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Black lives matter.

That’s what went through my mind on the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre that killed an estimated 300 Black people a century ago, that burned down dozens of city blocks, that left thousands of Black people homeless, and stripped the wealth from a neighborhood so prosperous it was known as Black Wall Street.

But Tulsa wasn’t the only place it happened. It happened in Wilmington North Carolina, where a coup ousted Black elected officials, and violence chased out Black residents. And in case you think the political violence of January 6th was a one-time thing, it wasn’t. In the 1860s and 1870s, Black voters were attacked and killed in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Clinton, Mississippi, and even in New York City.

Those political attacks kept us from controlling tax dollars, kept us from getting our share of the pie, kept us from directing government money—our own money—to building Black wealth in our communities.

And still, Black lives matter. But if you learn nothing else today, learn this: Those attacks, over years and decades and centuries; that destruction of Black property and resources; that last resort that was used when racist systems worked too slowly; that is why white families have eight times the wealth of Black families. It’s not because we’re lazy, stupid or criminal. It’s because our labor, and our property, and our wealth was systematically destroyed, stolen, or stripped away.

But now that we know that, it’s time to build. It’s time to support Black businesses. It’s time to make a concerted effort to keep much of our money in our communities. Because we know that Black lives matter, we know Black history matters, we know our future matters, and if all those things are true, then Black dollars must matter, too.

Photo: Colorized image from the Tulsa Race Riot. By. Marc Carlson

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