I was born in 1951. On Feb. 9, 1964, at the age of 13, I got to see The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on our black and white TV. It would be another four years before the lynching of Black men in America would come to an end. With the exception of the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald, 19, who was accused of killing a white police officer.
Members of the Christian radical right-wing organization the Ku Klux Klan found Donald, beat him, cut him and hanged him. The murder was discovered and a $7 million lawsuit was filed against the KKK, thus finally forcing this hideous organization into bankruptcy. However, shutting down the KKK did not shut down the fear that caused white men to hide under a hood.
The lynching of Black men served a useful purpose for Christian white supremacists who controlled much of the South. Initially, the whites said that they were lynching Black men accused of raping white women. The white men had to do this to protect their women. That, of course, was a lie. Between 1882 and 1969 3,446 Black men were lynched in our country. That’s slightly less than the population of Manchester. Do we really believe that 3,446 Black men actually raped white women, or might they have been falsely accused?
After enslaving an entire race of people there came a time when whites began to fear Black people. Their fear was warranted, because of what they had done to Black Americans. Steps had to be taken to ensure the safety of white people. Freed Black people had to be suppressed at all costs. Under no circumstances could white people ever allow Black people to really be free. If Black people ever got into power, what would they do to their oppressors?
There were uprisings like that of Nat Turner, where a group of Black slaves got their hands on some weapons, marched through town and killed 51 white people. The level of fear among the white population escalated and it’s hard to see if it has ever subsided.
The underlying cause of racism in America is fear. White people fear Black people and for good reason. In the year I was born Jim Crow laws blanketed the South. There were places in this country where Black people could not go. There were fountains in the parks that Black people could not use. Black entertainers like Ma Rainey were not allowed to go in the main entrance of the clubs where they were performing. They had to go in through the kitchen. They had to sit on the back of the bus.
The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were not adopted until 1964 and 1965 respectively; the same time The Beatles were launching the second British Invasion on this land (this invasion worked out way better than the first one). In 1964, my family met with a prominent lawyer from Rutland. My aunt and uncle had arranged for him to come to their home to talk about joining the John Birch Society, a radical right-wing organization theoretically designed to fight Communism. Did you know that many Black Americans supported Communism? They did so, because Communists were rabid anti-fascists. Many Black men fought fascism in World War II only to come home to a country that in their eyes was racist and fascist.
Today, we are seeing the resurgence of radical Christian, white supremacists, racism and fascism in America. Our previous president was fixated on his opposition to a loosely knit group called Antifa. Had he given the name an ounce of thought he would have realized that the name stands for Anti-Fascists. Isn’t opposing fascism what America is supposed to be about?
On Jan. 6 the madness of the radical right exploded on our Capitol. Donning Confederate flags and MAGA/Trump garb, these people actually tried to overturn one of the most highly monitored elections in our history by staging an insurrection inspired by their leader.
They say getting old is tough. Yeah, well maybe it is, but it’s not as tough as waking up every morning and realizing that no matter how much things change they still remain the same. States controlled by one political party are enacting laws designed to discourage Black people from voting.
This is nothing more than history repeating itself. For two hundred years white people have enacted laws designed to keep a knee on the necks of Black people. Nothing has changed. Sure, the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of an obvious murder caught on tape. Were it not for a young girl capturing George Floyd’s murder there is no doubt that Chauvin would be a free man today.
That’s how it works in America. That’s the way it has always worked in America. We have been embroiled in a never-ending fight for freedom for ALL Americans. White America needs to come to grips with its past and find a way towards a better future. Right now we’re going in the opposite direction. We need to figure out our endgame.