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White House dodges on whether Tulsa ‘Black Wall Street’ massacre survivors should get reparations

The White House declined to support a push for three survivors of the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa and other descendants affected by the riots to receive financial reparations, a recommendation made by a state commission into the incident.

For President Joe Biden, what survivors of the Oklahoma massacre endured 100 years ago was “tragic and devastating,” but his focus was on raising awareness about the violence rather than seeking to compensate those adversely affected, according to White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

“He also supports a study, as we’ve said before, into reparations, but believes that, first and foremost, the task in front of us is to root out systemic racism where it exists right now,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday on Air Force One en route to Tulsa.

Biden is visiting on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the first president to travel to the city to commemorate the devastating riots. 

As many as 300 black Tulsa residents died and another 10,000 were left homeless when white residents destroyed houses and businesses in the city’s historically black and then-thriving Greenwood District, once described as “Black Wall Street.” A 2001 Oklahoma commission recommended that reparations be paid to black residents affected by the massacre after decades of the unrest being omitted from the state’s history.

White House aides equivocated late Monday when asked by reporters when Biden learned of the Tulsa massacre. But on Tuesday, Jean-Pierre boarded the presidential jet better prepared, saying the president had “been long familiar” with the riots.