Joe Biden on Tuesday will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the massacre of hundreds of Black Americans by a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as he marks one of the worst chapters in the country’s history of racial violence.
Biden, a Democrat, will meet with the handful of surviving members of the Greenwood community on the 100th anniversary of the killings, and announce steps to combat inequality, White House officials said.
Biden earned their goodwill as vice president under Barack Obama, the first Black U.S. president, and chose Kamala Harris, the child of a Black father from Jamaica and an Indian mother, to be his running mate.
But he came under fire during the 2020 campaign for his opposition to school busing programs in the 1970s that helped integrate American schools. Biden sponsored a 1994 crime bill that civil rights and justice experts say contributed to a rise in mass incarceration, and defended his work with two Southern segregationist senators during his days in the U.S. Senate.
“We all evolve, we grow, we learn. And I credit him for that,” Vela said.
Biden “does not seem to be the Joe Biden of the crime bill, but he has never repudiated the crime bill,” said William Darity Jr., a professor at Duke University, who co-wrote “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twentieth Century.”
The Tulsa visit would be a meaningful time to announce a presidential commission to “explore the history of America’s racial atrocities, and bring forth proposals for racial justice,” Darity said.