Civil rights up close

My wife and I visited the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC yesterday. Why Greensboro? It is built on the location of the first African-American sit-ins at the “whites only” Woolworth’s restaurant counter. The counter and chairs remain as they looked back in 1960 when they were sat in by the Greensboro Four: David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil.

The museum is excellent, but very sobering that such treatment could occur in a land that was supposedly free. And, as our Congress debates the rationale for reparations for slavery, what should be included in the debate is people suppressed, tortured, and/or killed during the Jim Crow period. Seeing and hearing the story of Emmett Till or the Birmingham church bombing which killed four young girls is breathtakingly sad and maddening.

I have written before about the horrific lynchings which often accompanied degradation of the poor soul’s body before and after his death. Death by hanging is a slow death and horrible things were done to the victim to make them feel worse as they died. What kind of evil can make men do that? Black men were lynched for looking at a white woman too long or at all. The great Billie Holiday captured the sadness in her song “Strange Fruit,” referencing strange fruit swinging in the trees.

The Jim Crow period rivals the horror of slavery for a key reason – these were acts committed on supposedly free people. But, their freedom was “contained” in a box of voter and economic suppression. So, Jim Crow was an orchestrated modus operandi to keep Black folks down. Whites who tried to help were also ostracized. And, what is also disturbing, too many ministers found bible verses and preached differentiation and segregation.

We must loudly condemn actions and words today by hate groups who say another group’s rights are subservient to theirs. Nazism, Apartheid, slavery and Jim Crow are part of the same demonization and hateful fabric. It is not supposed to work that way in our country. Our elected leaders are supposed to be our better angels. When they fail to lead in a manner closer to our ideals, we need to tell them so. Or, find better leaders.

5 thoughts on “Civil rights up close

  1. Excellent post. Great question… what drives people to such hate? To te lack of empathy for our fellow human beings. Yes the “church ” with handpicked verses continues to spread darkness instead of being the light. Makes me sad really. Thanks for sharing your about your travels.

    • Lindi, thanks. It does make one sad. I recognize context is important, but sometimes doing the right thing is hard. More white people should have voted with their feet, pocketbooks and voices. This gets back to ministers who spew bigotry from the pulpit are derelict in their duties as religious leader. Keith

  2. From what I understand it’s not only white preachers. I know a few black and brown who believe and preach the same interpretations of the scriptures. Then there are those loose cannons that don’t belong to any large organization but listen to those leaders on the radio or tv. It’s hard to wrap my head around it.

    • Lindi, agreed, but preaching segregation and separate but equal is different than preaching one race is inferior to the other. The latter was done by a number of white preachers to rationalize Jim Crow. I don’t know how any minister can rationalize the maiming and killing of a man and especially a teen or child. Keith

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