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.

We must be better than this

The migrant crisis in Europe has brought to a head that we must help our fellow inhabitants on our Earth. Global poverty and corrupt leadership has led to significant disenfranchisement and upheaval in various places in the Middle East, Africa, South America and around the globe. To appease the disenfranchised, terrorist or criminal groups file in promising to address their needs or take up their cause. Unfortunately, the helpers are worse than those that placed the disenfranchised in these predicaments. So, the disenfranchised flee to raise their families in a safer place.

I recognize that many people in need of opportunity can overwhelm one country. That is why it is important for those who can to share their bread and water with others in need. We are seeing this occur in Austria, Germany, Sweden and other countries. Yet, we should not be making this difficult problem even more so. We have to be humanitarians and treat all with respect.  This holds true for our leaders in the US. We have to help others in need and not tolerate the hate spewed rhetoric being espoused toward illegal immigrants in our own country. The sad truth is some presidential candidates are perpetuating this hate and demonization and that is certainly not representative of presidential virtues nor very humane.

My new blogging friend Amanda Lyle in the UK has written a very compelling piece. Attached is a link to the article. I must forewarn you, it is has the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old boy whose body washed ashore. For those who remember the name Emmett Till from the 1950s, I shared with Amanda my hope Aylan’s picture will be a turning point like Emmett’s picture. Till’s mother insisted Life Magazine take a photograph of her dead boy’s beaten body lying in the casket, so the world could see what Jim Crow racism looked like in America.

Please check out Amanda’s post which is aptly called “The Day Humanity Washed Ashore.” Tell her what you think and feel free to share any conversation below.