Saturday, November 03, 2007

Don't Be Confused -- Hate Spills Over

There has been much in the media of late reporting the hanging of nooses and other reactions in apparent response to a September 20th march of more than 50,000 people against institutionalized racism in the United States as manifested in Jena, Louisiana, over the past year. Some want to claim that the nooses hung in a tree in Jena a year ago were a "prank," even though I would argue that White people in general do not for one moment perceive the hanging of nooses as a prank. They know very well what nooses mean not only to African-Americans, but to White people in the U.S., as well.

There's nothing "prankish" about the torturous murders of innocent people of color over a period of five hundred years. According to the statistics, 3811 incidents were officially labeled lynchings between 1889 and 1942 alone. That averages out to one every five days for fifty-three years. They occurred all over the country. That figure doesn't even count the incidents involving a body that never surfaced or a "suicide" such as Malcolm X's father's wherein he hit himself in the head and put himself on a railroad track to die. And, needless to say, lynchings didn't stop in 1942. In fact, anyone that doesn't recognize what happened to Megan Williams this summer in West Virginia as a slow-motion lynching is just quibbling over details.

But I would like to remind my readers that the mindset that hangs nooses is a dangerous one to many European-Americans in this country, as well. On this date in 1979, a group made up of both African-Americans and European-Americans gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina, to protest against the Ku Klux Klan. Before they could even get started, however, forty KKK members and American Nazis drove into the crowd, got out of their vehicles, pulled out their automatic weapons and opened fire, killing five and wounding ten others. The massacre was filmed by four television stations. Nevertheless, after two trials, two all-White juries acquitted all defendents and no one has ever served a day in jail for these cold-blooded killings in broad daylight while law enforcement officers looked on. The five who died were a nurse and two doctors, a graduate of the Harvard divinity school, and a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University. None were African-American, though all were active in union organizing, poverty programs, and the push for racial parity.

True, in 1985, a civil jury found the city, the Nazi Party, and the Klan guilty of violating the civil rights of the demonstrators, resulting in a payment of $350,000 total to include all parties. This is one of the only times a police department has been held accountable for cooperating with a hate group in the matter of a wrongful death. Still, when a grassroots movement demanded the seating of a 2-day Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005 to investigate the matter, White Mayor Keith Holliday and some of the city council voted along racial lines NOT to support the Commission's work.

My point? If you look like me and have ever had a date or even dinner with an African-American; if anyone in your extended family is married to, living with, or has had a child with an African-American; if you hire an African-American to work for you; if you invite an African-American to visit you in your home or visit one in theirs; if African-Americans go to your church; or even if you think in the most vague and generalistic terms that African-Americans are citizens of the United States and therefore have the absolute right to every privilege and protection under the U.S. Constitution, then YOU could be accused of being the enemy of those who see you as a threat to the future of "White" America and will tell you so in no uncertain terms. There is no gray area with these folks. Just thought you would want to think about that the next time you hear somebody say hanging a noose is "just" a "prank." And just in case you're wondering, the photo above was taken in 2003.


shane said...

Well said. In some cases, though, this kind of blatant racism is a lot less insidious than the hidden kind. At least you know where the Klan and the Nazi Party are coming from--and can respond accordingly. You can't always tell when it comes to your average politician or newsman.

Cool blog!

FreeIndeed said...

I agree with Shane. I live in an area where, though it's growing more ethnically diverse, there are still a lot of very racist individuals and groups. I've lived here for over 16 years, however, and know how to navigate my way around them without incident. Prior to living here, I lived in a city where racism existed, but it was the closeted type that you don't see or hear much about. It didn't much bother me at the time, but looking back I far prefer the ones that wear it on their shirtsleeves than the ones that hide their hoods in the woodshed.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks, Shane. I'm glad you dropped by and glad you like what you found here. And I do agree with both you and Free about the closet racists being dangerous. But I consider most European-Americans closet racists and the rest of us either rabid racists or working on our racist tendencies. Living in the good ole U.S.A. where the default position is White Supremacy, we get our daily dose whether we want it or not. I just wanted to remind all those closet racists that a goodly number of them are perceived as compromised by their good buddies who don't keep their hoods tucked out of sight.

FreeIndeed said...

Hmmm, interesting. Because it's all over the media here, I'm curious about your opinion on Duane "Dog" Chapman. In your personal opinion, does he fall in the "closet", "rabid" or "working on his tendencies" category?

Changeseeker said...

Free: I'll bet, long about now, Dog wishes he'd worked on his tendencies. Actually, though, as glad as I always am to see a few consequences for unapologetic racism, I think we can all agree that slam-dunking a Chapman, Imus, or Richards accomplishes nothing toward dismantling institutionalized oppression in the U.S. And unfortunately, the closet folks take this kind of thing as proof positive that the society overall is NOT racist (as in, "See, we don't allow racism in the U.S. anymore"). I think the real reason Dog et al catch hell when they out themselves as the crazies they are is that they draw attention to the fact that the society is still wildly racist and this pisses off those who think they stand to lose if people of color had parity and respect in this country.