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President Biden will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre Tuesday with a visit to Tulsa, Okla. — where he’ll unveil a new effort to invest $100 billion in minority-owned businesses, despite previous legal pushback on other race-based government initiatives.
The massacre took place in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, starting on the evening of May 31, 1921, and continuing into the next afternoon.
The neighborhood, often referred to as “Black Wall Street,” was home to great economic prosperity for black residents before white rioters burned it to the ground.
Of the more than 30 blocks that originally made up the black neighborhood, burned bricks and a fragment of a church basement are all that were left.
White mobs killed an estimated 300 black residents, injured about 800 more, left 8,000 residents homeless — yet saw no punishment from law enforcement.
The massacre, like other atrocities of the pre-civil rights movement era, has received renewed attention in the wake of nationwide protests last year sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
As part of Tuesday’s events, Biden will tour the Greenwood Cultural Center and meet with the three remaining survivors from the massacre, as well as other community leaders.
Afterward, he’ll deliver a speech memorializing the tragedy and announcing new measures on racial equity.
Specifically, senior Biden administration officials told reporters Monday that the president would unveil plans to increase federal contracting for disadvantaged small businesses by 50 percent by 2026.
The funding would provide an additional $100 billion to those that qualified.
As part of Biden’s plan to further racial equity, the administration announced Tuesday that the Department of Housing and Urban Development had proposed new rules to counter housing discrimination that it would send to Congress for authorization.
The new regulations, the administration says, will seek “to root out discrimination in the appraisal and homebuying process” to help boost minority homeownership.
Tackling disparities that result in lower appraisals for black-owned homes is also on the agenda.
He will also discuss his American Jobs Plan, part one of his “Build Back Better” proposal, a centerpiece of his post-COVID campaign message.
On Monday, Biden issued a proclamation marking the anniversary of the tragedy and calling on Americans to “reflect on the deep roots of racial terror in our nation.”
He also urged people to “commemorate the tremendous loss of life and security that occurred over those 2 days in 1921, to celebrate the bravery and resilience of those who survived and sought to rebuild their lives again, and commit together to eradicate systemic racism and help to rebuild communities and lives that have been destroyed by it.”
“We honor the legacy of the Greenwood community, and of Black Wall Street, by reaffirming our commitment to advance racial justice through the whole of our government,” Biden’s proclamation concluded, “and working to root out systemic racism from our laws, our policies, and our hearts.”
While Biden continues his racial equity push, he’s faced legal pushback on some of his efforts.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction to America First Legal, a group run by President Donald Trump allies Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows, in their lawsuit against the Small Business Administration over its effort to prioritize grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to minority-owned businesses.
“This order is another powerful strike against the Biden administration’s unconstitutional decision to pick winners and losers based on the color of their skin,” the group said in a statement after the decision was announced.
In another case, Vitolo v. Guzman, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the SBA and in favor of plaintiff Antonio Vitolo.
Vitolo, who is white, is married to a Latina woman. They each own half of a Tennessee-based restaurant.
Citing Supreme Court precedent, Appeals Court Judge Amul Thapar ruled that in order to justify the SBA’s methodology, the agency would need to be addressing specific episodes of past discrimination, intent must be proven and the government must be shown to play a role in the discrimination being addressed.
In this case, the SBA failed to do so.
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