News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
News: Missing Emmett Till transcript found
As you may already know, officials in Mississippi are considering reopening the Emmett Till case. The two men who admitted killing him, brothers Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury 50 years ago. Both have since died. However, several accomplices, who were never charged are still alive.
Today, the New York Times reports the F.B.I. has located the transcript from that long ago trial, in which there was no pretense of subtlety.
The pretext the jurors used for acquitting Bryant and Milam was that Till's body had not been clearly identified. It had the wink and nod quality of much discourse of Southern whites regarding blacks at the time. Since the defendants would have been responsible for disfiguring Till's body, the remarks were congratulatory -- 'y'all did a good job.' However, there was no legitimate reason to doubt the body was Till's. It was identified by his relatives, and, part of his face is still recognizable despite the disfiguration.
The district attorney for Tallahatchie County will make a decision whether to reopen the case in coming weeks or months.posted by J. | 10:40 PM
Monday, May 16, 2005
Commentary: Part 2: Subtlety and racism
Back, after a l-o-o-n-g time, to sublety and racism. I have decided to use other examples of what I see as blatant racism instead of the ones I originally intended. Situations that confirm the theme keep occurring. Two recent trials of white men who allegedy abused black victims in the South give reason for concern.
In the first, a 16-year-old high school student died in a fight at a house party. Six white youths, one of whom has been accused of racial bias in the past, were eventually charged. Eventually, because the indictments occurred only after civil rights groups in Maryland had prodded local prosecutors. The first defendant to be tried, allegedly the person who delivered the killing blow, was acquitted by an all-white jury.
The Baltimore Sun reports.
Would-be minority jurors were not only struck by the prosecution, but were asked if they were members of the NAACP or other civil rights groups, as if that would make them unfit for service.
In Texas, the case involved another party, and a retarded black man who unwittingly joined the crowd. Later, he was found beaten and deposited on a fire ant hill, apparently in hope the ants would pick up where his assailants left off. Two of the four defendants were convicted, but only of the lesser charges. Two others received very liberal plea bargains. The most severe sentence was 60 days in jail, and it was suspended. The victim will never recover from his injuries.
Fox News reported the story.
In looking at these situations, I don't see sublety. A couple of commenters have pointed out that the fact African-Americans were present at parties hosted by whites in the South is progress. But, if the outcome of their presence was a maiming and a death, I've hard put to see how that is to be applauded. Furthermore, Maryland defense attorneys being allowed to question a jury panel about membership in the NAACP harkens back to the old Southern practice of portraying participation in civil rights groups as verboten. The word 'subtle' may often turn up in describing contemporary racism, but it seems to me it is often misused.posted by J. | 10:30 PM