Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Eldridge Cleaver Words

July 4, 2020

Pertinent to what is now happening in our United States, I have selected these passages for your consideration.


From pages in Eldridge Cleaver’s 1978 book, Soul on Fire:


“Ever since the Watts uprising of 1965, in which scores of black people had been killed, a rising tide had been growing against what had every appearance of the indiscriminate killing of citizens by the police. Everyone talked about it but no one was doing anything about it. The Black Panther Party was called into being by this, strongly dedicated to organizing resistance to the repression from the occupying army of police that patrolled the black community like foreign troops.”


“We Panthers had expected a military coup to take management of “American democracy,” that being the only apporpriate response of the people in charge to the revolutionary war exploding all over North America.


“Across America, black people were at the end of their patience with the empty promises and fulfilled threats of a government which now seemed prepared to wage war in the ghetto with the same mindlessness that it continued to kill Vietnamese.”


“In response to the outpouring of rage and destruction by the black community, LBJ called out the troops to get Washington back under control. The Panthers were right—we were in a state of seige.”


“As I limped forward, one cop called me a name and told me to run to the paddy wagon. . . I was sure this man wanted to kill me, that he had already sentenced me to death in his heart. He wanted me to run to give him a pretext for shooting, the oldest and dirtiest cop trick of all, the use of which turns some guardians of the law into wanton murderers . . .”


“There was a poison wind blowing throughout the wilderness of Babylon, pouring out of the manholes of Wall Street, Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the churches, the universities, colleges, and even the campuses of high schools, and out of every home—a noxious poison oozing out of every porous institution of American life.”


“The merger of the SNCC organization into the Black Panthers was a natural but not easy hookup. Racial conflagrations in the American cities had shut down the future of the nonviolent speech makers. . .

“So when the gunfire started and the plastic bombs were going off smartly, and people like Martin King getting shot down in Southern motels . . .”

“The severity of the times made the merger necessary, and the presence of the Black Panthers made it possible. For we were not the Bible belt but the gun belt. . .”


“On the very last afternoon in San Francisco prior to being hauled away to San Quentin . . .

. . . I went out the rear door and over the back fence into a waiting car that took me to where I prepared for stage two of my goodbye to America . . .”

. . . the Mime Troopers made me up to look like a sick old man . . .Past security, past any questions or detention, this little old wheezing nigger was led by a young woman in white who urged the flight crew to give me special attention. . .

. . . After my connecting plane to Montreal and then a Cuban freighter ride—in a closet—to Castroland, I was to live six months in a wretched and restless existence—sort of a San Quention with palm trees . . .


“In 1969 I had sent a cassette recording back to friends in the United States warning how insidious and dangerous was the white racism of the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.”


. . . the four years that I headed the International Section of the Black Panther Party in Algiers, conference and speaking assignments took me into China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and much of the Third World.”


Pig power in America was infuriating—but pig power in the Communist framework was awesome and unaccountable. No protection by outbursts in the press and electronic media—the Reds owned it. No shelter under the benevolent protection of a historic constitution—the Marxists held the book and they tore out the pages that sheltered you. No counterweight from religious and church organizations—they were invisible and silent.”

“The longer I stayed in these foreign enclaves, the more I realized that America could not be instructed, by them, in anything that had to do with individual rights or personal liberty. The inner recesses of my being, the secret soul of my most honest self was developing a searing resentment against the ridiculous claims of communism. If they couldn’t convince me, I thought, how are they going to ever sell the rest of the world . . .”


“ I had lived defiantly so long and in such seething hatred of all governments, people in power, people in charge, that when I came under the shelter of Communist powers, I sadly discovered that their corruption was as violent and inhuman as the people they ‘victoriously’ replaced. ‘Up against the wall’ was a trendy slogan of the underground movements around the world—but I later learned that without inner control, a moral perspective, and a spiritual balance that flowed out of Christian love, justice, and caring, the Communist promises were to become the largest fraud of all.


“It was a beautiful Mediterranean night. . . I was brooding, downcast, at the end of my rope. I looked up at the moon and saw certain shadows . . . and the shadows became a man in the moon, and I saw a profile of myself . . .

. . . As I stared at this image, it changed, and I saw my former heroes paraded before my eyes. Here was Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-tung, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, passing in review—each one appearing for a moment, and then dropping out of sight, like fallen heroes. Finally, at the end of the procession, in dazzling shimmering light, the image of Jesus Christ . . .”

all quotes from: Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Fire, 1978, Word Books

King of Soul

The Tragedy of our America

June 16, 2020

The crack in our “liberty and justice for all” has been there all along.

Liberty Bell

From the moment that a human was placed on a colonial auction block for sale, we were in tragic territory.

Our grand immigrating odyssey to escape religious oppression, our epic fleeing from ethnic oppression, our pioneer yearning for wild open land—it was all fractious, unbeknownst to us, the moment we tolerated humans being shackled in slavery. 

’T’was then we became double-minded behind the eloquence of our independence declaration, allowing our rift to lengthen further  when we dilly-dallied with terminology of “three-fifths” of a Person in the very first Article of our Constitution. We were already cracked in the head although we knew it not.

We admitted it not.

The reverberation of our ringing liberty signaled a grand, noble experiment in split-personality disorder reverberating from sea to shining sea for all the world to see.

We’ve been evading the issue for 300 years. Freedom was supposed to be our main deal—supposed to be what separated our grand democratic experiment from that ole fuddy-duddy monarchical feudal system back in the old country.

But our guiding principle was splitting from the start. We were cracked in the head, missing  a rhetorical point or two, not playing with a full deck, and we didn’t even know it.

Or we admitted it not.

We were split in two when we allowed Kansas the legal machinery of enforced servitude while turning Nebraska loose to freely settle the wide open prairie.

Bipolar racism degenerated into suicidal atrocity when we turned George Custer loose to show Sitting Bull who was boss at Little Big Horn. Our  cracked cruelty bit the dust that day as the American project descended into new depths of Tragedy.

     Sitting Bull’s Eyes 

There has been something wrong with us all along. Our great quest for liberty and justice for all was deformed from the start. 

When we denied Dred Scott freedom for himself and his family, we were already on the slippery slopes of failure.

When we allowed the Fugitive Slave Law of 2850 to foil Harriet Tubman’s grand underground railroad project, we were moving in the wrong direction.

Even a goddam civil war did not solve the problem of our schizoid derangement. 

No, our  Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde malaise persisted past that bloody war; it dragged on into 20th-century malevolence, smoldering beneath pointy-headed sheets; it became set in splittering stone as we raised monuments to the heroes of racist rebellion; it slithered beneath legislative obfuscation of segregation, discrimination, spawning incrimination. . .

Until  enforced integration began making a dent in our misdeeds.

Our white privilege hypocrisy was still obstinately taking us one step forward, two steps back in our grand liberty experiment. All along the pathways of freedom, our motivations were rift, double-minded in all our ways as the ancient serpentine spirit of split-nature slithered past Dr. King’s good dream before assassinating him in the process. 

Rodney King’s bad roadside dream morphed into a national nightmare; it permeated our personality, sliding into  our social media scheme through a blindsiding video of deranged Derek-cop smothering Big Floyd under his knee.

 Now, staggering under the influence of a chief executive whose power-hungry pursuit is grounded in an agenda  to divide us instead of unite us— so as to conquer once and for all our noble impulse toward justice and equality— we are doomed to another bell-splitting death-knell as all hell breaks loose.  

Tragedy! Tragedy! I say unto thee. All is lost! Although founded in liberty, we are steeped in Tragedy! Tragedy!

Then I woke up. What the hell?

King of Soul

A Rebel Guvnah?

February 4, 2019

This clueless news-viewer (me) came across an ole photo that has recently been tossed online in the midst of the current political maelstrom that is sucking our country down into depraved politics and perilous perdition.


And when I saw the infamous image, I wondered . . . what’s the big fuss all about?

Appears to me the Guvnah is herein advocating Reconstructive Reconciliation between his honkified racist constituents and their radical activist black cousins who are living across the river or across the tracks or across the Great Political Divide that has inflicted exceptional divisiveness among our entertainment-starved net-trolling denizens of  what was formerly Democrat Dixie, but is now Republican Red Solid South.

Maybe all citizens in this here land of the free and home of the brave would do well to imbibe a beer or two with their color-counterparts in the interests of reconstructive reconciliation.

. . .specially down here in the land of cotton where ole times here are not forgotten, or at least we thought they were forgotten until some Republican hack with nothin’ better to do than make trouble by trolling what we thought were the long-dead confederate swamps around the beltway and thereby dragged up this old bombshell and thought he’d reactivate it for the sake of blowin’ to smithereens the apparently escalating Democrat digits that have taken the public spotlight since our last election.

My humble opinion is that our politicians would do better to focus on governance–things like roundin’ up citizens to fix the potholes or repairing the infamous infrastructure or maybe enabling edumacation for the folks who are falling behind the 21st-century job-skills curve, or  even make a move toward balancing the budget for maybe just ONE year instead of piling another big whoppin’ .gov debt on top of the already oversized 21-trillion$ deficit, etc.

Republicans and Democrats oughta work some of these problems out over a friendly libation instead of draggin’ up more mud  from the swamps around Washin’ton and slingin’ it every whichaways.

And if they can’t get together and toast to togetherness, I think it’s time for Washington to get a good, thorough washin’, so’s they can be worthy of the nomenclature.

Send in the scrubs instead of the clowns.


Glass half-Full

supremacist, really?

November 23, 2016

I got in the car to drive home from work. Radio was on. Juan Gonzalez was interviewing Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now. Jeremy was speaking about a political thing that is reportedly happening in our country now, a  movement of misguided zealots who are striving to impose on the rest of us some so-called  “Christian supremacist agenda.”

But this Christian says, I beg to differ; consider this:

Here is a picture of the man who established the Christian religion:


Does this person look like a “supremacist”?

This pic, taken from a very old painting, is an artist’s rendering  of the man who long ago said:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

This is the man who, when two of his disciples wanted to call down a firestorm of judgement on people who had rejected them, denied them permission to impose such a vengeful retaliation, and then explained, “. . . (I) did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

This is the man who, on the night of his arrest, who would not allow his right-hand man to wield a sword to resist their arrest.

Does such a strategy sound like the beginning of a “supremacist” uprising?

I do believe Mr. Scahill has confused us Christians with some other group, a group whose identity is not rooted in the One who was willing to give his life for me and for all the rest of us.

Mr. Scahill is referring, I believe,  to those honky whites who think they own the place. They need to read the gospels instead of whatever white supremacist webstuff  they’ve gotten a hold of. And they need to quit emulating the jihadi supremacists who want to impose a caliphate on us dhimmi-witted Christians.

As for you, Juan and Jeremy, just keep on doing what you’re doing, if that’s what floats your boat. But please, try to get your nomenclature correct next time you go reporting on us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Glass half-Full

Mysteries of 1964: Meridian and Tonkin

August 11, 2016

From the new novel King of Soul, now being researched and written, here’s an excerpt. In chapter 4, we find Uncle Cannon speaking about murder in Mississippi, and then the scene changes. As Uncle Cannon was saying, on August 4, 1964 . . .

        “Now these white-power types and KKK misfits who been runnin’ around for a hundred years like they own the place—now they won’t have a leg to stand on when Bobby Kennedy and Hoover’s FBI agents show up with their high-falootin’ writs of law.  I’m sure the Feds knew if they’d root around long enough, something rotten would turn up.”

       “Well now something has turned up. Three dead bodies. Over near Meridian, they found those three dead boys—two yankee college students and one local black, and all hell is gonna break loose. The old ways are gonna go, but they ain’t gonna die without a fight—probably a pretty damned ugly one.”

       The old man shook his head. “With Kennedy being shot last year in Dallas, and now Johnson, who is an extremely competent politician, following in his wake, this whole civil rights movement will mount up  like a tidal wave. It’s gonna break right over the Mason-Dixon line and keep on going, until it rolls all the way down to the Gulf. . .”


       It just so happened that, while Uncle Cannon’s projections were being uttered into the sultry southern air, a wave of a different kind was being set in motion on the other side of the world. It went thrashing just beneath the choppy surface of  Gulf waters that lie between the coasts of China and Vietnam. The Gulf of Ton-kin.

       A phosphorescent wake—the eerie, night-time straight-line underwater path  of a launched torpedo—went  suddenly slashing beneath the stormy surface of the Gulf of Ton-kin, sixty miles off the coast of  Vietnam. The torpedo had a target:  a destroyer ship of the U.S. Navy.

       Under cover of the dark, stormy night, the torpedo’s path was nigh-impossible to see, almost as difficult to detect as the P-4 North Vietnamese patrol boat from which it had been launched.

       In the air above the USS Turner Joy naval destroyer,  a plane-launched flare erupted,  illuminating  for a few moments the rain-stilted night sky. In the desperate brilliance of one flare flash, a boatsman’s mate caught plain sight of the attacking boat; he noticed, in the fleeting brightness, an odd detail—its long bow.

        Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose, with the two U.S. Navy destroyers firing ordnance wildly into the stalking mysteries of the Tonkin Gulf.    Two  members of the gun crew sighted the offending boat in the strange light of their own exploding 3-inch shells; one squinting seaman managed to hold the object in view for what seemed like almost two minutes.

       Two signalmen, peering through dark Tonkin night-soup, strove to pinpoint the patrol boat’s searchlight, as it swept through the dark seas several thousand yards off the starboard bow;  Director 31 operator could identify a mast, with a small cross piece, off the destroyer’s port quarter, as it was illuminated in the glare of an exploding shell that the Turner Joy had fired.

      Ahead of the USS Turner Joy, on the flagship Maddox, two Marine  machine-gunners were posted on the ship’s signal bridge; after sighting  what appeared to be the cockpit light of a small-craft, they watched through the fierce weather. Having no orders to fire, they visually tracked the unidentified vessel—friend or foe they didn’t know—as it churned up along port side of their ship; later the miniscule light was seen coming back down on starboard.

       Up on the flagship Maddox bridge,  Operations Officer Commander Buehler was not surprised at  the spotty hodgepodge of indecipherable bogey signals and sightings from various quarters of the two ships; for his ship’s radar contact had earlier indicated something approaching at high speed, which had suddenly turned left when it was 6000 yards from and abeam of the USS Maddox. He knew from the swerve that whatever that was—some vessel the radar contact had indicated—had fired an underwater  torpedo. Approximately three minute later, a topside crewman on the Turner Joy had spotted the thin, phosphorescent wake of the torpedo as it missed both ships and  then disappeared in the dark Tonkin waters that chopped beneath them.

       Later,  black smoke could be discerned,  rising in a column through the black night, and the mysterious P-4 bogey aggressors were seen no more. Where did they go? Davy Jones locker.

King of Soul


June 21, 2015

The Climate Change fanatics are expecting a Climate Apocalypse.

The FreeMarket fanatics are expecting an Economic Apocalypse.

The Religious fanatics are expecting an Armaggedan Apocalypse.

The Islamist fanatics are expecting a Dabiq Apocalypse.

The Shiite Twelver fanatics are expecting a Twelfth Imam Apocalypse.

The Entertainment fanatics are expecting another Apocalypse blockbuster.

The Leftist fanatics are expecting a RightWing Apocalypse.

The Rightist fanatics are expecting a LeftWing Apocalypse.

The Racist fanatics are expecting a Race War Apocalypse.

For some groups of people, an apocalyptic tragedy has already begun, having changed their lives forever, in ways that we, the clueless online onlookers, can never comprehend.

For members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, life as they knew it has been torn asunder, as if a raging lion had attacked a grazing lamb.

Two days ago I heard people on a radio program arguing about whether the mass murder committed by a lone racist gunman in Charleston was a “hate crime” or a “crime against Christians.”

What we call it is really meaningless.

The truth is; it’s both–and. . . a serious multiple homicide perpetrated by a hateful, anti-Christian man who is worth of only thing, the death penalty.

This multiple murder did take place in a Christian church; Nine Christians were cruelly murdered.

In my Church this Sunday morning, our pastor lead us in a prayer for the families of these nine martyrs, who are now in the presence of Jesus Christ, who, like them, was murdered in his own innocence.

Our pastor reminded us of Paul’s counsel to the Christians of 1st-century Rome, who were later persecuted in the same murderous way as our brothers and sisters of Emanuel AME. Paul exhorted the believers in Rome to “weep with those weep.”

And so, while most of us did not weep for these deceased saints, we did pray for their families, and for their gathered believers, which is to say their church. We stand in solidarity with them, in what we call the Body of Christ.


In such a time as this, we are reminded of the words Jesus spoke:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

In such a time as this, the collective prayers of the church will summon the Holy Spirit to comfort the families and saints of Emanuel AME Church.

And although murderous acts such as this may come, they will not defeat the purposes of God among his people.

Nor will any coming Apocalypse, imagined or otherwise, extinguish the love of Jesus that draws his people together in times of tribulation.

Glass half-Full

This just doesn’t add up

December 6, 2014

Yeah, sure, Michael Brown broke a law.

Yeah, sure, he was resisting arrest;

yeah, sure, the officer of the law was doing his duty.

But in the end, a young man, unarmed, is dead

because he stole a pack of cigarillos and then walked impudently down the middle of the street.


Yeah, sure, Eric Garner broke a law.

Yeah, sure, he was resisting arrest;

yeah, sure, the officer of the law was doing his duty.

But in the end, a young man, unarmed, is dead

because he was selling cigarettes.


This just doesn’t add up.

There is something wrong here.

And it appears to be, as we say in newspeak, systemic.


That is to say, there is something wrong with the system.


Yeah, sure, the Missouri grand jury that did not indict the officer

was a legally appointed body the purpose of which was to decide

whether there was a possibility that the arresting officer had violated the law

while attempting to protect himself and the public.


Yeah, sure, the New York grand jury that did not indict the officer

was a legally appointed body the purpose of which was to decide

whether there was a possibility that the arresting officer had violated the law

while attempting to protect himself and the public.


But we have two dead bodies because of damned minuscule cigarette violations. The deathful end doesn’t justify the means. There’s something wrong with this picture, and the public can smell it.


Why is the deadly outcome of these two cases so much bigger, and final, than the sum of their legal parts?

A young man commits a misdemeanor or two; then he’s walking along and suddenly there’s a cop in his face. That’s to be expected; illegal actions have legal consequences. So the cop is doing his job. But hey, a few minutes later the petty criminal is dead.


Who issued the guilty verdict and death sentence? A court of law? A trial by jury? No. It doesn’t add up.

There is something going on here, something being exposed, that needs to be dealt with.

Is it racism? True dat. Like sin, it is always there in us, sometimes under the surface, sometimes in full-blown atrocity. Wherever men go upon the earth, there is, was, will be tribe-against-tribe racism.

But racism is only part of this picture; the other part is a justice system with its priorities out of whack. That’s what we the people are feeling now.

Why are so many people–black and white, conservative and liberal–disturbed about the fatal outcome of these incidents?

We have a serious disconnect between the street-imposed sentence (death) and the seriousness of the crime.

That “it doesn’t add up” disconnect is wired into our media-driven minds.  Although we do not know nearly as much as we think we do about news events, neither does a grand jury operating without cross-examination of witnesses.

In this fortnight’s perceived events, it’s almost as if the vast public outcry, as jerky and fickle and circumstantial as it is, produces a more appropriate assessment of the outcome than the traditional, evidence-based system for passing judgement.


Oh surely we do not know the facts of the case as well as the grand jury. But we do know this: two young, unarmed men who had not been sentenced to death  are now dead. That’s the bottom line.

It doesn’t add up. The system, with or without grand jury, needs somehow to be fixed, so that the punitive sentence accurately reflects the seriousness of crime.

As if that could happen.

I don’t know though. . . maybe it’s always been this way. Maybe there is, in truth, no justice in this world.

And so folks yearn for something better. . . the Last Judgement of a Righteous God?

I’m not excusing injustice.

Just sayin’. That Last Judgement may be the only justice some of us will ever see.


Glass half-Full

Helene Berr’s bad dream

March 3, 2013

May it never happen here. Not that it ever could, of course.

But it did happen–the nightmare of having some political evil start as a trickle of disturbing news reports that are too close for comfort, then turning into, over a two-year period, a slow plague of arrests that send folks to the black hole.

You heard about Joe? the guy at work, or Shawna who lives down the street; you have a class with him, or you had lunch with her last week. Or god forbid it should ever happen to anyone in your family.

But then it did. They took Helene’s father away, put him in a detention center at a place called Drancy, near Paris, very near where the Berr family lived, even though–even though–their home was in the very shadow of a famous world landmark–the Eiffel Tower.

And even though he was an important man in French industry– a smart, hard-working, successful family man with a major corporation.

It was a surprise–the rude suddenness of it–the arrest falling upon someone so close to home, a member of your own family.

But then, history is filled with such as this.  Not in America, of course, except on tv.

In this true story, you see, the powers-that-be had determined that Raymond was not religiously correct, or maybe not ethnically correct.

The bad dream had started with someone who lives down the street, someone you know casually and you see every now and then, once a week somewhere–at work or school–someone who is a friend of a friend, or a friend of an enemy.

Next thing you know, they get arrested, for no good reason, arrested for not being religiously correct, or ethnically correct, whatevah, u try to fugeddaboudit.

This happened in France, a civilized country of reasonable people, in 1942-44. Since then, it has happened in other places. Before that, it happened in many places. It didn’t start in Germany. Maybe it started in Russia, or Spain 500 years ago, or Babylon 2500 years ago or even before that.

Right now it is happening somewhere. But not in America, of course. Maybe Syria, or Somalia or North Korea, or Egypt or

Helene Berr’s Journal tells the terrible tale of Nazi-occupied France; it is the frightening testimony of one very sensitive, very smart twenty-something girl whose blooming life was forever arrested by the occupying evil. The nightmare is a long, slow slide on a slippery slope of political oppression that you knew in your bones was coming but were afraid to really deal with. It took a couple of years to fully develop. But when it finally did come–you’ve heard of Auschwitz, right?

Yes, it did happen. These things happen, because this is the human race we’re livin in.

This book is not for you who want to be perpetually entertained.  All comfortably-numb online and cable-ready enticements will end someday. Then what happens? Maybe you oughta find out what happens.

No, this book is more like education, although Helene’s recollections of unjust, irrational events as they alarmingly unfolded, are very tender, painfully prosaic in their stabbing truth, like a Dante’s inferno, or Cable’s descent into hell on 500 channels.

Sadder, but wiser, will you be if you read it: The Journal of Helene Berr, translated and commented by David Bellos, published 2008 by Weinstein Books.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The help in Jackson, 1963

August 14, 2011

We left Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, and went back to Louisiana. Maybe it was 1962. Mama and daddy moved me, my two sisters and my brother to Shreveport, where daddy would be starting his business. But after about six months or so, they decided we should go back to the place where we had all started out this life, Baton Rouge. I had been born there in 1951, at Our Lady of the Lake hospital. The reason I remember we moved back to Baton Rouge in ’63 is that I remember Sister Georgia, the principal of our Catholic junior high school coming in one afternoon to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot, and I remember riding my bicycle home in the rain that day. It was just a few months into my seventh grade, which had been my first school year in Baton Rouge, when Kennedy got shot in Dallas.

Mama and daddy had deep roots in Baton Rouge. For instance, my granpa on mama’s side had been assistant Sec. of State under four Louisiana governors, including Huey Long. My other granpa had come out of the piney woods of Mississippi to Baton Rouge to work at the Esso refinery, which was at that time the third largest oil refinery in the world, or so my daddy used to say. My daddy had married up, if you know what I mean, insofar as he found a Baton Rouge society girl, my soon-to-be mama, and convinced her to marry him, even though he was a Scots-Irish redneck from out in the mossy sticks somewhere out in the parish. Mama and her people were from that ole French strain  from across the River, they said Parisian, but I think mostly coonass.

When we got to back Louisiana, we were on penny-pinchin’  times, with dad trying to get a forestry-supply business started. We didn’t have a maid. But we had had one back in Jackson. Her name was Aleen.

But I’m here today to tell you about the city of  Jackson, since my childhood memories of the place have been freshly awakened by seeing The Help  movie just about an hour ago, this Sunday afternoon, August 14, 2011. I don’t usually go to movies in the daytime, but I made an exception this time since I had heard the story took place in Jackson at about  the same time that I was  growing up there, or about the time that we left there.  We moved back to Louisiana just a few months, I suppose, before Medger Evers was shot in Jackson in ’63.

We  had lived in Jackson for about nine years. Mama and daddy had moved there in 1953, or maybe it was ’54. I don’t really know which, since I was only about three years old at the time, and mama and daddy, God rest their souls, are no longer on this earth to confirm the date. It don’t matter anyway.

Mama, having been raised in Baton Rouge, had to have a maid, you know,  when she and daddy were starting a new household in Jackson, even though we lived in a rather small GI-bill house out in the suburbs of Jackson. Our maid’s name was Aleen.

Our phone number was EMerson 6-6852. Mama shopped at Jitney Jungle, where she would buy, I guess, all the foodthat she and Aleen would cook for our dinners and suppers, and for barbecues in the backyard, and for goodies that the ladies would snack on while mama was hosting bridge club.

One of my earliest memories was mama putting us kids in the car on a regular basis to take Aleen back to her house at the end of a working day. Aleen’s house was so different from our home; it was a shotgun shack on a dusty road out by the lake levee somewhere; it looked a lot like those small houses that Abilene and Minny lived in in that movie, The Help.

Now that I’ve seen the movie,  I understand a lot more about what was going on on the other side of Jackson’s tracks, in the area where Aleen and her people lived, when I was a clueless white kid in Jackson in the early 1960s. Thank you, Kathryn Stockett and Tate Taylor, for expanding my horizons. The amazing story you told has been helpful to me.

Glass half-Full

Church was bombed, Birmingham 1963

January 24, 2011

We do not fathom the power of innocent blood crying out from the ground until years later.  The grievous force of such injustice  reverberates in the lives of those whose grief runs deeper than the evil that inflicted it.
Terrorism is counterproductive. A terrorist who inflicts, by the planting of bombs, violence and death on innocent victims might as well shoot himself, and his cause, in the foot. The extreme iniquity of such irresponsible acts serves ultimately to harden the resolve of  surviving victims whose lives were affected by the atrocity.
I realized this today in a new way while listening to Amy Goodman interview Danny Glover on the radio, on Democracy Now.

They mentioned Angela Davis, and the fact that she had been raised in that volatile atmosphere of Birmingham in 1963, when local racists had set a bomb beneath the 16th Street Baptist Church. The bomb had killed four innocent children–little girls attending church.

Little did those reprobate terrorists know, but their irrational atrocity cut a deep slice of potently productive  grief into the 9–year-old soul of  nearby resident Condoleeza Rice, whose friend Denise McNair was killed in the bombing.
Our former Secretary of State of the US later had this to say about the  tragic incident:
“I remember the bombing of that Sunday School at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. I did not see it happen, but I heard it happen, and I felt it happen, just a few blocks away at my father’s church. It is a sound that I will never forget, that will forever reverberate in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including my friend and playmate, Denise McNair. The crime was calculated to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations. But those fears were not propelled forward, those terrorists failed.”
– Condoleezza Rice, Commencement 2004, Vanderbilt University, May 13, 2004

I lifted that quote from Wikipedia.

Ms. Rice’s richly productive life attests to the truth that the destructive efforts of KKK terrorists had not deterred a tender-hearted 9-year-old girl from rising to great achievements. In spite of the heavy deck of hate and discrimination stacked against her, Condi went on to overcome the evil that had killed her childhood playmate. Later, as a scholar, concert pianist,  and Secretary of State of the United States of America, she disproved, convincingly, the errant prejudicial irrationale of her community’s attackers.

Terrorism is counterproductive to the cause of the terrorist.

And unpredictable. Even as a bomb’s deathly remains and its victims cannot be predicted before the explosion, neither can the effects of such bloody deep wounds on the heart of a community and its diverse members.
While young Condi was later motivated to excel mightily in scholarship and diplomacy, another former resident, Angela Davis, of that Birmingham neighborhood charted a very different course
to overcome the injustice of Jim Crow. Angela was ten years older than Condoleeza; she was studying in Paris when she recognized the names of young Birmingham victims in a newspaper. Her stringent understanding of that putrid white supremecist tide was propelling her  toward radicalism, advocacy of violent resistance, and ultimately a life of eloquent speaking and teaching, the aim of which was to educate others about the evils of racism.

Angela and Condi were two very different women, with powerfully contrasting paths in this life. But as disparate as their two testimonies are, both lives are  persuasive evidence that death-spewing terrorism is counterproductive to the cause of the terrorist.

But the cry of innocent blood is powerfuly dynamic in the lives of the survivors,  and just as unpredictable as the bomb itself.

Glass half-Full