Tulsa, what are we doing?


At first I wanted to throw cans of food through some windows in the Pearl District, but vandalism doesn’t really hurt the wealthy. They have insurance and a police force and a support system to protect them.

Then I thought about offering rides from the Day Center to the corner of 6th and Peoria all day long. Set up a table in Central Park and give wine and cheese to anyone who hasn’t showered in a week. Post some “free campsite” signs all around the park and hope that some people come from beneath the overpasses to camp in that beautiful spot we all paid for. Sure, it would probably cause a stir, but the homeless aren’t props in some demonstration. They’re people. And we shouldn’t need to make a scene to point that out.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do besides sit back, shake my head and whisper to my friends about how fucked up Tulsa has become.

So why would I want to break windows out of rich peoples houses with cans of green beans and creamed corn?  Because apparently in the Pearl District serving the needy for decades doesn’t matter. Unless you have a certain opinion, showing up to clandestine city planning meetings and voicing that opinion also doesn’t matter. Even bringing millions of dollars of development into a neighborhood that is literally begging for it doesn’t matter, but that’s only if the development is going to feed poor people instead of vegetarians and those with a strong dislike for gluten. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just read up on the  Iron Gate Soup Kitchen vs the Proletariat District. It’s yet another example of leadership in Tulsa putting profit before people and then looking ahead for a chance to get to go it again.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago that a handful of business owners downtown trumped the concerns of every Tulsan I know living north of Admiral and basically said, “Yeah, our business, and street, and district is named after a rich white guy who liked to wear white robes and participate in race riots, but do you have any idea how many tens of hundreds of dollars it will cost me to change the name on my menu’s? My business cards? My storefront? I already spent all of this money on signs telling people not to feed the animals (read panhandlers), and now you want me to re-write the history books and my letterhead? Not gonna happen….and North Tulsa, go fuck yourself”.

It wasn’t that long ago that we shut down a vagrant tent city on riverside because white people started to realize that living next to an empty brown stream was enjoyable. Fast forward 15 years and that same rivers edge is getting a billion dollar face lift and it’s not for the displaced campers wherever they went.

It wasn’t that long ago that we shut down the mental health facility at the YMCA downtown and shipped a portion of those poor fools across town to what looks like a retirement village next to the highway. It’s 5 or 6 miles from literally every other support system these people had when they were downtown, but at least we get to let someone make a bunch of money redeveloping 5th and Denver! And don’t forget, we have an awesome public transit system for people who need it, so living so far away from everyone you know and everyone who cares about you isn’t really that inconvenient is it?

The thing that gets me the most about all of this is that we let it happen every single day like it doesn’t concern us. We aren’t homeless or completely broke but we could be tomorrow if we got sick… or hit by an uber driver going the wrong way on a one way street…or laid off from an oil company that just reported  five years of record profits and tax subsidies. We’re the lower-to-middle class in Oklahoma. We aren’t rich, but we vote and think like we are for some reason. We pay our teachers shit wages and cut funding for food stamps, while simultaneously subsidizing a professional basketball arena for a team owned by one of the richest men in Oklahoma. We’re looking out for the best interests of those who need absolutely nothing at the expense of our children and those who need absolutely everything.

People die on our streets from heat exhaustion and from hypothermia every year in this city. Humans, die, starving at night, on the same streets where we drink lattes and start art crawls. We build parks downtown and encourage kids to play in the fountains, and couples to lay on the benches. But we also build parks downtown and arrest homeless people who cool off in those fountains, and try to sleep on those benches. We watch as people just like us, struggling day to day, are treated like animals. The only thing separating most of us from these animals is a thousand dollars a month and a shitty job working for tips so the owner can live in a gated community out south. What is it going to take for everyone to realize that they’re closer to being poor or homeless than they are to ever accumulating enough money to have their views, their best interests, their lives even considered by the wealthy and those who tower above us in government?

I think we’re smarter than this. I know my generation is smarter than this and my city is better than this. It’s time to get it together Tulsa.