Civil Rights

Now What?

(I wrote this for the Urban News in July 2020.)

So, protests have swept the nation. There were protests from California to Texas to Florida and everywhere in between. There were protests in large cities like New York, Washington DC, and Chicago. And there were protests in small towns throughout the United States like Canton, MO, Morgantown, WV, Potsdam, NY, and Woburn, MA. More than a hundred protesters even showed up for Black Lives Matter in Pen Argyl, PA (population 3,600). The majority of the protests were peaceful. Unfortunately, there was some looting, though whether connected to protesters or simply opportunistic is in question. Lately, it appears that the protests have been centered around Confederate monuments.

This whole movement, whatever you want to call it, must be about more than pulling down Confederate monuments. There must be something tangible that comes out of all this heartache and pain.

I grew up in the South. I have lived more than 90 percent of my life in the South—from Dallas, to Shreveport, to Atlanta, to Asheville. I live and breathe southern culture. We glossed over the Civil War in high school. I did read Battle Cry of Freedom, an 800-page monstrosity written by James McPherson. It is incredibly detailed; it even appears to me that McPherson told it like it was. Like it still is.

States’ Rights v. Slavery
When you grow up in the South, you are taught that the Civil War was fought because of “states’ rights.” That is, the southern states simply wanted the right to do whatever they wanted without Washington telling them what to do. And because of this, young men took up arms against those bad old Yankees. And, the argument continues, Southerners just wanted to be free. They were rebels against too much government power.

Unfortunately, this is a nice, innocent, and utterly dishonest retelling of history. The South wanted to own slaves. The Civil War was about slavery.
Now, when I look back at it, it was almost funny, if not criminal, the way the Civil War was taught in high school. We only really covered three things: we learned about a few battles; the North won; and Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

That was mostly it. Oh, and there was this thing called Reconstruction, but it didn’t last.

But when you delve deeply into the War Between the States, you see something different. South Carolina was the first state to withdraw from the union. Their leaders wrote up this very nice document that resembles the Declaration of Independence in some ways. They laid out their grievances. They opined that the Constitution of States that were the original 13 states were to be “free, sovereign and independent states.” (They did write this in CAPS, just to make sure that nobody misses it.)

The truth
But toward the end of their declaration they began to rail against the “non-slaveowning states,” writing, “They have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies whose avowed object is to disrupt the peace and to eloign [take away] the property of the citizens of other states. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes, and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

It would be heartwarming if South Carolina were the only state that openly stated they left the union because of slavery. But, almost every one of the states that seceded had something like this in their declarations of secession. More importantly, in the Articles of Confederate States (Constitution of the Confederate States), the document that the seceded states put together, clearly delineates in Article 1, section 9 that the South was about slavery. The clearest section is subsection 4, No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.

To me, this is pretty clear. The Civil War wasn’t about honor or virtue. Now, did honor and virtue occur during the war? Of course they did. Honor and virtue appear during every war. So does noble sacrifice, and even heroism. All of these are noble qualities.

But that’s not what the Civil War was about. The Civil War was about slavery. It was about the South’s right to keep human beings enslaved as personal property; as chattel. That’s what the Civil War was all about.

Until we, as Southerners, understand this, embrace that truth, make it become one with our souls, we are doing everybody a disservice. (more…)

By |2020-09-23T19:32:15-04:00September 23rd, 2020|Civil Rights, Newsletter|Comments Off on Now What?

Newsletter – Well, This is Pretty Awful

I wrote this for the Urban News for June 2020.

It is really hard to know where to start. I thought about just submitting a column that starts with expletives; it would also be completely filled with expletives and it would end with expletives. Somehow, I did not think the thoughtful editors of The Urban News would accept such an article.

It Happened Again

This time it was Minneapolis, but the sad truth is it could have happened anywhere in the United States. Another black man, George Floyd, was detained by police because he was suspected of passing counterfeit $20 bills. There was an altercation, a detainment, a handcuffing.

There was yet another infamous cellphone video. We see George Floyd being held down by a white police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck, one hand casually in his pocket. Mr. Floyd is on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind him, and can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”

This is so reminiscent of Eric Garner, it hurts. It hurts badly. As you recall, Eric Garner was a black man who was stopped by police for selling individual cigarettes—a crime in New York. As he is dying, his last words are, “I can’t breathe.” The police officer used an illegal chokehold on Mr. Garner—also a crime in New York.

That was almost six years ago. As in Minneapolis, the officers do nothing to resuscitate a lifeless Garner. The police officer who used the illegal chokehold to kill Garner was fired. There was no indictment. No one went to jail.

Almost any black American—well, I should say, almost any progressive American—can name five to 10 Black Americans killed at the hands of American police officers over the past several years. Their names are widely known, the incidents infamous. Sandra Bland was pulled over in Texas for a traffic stop while visiting for anew university job. She was arrested for almost no reason, and she died in jail with no explanation. No-one was held accountable; no-one went to jail.

Michael Brown got into an altercation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His offense, which ultimately cost him his life, was walking in the middle of the street. Michael Brown ignored the police request to get out of the street and walk on the sidewalk. The incident escalated and ended with Michael Brown being shot to death. The officers were not indicted; no-one went to jail. (The 13th Juror is a book that I commissioned Nelda Holder to write. It is about the death of Michael Brown.)

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black youth who was developmentally delayed. He was playing in a park by himself with a toy plastic gun—the way white boys play “cops and robbers” with impunity. An unidentified stranger called the police because this 12-year-old boy was playing with a toy gun. The police drove up with their guns drawn. Rice did not respond to initial instructions that were shouted at him, and two seconds after their arrival, he was shot dead. He was treated as a hardened criminal. There was an investigation and the conclusion was that shooting was “justified.”

More recently, Ahmad Aubrey, former football standout, was jogging in a neighborhood close to his home. The unarmed 25-year-old black man was spotted by a father and son, both ex-police officers. They decided that Aubrey fit the description of a suspect responsible for several break-ins in the area. They grabbed their weapons, hopped in their pickup truck, and chased Ahmad down. They followed him, hit him with their truck, and when he tried to challenge them, they shot him to death on a public street in Georgia. For months—until a video came out—there were no arrests. (Let’s not forget Breonna Taylor.)

Ahmad Aubrey’s case echoes the death of Trayvon Martin, a young man was walking back to his house from a convenience store when he was confronted by a resident of his father’s apartment complex—a former “neighborhood watch” leader. A fight ensued. Trayvon Martin was shot dead. George Zimmerman, the security guard, never saw a day in jail for killing an unarmed man. (more…)

By |2020-06-14T22:58:23-04:00June 14th, 2020|Civil Rights|Comments Off on Newsletter – Well, This is Pretty Awful

Meet the Press – Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King

I thought that I would re-post this episode of Meet the Press.

Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, and Martin Luther King were on Meet the Press back in 1963.  This was just before the March on Washington.  The format of Meet the Press was a little different.  There were three reporters firing questions at the guests.

This is very interesting. One of the reporters was terribly worried about violence, which in looking through a 50-year retrospectoscope, looks to be awfully racist to me.  What he appears to be saying is that Blacks can’t assemble in large numbers without tearing stuff up.  Hell, we know that Whites have trouble assembling in large numbers without tearing things up (Woodstock II).

Interestingly, it appears that Wilkins is the more “important” guest.  King becomes the great MLK, after the March on Washington and after his “I Have a Dream” speech.

 

By |2019-03-03T20:36:46-04:00January 21st, 2019|Civil Rights, Race|Comments Off on Meet the Press – Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King
Go to Top