Race Massacre Symposium Speakers Say Reckoning Is Overdue

May 21, 2021

Reverend Dr. Robert Turner and Warigia Bowman at Tulsa University's School of Law Race Massacre Symposium

At a law symposium held today to commemorate Tulsa's 1921 Race Massacre, speakers called for examination and reparations.

Reverend Dr. Robert Turner criticized the idea that governments in the United States can't be criminally charged. Turner was reacting to the recently given opinion of former Tulsa judge Robert William Kellough.

Kellough was asked by a committee investigating possible massacre gravesites to give a legal opinion on whether or not entities like the city of Tulsa could be held criminally responsible for supporting the murders in Greenwood. 

Kellough said criminal charges weren't possible, but that victims could file suit in civil court.

"Let's just entertain that notion for a minute," said Turner. "That a nation of laws cannot prosecute criminals if they happen to be the government."

Turner pointed to America's deposing of leaders in other countries. He used an example from his home state of Alabama. 

"What if France had said, 'Alabama, you had fifty-some governors elected during Jim Crow while a vast majority of your citizens couldn't even vote.' They could have called our government illegitimate."

Another speaker, assistant professor of law Warigia Bowman, called for reparations. She said conservatives in Oklahoma have not always opposed the idea, citing a 1997 commision formed at the direction of Oklahoma's Legislature.

"This very moderate or possibly conservative commission - not Bernie Sanders, not Ocasio-Cortez - this commission of Republicans recommended that the state of Oklahoma pay $33 million in restitution. That's the number they came up with," said Bowman.

The race riot commission submitted its suggestions to the legislature in 2001, but no action was taken. Bowman said now is the time. 

"So I ask you, Oklahoma State Legislature, can you take up the mantle? Can you pass this overdue legislation?"