National Public Radio is attempting to turn the horrific Tulsa shootings into a story of systemic racism and collective guilt--and citing opposition to President Barack Obama as evidence of racial prejudice in Oklahoma.
On today's Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep interviewed historian Scott Ellsworth, who attempted to place the Apr. 6 shootings--in which three black people were killed and two injured--in the context of a massive race riot that took place in 1921, nearly a century ago.
As for more recent evidence of racism, Ellsworth cited the state's "conservative" political leanings and its vote against Barack Obama in 2008 (emphasis added):
Inskeep: Has Tulsa changed a lot [since 1921]?
Ellsworth: Well, I think Tulsa has changed some. You know, I think it’s important to remember that Oklahoma is a very profoundly conservative state. In 2008, Oklahoma was the only state where not a single county voted for Obama. You know, I spoke to African-American activists on Monday morning about the shooting, what’s going on. I think that white Tulsans and black Tulsans are going to fundamentally disagree on how they see this event. I mean, we don’t know that much about it yet, so, some caution. But I think they’re going to look at it differently.
Inskeep: What do you mean, differently?
Well, I think that most whites in my hometown will see this as a tragedy, an ugly event, but they will also dismiss it as an aberration. Whereas I think in the African-American community, I think they will see it as part of a larger picture. They live in a state where the majority of the electorate, the white electorate, is, you know, very much anti-affirmative action. There’s even, in Tulsa, a district that just in the last couple decades has been named the Brady District, which is after a fellow [W. Tate Brady] who was one of the founders of Tulsa, but he was also a prominent member of the Klan and supporter of the Klan. Efforts by the black community to get that--the name of that district changed have gone nowhere...
Interestingly, Ellsworth failed to mention that Brady was not only a Democrat, but a member of the Democratic National Committee.
Prosecutors are still urging the public not to conclude that the Tulsa shootings were a hate crime, noting that revenge was a possible motive. What is clear, based on the available facts, is that the Tulsa shootings already resemble a hate crime more than the Martin shooting ever did.
There was premeditation; there was verified (not invented) use of a racial slur; and there was apparent indiscriminate killing of victims for the sole reason that they were black. Now there are even confessions (to murder, not to racism) from the two killers, one white and one of mixed Native American descent.
The problem, for NPR and for those attempting to cast recent events in political terms, is that the Tulsa shooting is such a discrete event that it does not lend itself to "systemic racism" explanations. That is why the mainstream media is reaching into distant history to establish a wider racial context.
When NPR's key piece of evidence is not a series of hate crimes, or even a pattern of present-day discrimination, but the 2008 electoral map, it's clear what the strategy is. This is about casting opposition to Obama as racist, and shifting the agenda for the 2012 election.