Civil rights up close

The following is repeat post from three years ago. With the purposeful white washing of history to not inform students of the terrible acts committed in our country, we are masking greatly needed, but ugly lessons. These lessons are supposed to be ugly truths. That is why they are taught.

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.

20 thoughts on “Civil rights up close

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the individuals who run for leadership positions. Some are altruistic, but it seems that others are selfishly motivated, or pawns. How, I wonder, can we encourage better leadership?

  2. Such exhibitions truly bring you back to earth. It can be very disturbing to realize what “humans” did to other humans. Although we knew basically knew it, but this way it goes even deeper. Important though, not to forget what must not be repeated anymore.

  3. Note to Readers: The tour guide for the Greensboro tour was excellent and made you feel the horror of the abuse. Her telling of the Emmett Till story of what was done to this poor boy is one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard. Also, this museum had an interactive map board which revealed the sit-ins across America following the Greensboro one. Courage is a remarkable thing to witness, even long after the heroes have died.

    • PS – An interesting story about how the city of Charlotte handled integrating restaurants after these sit-ins. The Chamber of Commerce suggested White business leaders inviting Black business leaders to lunches. This helped set an example for others to follow. The city did not handle other integration issues as well, but this is a good story.

  4. The Emmett Till story brings me to tears every time I read it, as do so many others. History … any nation’s or peoples’ history … is a mixture of good and evil, but the solution for a better future does NOT lie with hiding the evil, but rather with exposing it for all to see and learn from! I’m distressed by such laws that are being passed in states today that will disenfranchise many voters, mostly Black people. One state has even passed a law making it illegal to give a ride to the polls to a voter without transportation. Is this really the nation we wish to be?

    • Jill, these laws are made by a group whose demographics do not favor them in the future. To avoid scrutiny of the blatant cheating the Republican party does, it has distracted us and used the Trump fraudulent claims as more reason to cheat. Do Democrats cheat? Yes, but it is heavily weighted on the right per this independent voter. Keith

      • Yes, distractions seem to be their forte. But at the same time, while we’re busy viewing those distractions, they are busy weaving their evil into the framework of our government. What percentage of Black people do you think will be able to vote in November? My guess is less than half. Polling places are closing, ridiculous ID laws are being implemented … next they’ll be asking people to pass a poll test! Sigh. And just today, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that would have sent a gerrymandered state map in Alabama that is largely skewed to the white population rather than a representative mix. Bah Humbug!

      • Jill, the stealing of our candy while distracting us is a sad state of affairs. At least in NC, they did rule the latest gerrymandering unconstitutional. Keith

  5. There are those in the White Community who are imitating the efforts of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s Ninety Eighty-Four.
    They have no love of democracy or responsibility. They wish to re-invent and dominate. A shameful and ignoble facet of Human Nature, and nothing new. Distasteful and they are fooling no one, part from themselves

    • Roger, not dissimilar. The future demographics have scared Republicans for years, so their efforts to suppress votes and cheat have heightened. This is one reason a growing few are supportive of Putin, as he has autocratic rule over a lilly white country. Keith

      • Then they are not reading their world history very well. A minority can seize or ease its way into government and authority, it can even hold it for a measure. However it can not hold indefinitely. Add to the equation the fact that the USA’s overall population has in the past fifty years become used to having a voice, AND, in the very worst case scenario also invokes its opportunity to carry weapons then you have a situation at least as bad as Ulster.
        Nearly as deluded as the German belief in 20th century Lebensraum.
        Putin is part of Russia; they do things differently there, for twice as long as there has been a USA. That sort of USA only happens in novels.
        The best this kind of Republican can hope for is a cessation, as thus being small country status ideal prey for states such as China.
        Whichever way they try and arrange it, it comes out bad for them.

      • Roger, let’s hope they are held accountable, but with social media, it has enabled and masked their subterfuge. The fact the lying has helped them win more votes than they deserve is troubling. Keith

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