Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, November 06, 2003  

Other voices: Tristero, Dew Process and Feministe

•Howard Dean riles the Democrats

Richard Einhorn of Tristero has considered the imbroglio presidential candidate Howard Dean got himself into by saying Democrats should court white men with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

The recent flap over the Confederate flag is prima facie evidence that Howard Dean is a lot smarter than you or me. Indeed, as Liberal Oasis points out, Dean's political acumen may be at a far higher level than even his devoutest supporters give him credit for.

Why? Because everyone, so far, believes that Dean was directing his comments at Confederate flag wavers in some sort of quixotic quest to appeal to Southern racists. He was not.

Dean's Confederate flag comments were calculated to drive a stake through the heart of the Republican Southern Strategy. In and of themselves, they won't be enough, of course. But these comments are part of a carefully constructed and systematic plan on Dean's part to go after seemingly hopeless areas of strong GOP support, to attack the very premises by which Republicans define their constituencies.

For a while, the pundits greeted every new Bush initiative as "bold," "audacious," or - my favorite since it's so weasly - "breathtaking." They confused a bold idea with a foolish one. In contrast, Dean's strategy here, as elsewhere, is genuinely bold and audacious. And once again, the punditocracy doesn't get it. They think he was simply being a bit foolish.

I am not sure which perspective will prevail. It is possible Dean will be shouted down despite being right about the need to recruit Southern whites to the Democratic Party. People tend to interpret things (1) the easiest way, and (2) the way their leaders tell them to. The easiest way to interpret Dean's remarks is that he is offering aid and comfort to neo-Confederates. Opinion leaders, including most of his fellow Democratic candidates, are saying he erred. We will see how this episode plays out.

Richard's analysis is very thorough. I suggest you read the full entry.

Down in the Delta

Dew of Dew Process knows the area of Mississippi where the murder of Emmett Till occurred.

My parents grew up not far away from Money, MS. My mother is adamant about my sister and I understanding the affects of what they went thru in the Mississippi Delta during that time.

I was almost 18 when I first saw the picture of Emmett Till in his casket, blotted and disfigured. I couldn't sleep for weeks. I can only imagine what it was like for his mother.

It pisses me off that my parents or anyone for that matter had to go thru such brutality for something so trivial as color. I'm not sure whether rehashing this case will do any good. People in the Delta normally speak low and act loud. If the culprits are still living, you can believe they still have the right people in their corner. In the very least though, it will bring light to the harshness that can not be excused by renaming the South.

A related issue I've been thinking about is prosecutions of elderly people who got away with murder. Some folks think we should leave them alone. But, knowing the Bryants are likely still alive and unpunished somewhere irks me. I would be in favor of reopening the case. Would it be complete justice? No. Too much time has passed. But, at least it would be a step in the right direction.

Are we not pus-- oops!-- women?

There's weird and there's weird. Ms. Lauren at Feministe turned me on this bit of weirdness, courtesy of weirdo Kim du Toit.

The Pussification of the Western Male

Now, little boys in grade school are suspended for playing cowboys and Indians, cops and crooks, and all the other familiar variations of "good guy vs. bad guy" that helped them learn, at an early age, what it was like to have decent men hunt you down, because you were a lawbreaker.

Now, men are taught that violence is bad -- that when a thief breaks into your house, or threatens you in the street, that the proper way to deal with this is to "give him what he wants", instead of taking a horsewhip to the rascal or shooting him dead where he stands.

Now, men's fashion includes not a man dressed in a three-piece suit, but a tight sweater worn by a man with breasts .

Now, warning labels are indelibly etched into gun barrels, as though men have somehow forgotten that guns are dangerous things.

Now, men are given Ritalin as little boys, so that their natural aggressiveness, curiosity and restlessness can be controlled, instead of nurtured and directed.

And finally, our President, who happens to have been a qualified fighter pilot, lands on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit, and is immediately dismissed with words like "swaggering", "macho" and the favorite epithet of Euro girly-men, "cowboy". Of course he was bound to get that reaction -- and most especially from the Press in Europe, because the process of male pussification Over There is almost complete.

How did we get to this?

The idea is not as new as he likely thinks it is. Far Right pundits, including gun research fraud John Lott, have been making the argument that troublesome women (along with uppity Negroes, of course) have been the ruination of America for quite a while.

You can read the rest of du Toit's Ode to Retrograde Masculinity here.

posted by J. | 6:05 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003  

Revisiting the not so strange case of Emmett Till

Ron Taylor at A Burst of Light brought my attention to a link to new online information about the infamous murder of young Emmett Till in 1955. Christopher Metress, who edited The Lynching of Emmett Till, has published the material on his website. The Till situation reflects a tension that often occurs in controversial cases: That between claiming the legal system always works and admitting that it is no better than the people in it.

On September 24, 1955, an all-white Mississippi jury, after a mere sixty-seven minutes of deliberation, acquitted J.W.Milam and Roy Bryant of the murder of Emmett Till. Till, a fourteen year-old black boy from Chicago, had been visiting for the first time his extended family in the Mississippi Delta. One afternoon, barely a week into his visit, he and several other youths were standing outside a white-owned grocery in the small hamlet of Money. Apparently, Till had been boasting of his friendships with white people up North -- in particular his friendships with white girls -- and the local kids, looking to call his bluff, dared him to enter the store and flirt with Carolyn Bryant, the white woman and former beauty queen who was working the cash register. Till entered the store, and what he did next is unclear. Some say he "wolf whistled" at Bryant; others say he grabbed her hand and asked her for a date; still others claim he did nothing more than simply say "bye, baby" to her as he left the store. Whatever Till did, it was apparent to all involved that he had done something that made Carolyn Bryant angry or afraid. Till's friends rushed him away from the store as Bryant went to her car to get a gun.

For three days, nothing more happened, and then Roy Bryant -- Carolyn's husband -- and J.W. Milam -- Roy Bryant's step-brother -- struck out in the dead of night in search of young Till. They found him where they thought he'd be at two in the morning: asleep in the modest cabin of Mose Wright, his great-uncle. The two men, demanding to see the boy "who'd done the talking," took Till forcibly from the house, and his family never saw him alive again. The next morning, at their behest, the local sheriff searched the county, and when he could not find any trace of Till he questioned and eventually arrested Milam and Bryant on kidnapping charges. When Till's bloated and disfigured corpse surfaced three days later downstream in the Tallahatchie River, Milam and Bryant were quickly re-arrested, this time for murder.

. . .Among the investigative reporters at the trial, none played a more significant role than James L. Hicks. Hicks began his career as a reporter for the Cleveland Call and Post in 1935 and later moved on to the Baltimore Afro-American. As one of the premier investigative journalists of his generation, Hicks was also the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the National Negro Press Association, which served more than one hundred newspapers. In 1955, he became executive director of the New York Amsterdam News, a position he would hold for the good part of twenty years. As the first black member of the State Department Correspondents Association and the first black reporter cleared to cover the United Nations, Hicks was truly a pioneer in the field. His coverage of the Till trial ran in dozens of African-American newspapers, and in the following piece of investigative journalism -- which ran in four installments in October 1955 -- he tells about the role he played in discovering the existence of "missing witnesses" to the murder. Hicks's work in this area actually forced a trial recess on Tuesday, September 20, as the prosecution called for time to track down these newly discovered witnesses. In this series of articles -- which ran in the Baltimore Afro-American, the Cleveland Call and Post and the Atlanta Daily World -- Hicks argues that the forces of law in Mississippi conspired to prevent the full evidence of Milam and Bryant's guilt from surfacing at the trial.

I believe the reason there could not be a fair investigation of the murder of Till in Mississippi in 1955 is that the power structure, which police brass, lawyers and judges are part of, was invested in maintaining the status quo of injustice. Indeed, the white men who made up the elite of Southern states were often the authors of segregation statutes and benefitted the most from a society rife with inequities. That flies in the face of the myth that has been passed down about who segregationists were and are. The conventional wisdom, which is not wise, is that only white trash participated in lynchings and other violence against people of color. Actually, the oligarchy of Southern cities, including businessmen and politicians, was the real power maintaining the Southern way of life. An unbiased investigation of how and why Emmett Till was killed would have been against the interests of power holders in Mississippi. The relationship between Southern Republican politicians and the neo-Confederate movement has been documented at Silver Rights and other web blogs. It is the legacy of the same white power structure implicated in the Hill case.

The link offers Hicks' theory of what happened and the evidence in support of it.

More information about Metress' book is also available on the Internet.

With a collection of more than one hundred documents spanning almost half a century, Christopher Metress retells Till's story in a unique and daring way. Juxtaposing news accounts and investigative journalism with memoirs, poetry, and fiction, this documentary narrative not only includes material by such prominent figures as Hodding Carter, Chester Himes, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eldridge Cleaver, Bob Dylan, John Edgar Wideman, Lewis Nordan, and Michael Eric Dyson, but it also contains several previously unpublished works -- among them a newly discovered Langston Hughes poem -- and a generous selection of hard-to-find documents never before collected.

Exploring the means by which historical events become part of the collective social memory, The Lynching of Emmett Till is both an anthology that tells an important story and a narrative about how we come to terms with key moments in history.

PBS has produced a documentary about the murder and its aftermath.

posted by J. | 7:55 PM