Showing posts with label race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label race. Show all posts

Monday, April 24, 2017

Old Times Not Forgot?

I'm an old White Guy from Mississippi.

I know a thing or two because I've seen a thing or two.

I mention this not only because I know what I saw happen during last year's election, but also because of something Haley Barbour of Mississippi said several years ago.

And because I fear for the future of the American Republic. I fear for our future because one of our two political parties exhibits contempt for the practices and objectives of democracy.

A few years ago, Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, aroused controversy by his claim that "things weren't that bad" in his home town of Yazoo City, MS during the civil rights movement, and that the White Citizen's Council played a helpful role in peaceful integration.

Haley Barbour was wrong. Not only that, he did a disservice to his home town, his county, and his state by failing to recognize that despite very real danger, courageous citizens of  Yazoo County and neighboring Holmes County did play a helpful role in integration. There was, for example, Hazel Brannon Smith, the courageous owner and editor of the the Lexington Advertiser, in Holmes County, just north of Yazoo County. Her account here of the formation of the White Citizen's Council and its purposes and methods gives the lie to Barbour's more rose colored recollections.

In 1955 in Holmes County, the White Citizen's Council, together with the County Sheriff, ran the leaders of an interracial cooperative farm near Cruger out of the county. Here is a brief account of that event. For a more detailed account, see Providence by Will D. Campbell.

I know Yazoo City (pronounced "yeh-zoo", not "yah-zoo"). My father and younger brother were born there. My parents, grandparents, great grandparents and great aunts and great uncles are buried in Glenwood Cemetery there. Other relatives are buried at the cemetery at Fletcher's Chapel about five miles southeast of Yazoo City. My grandmother took me there once to see the yankee cannon ball embedded in the chapel's wall.

I'm about ten years older than Governor Barbour. Even so, he would have to have been totally oblivious as a young man not to know what the White Citizen's Council was up to.

It is true, so far as I know, that Citizen's Councils did not directly organize any murders. Those episodes (Emmett Till, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, and others) seem to have been done by the Klan. But as a result of Citizen's Councils efforts, many Black Citizens lost their livelihoods. The Citizens Councils published names of Black citizens who actively sought their civil rights, including the right to vote. Members of the Klan and others of a violent inclination knew what to do with that information.

Nor was the Citizen's Council only interested in Black activists. They worked closely with the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to harass and intimidate white citizens receptive to integration.  I know this because I was one of their targets during my student years at Ole Miss.
The White Citizen's Councils never supported integration, peaceful or otherwise. As the White Citizen's Council newspaper explained in a front page article in 1956, "integration is a Communist - Jewish conspiracy to mongrelize the human race."
When Haley Barbour of Yazoo City, (where my father was born in 1915 and my brother in 1941) was appointed Chair of the Republican National Committee in 1993, astonished journalists in DC asked Barbour if it didn't seem surprising for someone from the deep and formerly solid South to be Chair of the RNC, Barbour's answer: "not at all! Where Mississippi has been is where the country is headed." 

I thought that, if he was right, this was an ominous foreboding. .

Oriental resident (or former resident gone cruising) Tony Tharp, called attention to an article in the Jackson Clarion Ledger blog site describing just where Mississippi's footsteps might lead. Tony, a native son of the Mississippi Delta (near Leland, MS along US Highway 82), often reflects on past and current developments in the state.

Donald Trump exploited all of the old racial fears of white people in last year's campaign, as did Ronald Reagan before him in 1980.

Russia is pushing the same agenda of white supremacy.

Let's stop sweeping this stuff under the rug.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Free State Of Jones

Sunday Liz and I and some neighbors went to see the movie: The Free State of Jones.

Don't miss it.

It is a very well researched and well produced movie about events during the Civil War in Jones County, Ms. involving Newt Knight, his paramour, an escaped slave named Rachel, and their neighbors and families. The story seems fantastic in many ways, but is mostly true.

It ties Civil War events together with Reconstruction and with a 1946 trial of a descendant of Newt and Rachel, who was charged with violating Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws by marrying a white woman.

The film has obvious connections with current events in Ferguson, Mo., Charleston, etc.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow objects to the film. I think he misses the point. He actually misses several points.

So I want to offer some thoughts that differ from Blow's analysis (

1. The film depicts the origin of the observation that the Civil War was a "Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight;
2.  The film shows people, both white and black standing up against the power structure of the day, but imperfectly;
3.  There are no heroes, just people who did what they had to do;
4.  The Civil War was a lot more complicated than Gone With The Wind

I'll say no more for now.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Precursors to Trump

The first election I remember is 1948. Republicans were certain of victory. President Truman was not as popular as Roosevelt had been. The country had had a Democratic party president since 1932. The Democratic party had split into three parts: (1) the Democratic Party (which dominated in the South and was the party of white supremacy); (2) the Progressive Party, headed by former Vice President Henry Wallace of Iowa; (3) the State's Rights Party headed by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

The deck seemed stacked against Truman.

But Truman ran a very vigorous and effective campaign while the Republican Dewey played it safe.

Not only did Truman win the presidential election, the Democratic Party regained control of both houses of Congress.

This outcome shocked the leadership of the Republican party.

I don't remember any charges that the Democrats had stolen the election.

Republicans addressed the issue of how they could have lost a sure thing.

Across the South, beginning in Virginia in 1950, Republicans began recruiting white supremacists from the Democrats. They believed it was their only chance.

They went after the young folks. By 1954, they were using charges of corruption to enhance their recruitment efforts. Even so, it was clear that it was not corruption, but racial concerns that formed the basis of Republican recruitment.

Then came the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Recruitment of white supremacist Democrats stepped up an has not diminished to this day.

Donald Trump and his staff understand this.

The Republicans have long since become the White Supremacist Party.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mass Killing In Historic Black Church In Charleston SC

I was dismayed to learn this morning of the mass shooting in a historic black church in downtown Charleston, SC.

The suspect, a 21 year old white man from Lexington County named Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly entered the church and sat in wait for about an hour before standing up and shooting his victims. At least nine victims, including a state senator, have died.

The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Are You A Real American Or Are You Jewish?

Years ago, I read a magazine article by an American journalist who had travelled to South Africa, then under apartheid. He described being asked by an Afrikaner "are you a real American or are you Jewish?"

I don't recall knowing how the writer answered the question. I don't remember the writer's name, either, but that would do me little good. I mostly can't tell a Jewish name from any other.

Growing up in Oklahoma, I knew about the Trail of Tears. When I went to the movies, I often rooted for the Indians defending their homeland and way of life against thise who would take it from them. They were "real Americans," I knew, not the white guys.

But in a real sense, everyone whose ancestors made it here, whether decades or millenia in the past, is a "real American."

Soon after Columbus stole a hemisphere from its rightful owners, the interlopers decided that only white Europeans could be "real Americans" and ruled by divine right. That was the "white man's burden," as Kipling put it.

So what if you were a Ukrainian Jew relocating with your family to the US in the 1980's? Would you feel suddenly free to assert your Jewishness?

Apparently not so much.

In a new book, “A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka,” Lev Golivkin, a Ukrainian jew, relates the hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family’s escape from oppression. As it turns out, as a nine-year old refugee, he knew little about Jewishness and had little interest in finding out more.

One paragraph in the New York Times review took my breath away. Lev asked his mother why she had been so insistent about leaving the Soviet Unionfor the US, where she had only been able to work as a security guard instead of the intellectual occupation she had been trained for.

“I didn’t want to be afraid of the government anymore, to live in fear of them going to my home,” she told him. “I didn’t want to watch my daughter suffer and be denied from school because she was Jewish. I didn’t want to stand on the schoolhouse steps and worry to death about explaining to my 9-year-old son why being a Jew was bad, and why he should prepare for a long and painful life.”

What do you suppose Michael Brown's mother would say about fear, suffering and denial - or Trayvon Martin's mother?

We must think on these things.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quote Of The Day

The clock on life is ticking. If you wait for life to be fair you may be waiting until life is over.
 - Charles M. Blow

Monday, March 24, 2014

Slave Deeds

Some of my ancestors owned slaves - from as early as the 1650's in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and possibly Georgia, Arkansas and Texas.

I never knew how to trace those slaves, if ever I wanted to.

I just learned of a project in Buncome County, North Carolina that shows the way.

It somehow never occurred to me that if slaves were property, there must be some sort of title deed or other government record of ownership and sale. In Buncome County, the records were kept at the Register of Deeds. The county's web site explains:

"The Buncombe County Register of Deeds office has kept property records since the late 1700’s. In our records one can find a wealth of information about the history of our community. On this page, we have compiled a list of the documents that record the trade of people as slaves in Buncombe County. These people were considered “property” prior to end of the Civil War; therefore these transfers were recorded in the Register of Deeds office. The list below shows the book and page number where the deed is located in our record books as well as the seller (grantor) and buyer (grantee) of the “property.” For your convenience, you can view each original document by clicking on the book and page hyperlink.

"The Register of Deeds Office presents these records in an effort to help remember our past so we will never again repeat it."

Here is a link to Buncome County's slave deeds.

We should all be grateful to Buncome County for showing us the way to find and preserve these records and make them available.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More On The History Of Republican Election Strategy

Yesterday I provided a link to an article by Michael Lind shedding light on Republican strategy. A strategy, by the way, that has been pretty successful as well as destructive.

Today I offer a link to an article in by Salon's editor, Joan Walsh:

This new article complements the piece by Michael Lind.

I have been following the developments described by both authors for about seventy years. They pretty much hit the nail on the head.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Medgar Evers, Non-Violence And The March On Washington

The March on Washington is one of those events that people use to mark time and transformation. "Did you go?," people ask. "Where were you on that day?"

I was serving my country, stationed on Adak in the Aleutian Islands. Defending democracy.

We had no newspaper and no live television, but still I followed events in Mississippi and in the nation's capitol.

I knew of the entry of James Meredith into my alma mater, the University of Mississippi. Many college administrators and professors I knew were involved in the court battles. The University was under attack by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and the White Citizens' Council.

I followed the violent assault on federal marshals when Meredith was enrolled. Some lost their lives at that time.

I knew of the assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, a little more than two months before the March on Washington.

The hallmark of response to white violence in those formative years of the Civil Rights Movement, whether in Montgomery, Birmingham, Oxford, or during the voter registration drives, was non-violence.

For anyone familiar with the violence by white supremacists against blacks in the south, the non-violent response, even in the face of massive efforts to provoke violence, was impressive. The level of organization, the discipline and restraint during large demonstrations, were unprecedented. (Well, there was the precedent of the Women's Suffrage Movement).

The power of non-violence to transform the political situation was certainly Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s greatest insight. He had read the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi, a small brown man wearing only a loincloth and carrying a walking stick, had ended the power of the world's greatest empire in India.

What power!

Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized that power and used it.

We are all the better for it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Speaking Of Elections: Hayes - Tilden 1876

Economic historian Brad DeLong has raised another interesting question: "why did the Republicans in 1876 abandon their most reliable supporters in the South (African Americans) for small gains that put Benjamin Hayes in the White House?" The negotiated outcome of this, one of the most contentious elections in US history, ended any effective Federal oversight of the South for nearly a century.

Another historian provides a plausible answer.

It remained for Lyndon Johnson to undo the Republican capitulation of 1876. The Republican Party then promptly recruited Southern racists to their own cause.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

As Mississippi Goes, So Goes...

When Haley Barbour of Yazoo City, Mississippi (where my father was born in 1915 and my brother in 1941) was appointed Chair of the Republican National Committee in 1993, astonished journalists asked how this came about. Haley Barbour replied that "the rest of the country is following in Mississippi's footsteps," or words to that effect.

Oriental resident (or former resident gone cruising) Tony Tharp, calls attention today to an article in the Jackson Clarion Ledger blog site describing just where those footsteps lead. Tony, a native son of the Mississippi Delta (near Leland, MS along US Highway 82), often reflects on past and current developments in the state.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Face Of America

Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Essie Mae Washington-Williams, the child Strom Thurmond had with a black maid, passed away on Monday, February 4, 2013. This photograph, taken in Charleston in 2003 when the relationship became public, can be seen as the face of America.

I am particularly struck by the face of the man to Essie Mae's left. He is Essie Mae's son, Strom Thurmond's grandson. To her right is her daughter. These are strong faces. The faces of leaders.

Our American faces.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Where Do Republicans Troll For Votes?

I've been watching this for a long time, so I thought I'd share some observations.

In the past year, I have read a number of articles by Republicans emphasizing that the Democratic party was the party of white supremacists. I admit that used to be the case, at least in part. The "solid south" was dominated by a racist party of white supremacy.

Not all southern democrats were obsessed with race. But those who ran for public office had to make an accommodation with racists. In those days, a southern democrat (all white people were democrats) would describe a particularly hot day by saying "I'm sweatin' like a n****r at a white folks' election." In fact, there were "white folks' elections" at least until 1944 when the US Supreme Court ruled against party primaries that excluded black voters.

The Democratic party "big tent" began to fray in the 1940's. First, President Truman integrated the armed forces by executive order. Then, northern progressive Democrats like Hubert Humphrey began speaking out. This led, at the 1948 Democratic convention, to defection of progressives (former Vice President Wallace's Progressive Party) as well as southern racists (Strom Thurmond and the States' Rights party).

That still didn't lead to Republican victory in the presidential race, but led to a concerted effort by Southern Republicans to recruit southern democrats to their party banner. That move, initiated by the chair of the Virginia republican party had only modest success, but the move expanded. By the time Richard Nixon ran for president, the "southern strategy" had already been underway for a decade.

This "southern strategy" got a boost from Brown v. Board of Education, wherein the US Supreme Court rejected the principle of "separate but equal."

Passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act led to massive defections from the democratic party, as Lyndon Johnson foretold. But it was the right thing.

Even so, the southern democratic party didn't become the minority party in the South until after integration of public schools began to really happen. That's also about the time we first heard widespread alarm at the "failure" of public schools and the creation of private, usually "Christian" "academies" unaffected by Brown.

Until that time, the Republican party had been largely a regional party confined to the North and Midwest and widely understood to favor the interests of northern industrialists and financiers.

How could Republicans become a truly national party? Elementary. Play the race card. In a recently uncovered audio recording of a 1981 interview, Lee Atwater, the Carl Rove of his generation, candidly revealed the strategy:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

There were dangers with this strategy. Many Republicans genuinely relished identification with the party of the Great Emancipator - the party of Abraham Lincoln. But the challenge facing the party was in many respects similar to the challenge that faced the Federalist Party as the electorate expanded: how to get voters from the lower classes when the organizing principle of the party was to further the economic and political interests of the wealthy and powerful?

The answer? Play the race card.

Ronald Reagan did it in 1980 when he opened his campaign for the presidency at a rally in Philadelphia, Mississippi, site of the lynching of three civil rights workers seeking to register blacks to vote. When he attacked "welfare queens," everyone got the message. It was Lee Atwater's message.

More recently, when Mitt Romney inveighed against the "47%" and talked about "moochers" and "dependency," it was the same theme: "the Democrats want to tax you hard-working white workers for the benefit of those lazy, shiftless blacks and hispanics and other aliens."

That was the message. It was heard loud and clear by many of Romney's supporters. It was also heard loud and clear by all citizens of color and other groups (e.g. Jewish citizens) despised by white racists and militant evangelical Christians.

It didn't work, at least for president.

It did work in North Carolina, for state offices. But the resulting victory for voters answering to the racist dog whistle, will work to the detriment of working people across the state.

Well before the election - in fact, last September - Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates focused his gaze on the "welfare queen" idea and how this is becoming a losing proposition for Republicans.  Not only because of racism, though it is clear that African Americans, Hispanics and Oriental Americans have no trouble decoding the racist message of Republican candidates.

Then, too, there's the demography thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Booker Wright: Greenwood, Mississippi 1965

Meet Booker Wright. He was filmed for a documentary in 1965 by a white movie maker trying to present Mississippi's story from the point of view of Mississippi's whites. The movie maker thought to interview a waiter at a popular white restaurant in Greenwood, Mississippi. The waiter's name was Booker Wright and the movie maker got more than he bargained for. Here is the clip of what Booker Wright said.

The interview of Booker Wright was shown on NBCTV in May of 1966. Mr. Wright was beaten, lost his job and lost his business. But he apparently never regretted what he said.

I know Mississippi. I was three when I first visited the state in August, 1940. I started to school in the first grade in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1943. The summer before first grade, I had a vivid lesson in the fact that black people didn't like how they were treated by white people.

To white people who grew up in the state, though, this was unwelcome news. So unwelcome, they refused to believe it.

A decade before the film was made, fifteen year old Emmett Till was lynched in Money, Mississippi, not far from Greenwood. I was a student at the University of Mississippi at the time.

Many fine people have grown up in Mississippi. Most of them left it.

I don't know anyone who lived in Mississippi in the 1930's. 40's, 50's and 60's who wasn't bent.

Some have overcome the experience.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More Thoughts On Trayvon Martin

Here's a thought-provoking op-ed from the New York Times tying the Trayvon Martin killing to the rapid growth of gated communities and the fear that feeds them.

The author, Rich Benjamin, suggests taking a broader view than just race toward "stand your ground" laws. "Those reducing this tragedy to racism," he observes,  "miss a more accurate and painful picture. Why is a child dead? The rise of “secure,” gated communities, private cops, private roads, private parks, private schools, private playgrounds — private, private, private —exacerbates biased treatment against the young, the colored and the presumably poor."

But it is clearly about fear - unreasoning, irrational fear, fed by clever marketing.

Earlier, I referred to "stand your ground" as a lynch law. Some seem to think of lynching as a racist phenomenon. I don't. Out West, there were many lynchings of alleged robbers, horse thieves, rapists and other miscreants who were white.

Henry Fonda's "The Ox-Bow Incident" is only one of many western movies depicting the theme.

What is common about lynchings, whomever the victims, is that private citizens take the law into their own hands. More to the point, lynchings demonstrate a contempt for the rule of law itself. "Stand your ground" laws are founded on contempt for professional law enforcement.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Raising Cain

I didn't watch last weekend's republican debate, and no new polls are out yet. Still, one of the surprising results of polling to date is the continued strong showing for Herman Cain.

I just came across a blog post from a couple of weeks ago by Bruce Bartlett, an experienced republican operative, titled "The Secret of Herman Cain's Success." It is worth reading, for the view it gives of the post-civil war history of partisan leanings by African Americans.

His post includes useful reminders of the history of the Democratic Party as a pro slavery party and a racist party for a century after the Civil War. I think he gives insufficient recognition to support of some white southern democrats during this period for economically progressive and populist measures. I totally reject Bartlett's view that republican policies at the present time are at all beneficial for racial minorities or anyone else not in the top one percent economically. Herman Cain, of course, is in the top one percent.

If you read Bartlett's post, be sure to read the comments. They contribute a lot to understanding the context.

I'm working on my own detailed critique of Bartlett's views.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Race and the Past

William Faulkner once observed that the past isn't dead - it isn't even past.

Not that there aren't people who try to bury it.

Today's New York Times has an article about the race riot 90 years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When I was growing up in Tulsa, I never heard about the riot. It was typical of riots by whites against blacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this case, spurred by untrue rumors of a black on white sexual assault, armed white citizens attacked the prosperous black area of town known as Greenwood, killed perhaps 300 residents and burned the area to the ground.

My grandparents, who lived in Tulsa at the time, never told me about it. After they died, I found an old photograph of a distant Tulsa neighborhood engulfed in flames.

No wonder my grandparents never told me. My maternal grandfather was a member of the Klan. Both he and my paternal grandfather were among the armed rioters on that day.

It wasn't a glorious day in my family's history.

Or that of my home town.