Faith in God. Faith in the community. Faith in the system. That is why Tulsa, Oklahoma, didn’t devolve into race riots after the shooting of a black man by a white police officer.
Many residents took to the pews, while other cities, facing similar issues, took to the streets with looting and riots. Tulsa, often called “the buckle of the Bible belt,” is different because of its faith. Southern Baptists and evangelical Christians play a significant role in the community of 400,000 people. Oral Roberts University has its campus there.
The ethnic makeup of the city parallels that of the nation. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, slightly more than 60 percent of the population is white; 15 percent is African-American, and 14 percent is Hispanic.
The city has had its racial troubles, including a major riot many years ago. The police have faced both positive and negative reviews over the years.
“This is tragic–and something all of us should spend time reflecting on so we can make a better nation,” the Rev. Teron Gaddis, representing the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention, said. “This is not a race issue, a Caucasian or black issue.”
The reverend is black. Had a white leader said the shooting of a black man was not a racial issue he would have been chastised for taking up the “All Lives Matter” banner.
Even The New York Times and CNN had to admit that religion played a role in keeping the peace. Still, the media provided wall-to-wall coverage of the upheaval in Charlotte, with only a passing reference to the peaceful scenes from Oklahoma, including a Black Lives Matter protester holding hands with a white and a black police officer.
Everyone needs to look at Tulsa as an example of how to stop racial division. Riots don’t work; prayer does.
Christopher Harper, a recovering journalist with The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times, teaches media law.