Musings on what’s happening in Minneapolis + the Tulsa Massacre scene in Watchmen

Unless you live under a rock or been living in another planet, you’re likely aware of the chaos and unrest that’s been happening in Minnesota… particularly in Minneapolis.

I was ready to post a review of The Trip To Greece, which I had finished last Wednesday, but honestly… I didn’t feel right posting about such a movie when all I could think about was the police brutality that led to George Floyd’s untimely death on Memorial Day. Though I’ve lived in Minnesota since the early 90s, I have never lived in Minneapolis. I live in the southern suburbs about a half an hour away, but I visit the city often on weekends. It’s so heartbreaking to see parts of the city burn, vandalized and people getting hurt… seeing the devastations that started out as peaceful protests. This past week was filled with protests, looting, rioting, etc. that caused so much chaos and destructions that stretch for miles, not just affecting the neighborhoods where Mr. Floyd lost his life, but other neighborhoods as well. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were mobilized (even Star Tribune paper said if more were needed, it would be the first full mobilization of the Guard in Minnesota since World War II! – that certainly made me pause), and curfews were enforced from 8pm-6am in many areas in and around the city.

George Floyd mural on a wall of Cup Foods at 38th & Chicago, Minneapolis

Race relations in my adopted country United States is often in shaky grounds… it’s even more pronounced in the events of police brutality towards black men and justice was not served properly (i.e. in the case of Philando Castile where the officer who shot him was acquitted) Now, I don’t want to get political or philosophical about this matter, but I’m offering a brief commentary here as a person of color living in America. Coming from Indonesia, a country that was colonized by the Dutch for over three centuries that left its dark legacy of colonialism, it’s hard to overlook the fact that racial prejudice and superior mentality do exist and passed down through generations. Even amongst the most well-meaning, progressive-minded people, many are still ignorant of the pain certain groups have endured for generations, myself included. Thus I do believe it’s important to empathize with people who come from different backgrounds, no matter what race, but especially those who are minorities and marginalized… as we are all human beings created in the image of God. What happened to Mr. Floyd is wrong and he and his family deserve justice.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook and I avoid being on social media for much of this weekend. But I did come across an article in the Star Tribune that’s eye-opening and heartbreaking… a violent demonstration happened in Minneapolis Field neighborhood in July, 1931, where thousands of white people protested against an African-American couple moving in to the all-white neighborhood.

“More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about such blatant racism existed back then… but reading that still shocked me. It’s even more sad that this kind of systemic racism still goes on today and in many cities in America.

Another historical incident I did not know about was the Tulsa Massacre, which ironically happens exactly 99 years ago today as I’m writing this, May 31 of 1921. It lasted for 18 hours until June 1st, the following day, where 300 people, mostly blacks, were killed.

I only knew about this event when I saw the explosive opening scene of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen. The clip on youtube was labeled as ‘riots’ but it was definitely more of a massacre by an angry white mob.

Per Indiewire, this incident highly influenced the series, as Watchmen‘s show runner Damon Lindelof was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 article The Case for Reparations about the the Tulsa Massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District — aka “Black Wall Street,” the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time. I know many fans of the graphic novels are not keen on Lindelof’s reimagining of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s original creation, calling it ‘woke propaganda.’ I did not read the graphic novels, but I always think the story has always been political, even if the novel was perhaps more nuanced and complex than how the HBO show depicts it.

I’m actually glad when a movie/show gives me a brief history lesson so to speak, as I promptly googled the Tulsa massacre after watching it. Since I wasn’t raised here in the US and wasn’t taught American history in high school, I never knew this event ever took place. I thought initially this was a fictitious event in the show that depicts an alternate history. But as it turns out, many Americans didn’t know this was a real event, either. No wonder there was apparently a surge in Google search about that incident following the pilot.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, that event was marked as the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. This article in LA Times said attempts were made to cover up the events in the aftermath of the killings, and it took decades for historians and state officials to unearth the history. I think erasing history is just as atrocious as the actual historical event itself.

Now, I happen to think the show is outstanding in terms of its emotional quotient, acting (esp. Regina King‘s performance), production quality, and entertainment value. Hopefully one day I get a chance to do a proper post on it, but at the same time I feel ill-equipped to review the show. The racial issues depicted in the show seems so eerily similar to what’s going on in America today. In fact, having finished season one just days before Memorial weekend, that horrifying opening scene is still fresh in my mind.

So, back to the story about George Floyd, I sure hope this horrific incident would not become lost in the future like the Tulsa massacre. It’s heartbreaking that such a dark history was nearly obliterated… how can the new generation learn from past mistakes if they are shielded from the truth? Thankfully, it seems that the world has taken notice about this case, and street protests have spread globally to other parts of the world… London, Berlin and Toronto. In an usual move, even major Hollywood companies like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros, HBO, etc. voice their support for Black Lives Matter movement using their corporate social media accounts.

Now, for those of you from out of state/country who are watching only the devastation and horrible things coming out of Minneapolis lately, I’d like to end this post with this FB post by a Minnesota filmmaker that highlights just what’s going on today…

The protests are still going on and the city is not quite out of the woods yet, but I love how the community comes together and show that they care for one another. My hubby and I dropped off supplies earlier today at a local Food Pantry an hour before the drop off location closed and there were lines of cars trying to donate as well.

My heart is still heavy over what’s happening this week, but I pray that Minneapolis and the surrounding community will see light at the end of this dark tunnel… for peace, reconciliation and harmony, no matter how insurmountable all those things seem to be right now.

For my friends in the Twin Cities, stay safe and be safe.


10 thoughts on “Musings on what’s happening in Minneapolis + the Tulsa Massacre scene in Watchmen

  1. Hey Ruth, glad you’re doing OK as this is just scary out there. With all of the shit happening in America and a pandemic happening all over the world. It does feel like we’re at the end of the world. The Tulsa Massacre was something I had never heard about as there’s a lot of dark chapters in American history that isn’t talked about. It’s clear that there’s so much about this country that has been buried and it looks like everything is out in the open. I’ve been home a lot except to do a few things and take my mother shopping for things for my nephew and such. Yet, that is it. These are scary times.

    1. Hi Steven, yeah it’s scary and sad… and just like that, it’s as if Covid is suddenly forgotten! Of course the virus is still wreaking havoc, so I’m worried that more ppl are gonna get infected as they’re not social distancing during these protests.

      Where do you live btw? I haven’t been shopping at all other than groceries & necessities, but I’m grateful I still have a full time job and can work from home. Stay safe out there!

      1. Smyrna, GA just a couple of miles from the Braves baseball stadium as there’s been more than 100s of deaths here in Cobb County due to COVID. Me and my mother are fortunately safe as I’ve only been going out for groceries and get take-out food.

  2. Great article, Ruth. I’m glad you are well and safe. I was just researching Minneapolis for my third book — I can’t believe what a racist, anti-semetic history it has. I never would have thought at this day and time we’d still be doing things like this to one another.

    1. Hello Cindy, oh wow you are researching about Mpls for your next book? I can’t wait to read it. Yes there is a long history of racism and anti-semitism here. In fact, apparently the city where I went to college, St Cloud Minnesota, had many Nazi sympathizers, yikes! It is scary how this country haven’t come as far as we think in terms of race relations.

  3. Well written post Ruth, I’m at a loss for words about what’s going on in our state and country. Being a person of color myself, I’ve had my shares of racist behavior towards me but not at the same level of many of the black Americans that have experienced here in States. I feel like there’s nothing I can do to improve the system that was created to make people of color lesser than the majority population here but I’ll help anyway I could to make sure many of the people of color can feel safe. I don’t post political stuff on any of social media but I’ve donated and tried to help organizations as best I could.

    I’ve known about the Tulsa Massacre since high school since i love to read about US history and of course that event was taught in school here. After learning about it I’ve decided to watch more films made by black filmmakers such as Spike Lee. DO THE RIGHT THING shook me when I first saw it and it’s so relevant today as ever.

    As for the WATCHMEN show, I loved it. A great sequel to the graphic novel and the idiots who complained that it’s too political, well they must’ve missed the point of the original book. It’s all political except the politics of that time is different than today’s.

    1. Hi Ted, yeah I think as minorities in MN we surely have had our share of being prejudiced against, though I don’t always attribute it to racism… a lot of it is ignorance and people’s inherent nature of being afraid or feeling superior against people who are different from them. I also am not vocal on social media about matters like this… I’m just not interested in debates and people on FB seem to always take things the wrong way and misinterpret every little thing.

      Ok so you confirmed that even here in the US you were not taught about the Tulsa Massacre, that is just so sad!! I really should watch Do The Right Thing already, not sure why I haven’t seen it yet.

      Yeah I’m so glad I saw Watchmen, binged on that in just a week & a half, which is quite fast for us as we usually take our time w/ shows.

  4. “I’ve known about the Tulsa Massacre since high school since i love to read about US history and of course that event was taught in school here.” Oops! I meant to say that event was NEVER taught in school.

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