution that will be considered at the council's Wednesday meeting to formally apologize and begin a process of determining whether and how reparations should be paid to descendants.

Bynum said he remains opposed to making reparation payments directly from municipal coffers because he considers that unfair.

"There's one thing that I've been clear I'm opposed to, which is a lawsuit settlement where we levy a property tax on everybody in Tulsa and pay reparations from that. I mean, you would literally be levying taxes on the descendants of victims to pay that, and you'd be financially punishing people in Tulsa that didn't do anything wrong, and so I don't support that." 

Asked whether he'd considered that descendants and survivors who have never received restitution are also individuals who "didn't do anything wrong," Bynum said the massacre affected all Tulsans.

"I would say our whole city continues to be punished by the outcome of the Race Massacre. You know, I completely reject the notion that Tulsa somehow benefited from this. You think about what a better city we would be today if the Race Massacre had not occurred and we had one of the most vibrant African American economic districts in the world still here and thriving in Tulsa, one of the most diverse economies of any city in America -- our city would be so much better. And so all Tulsans suffer because of this event," the mayor said.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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