White House Dodges Position on Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations

President Joe Biden is traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the racist attack that left as many as 300 people dead and another 10,000 destitute and homeless in what was at the time the wealthiest Black community in the country.

But the White House won't say whether Biden personally supports the increased calls for reparations or financial compensation for those affected by the long-overlooked devastation of "Black Wall Street."

"President Biden believes we have to take core steps right now to fight systemic racism—things like fighting redlining, supporting funding for underfunded schools that are too often located in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods and more," White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday, repeatedly dodging direct questions of whether the president supports reparations for the Tulsa massacre victims. "He believes that first and foremost, the task in front of us is to root out systemic racism where it exists right now."

The Biden administration has previously voiced support for a House-led effort to study reparations for descendants of slaves, but similarly hasn't revealed whether he would sign legislation if it reached his desk.

Biden is scheduled to tour the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, where he'll meet with the three known survivors of the Tulsa race massacre and give public remarks about the event.

The centennial of the attack on the prosperous Greenwood community has prompted increased calls for financial compensation for the lost wealth and property. A decade ago, an Oklahoma commission tasked with studying the issue concluded that reparations are deserved, but it didn't identify who should pay.

Biden previously has acknowledged the massacre with a tweet on its 99th anniversary last year.

"The Tulsa race massacre is one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our history, and it has been erased from our national consciousness for far too long," he wrote. "It's time to be reckoned with what happened in 1921."

But Jean-Pierre said his decision to visit Oklahoma and meet with survivors was driven by his hope to further raise awareness of the attack.

Ahead of Biden's visit Tuesday, the White House unveiled initiatives targeting home ownership and small business ownership to address existing racial inequities, promising a "first-of-its-kind interagency effort" to address inequity in home appraisals and efforts to fight housing discrimination. The government also will increase federal contracting with small disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, which the White House estimates will mean an additional $100 billion for those businesses over five years.

"This builds on the president's historic approach to advancing equity and racial justice across the federal government," Jean-Pierre said.

Joe Biden won't say Tulsa reparations position
US President Joe Biden makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on June 1, 2021. - President Biden is heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma on the centenary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images