Monday, October 23, 2006


The following piece of history by Anita Hill reminds us all of what we were about back in the good old days of 1950 through 1980 until Ronald Reagan took office and Republicans began to reverse the process of empowering the disenfrachised. I don’t know how many of my readers are old enough to recall those days, but these kinds of stories were always on my mind back then. Take careful note of the states where lynchings took place and note which states have switched to the Republican column in national elections. It’s no accident that things have gone the way they have recently. President Johnson predicted it and the Republican Party hastened it by continually playing the race card. To this day, in this current election, they’re still doing it.

Photo: a beautiful fall day outside the
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane.

“The story that stands out the most is the one about how my mother's family came to Oklahoma. It begins in the fall of 1913. Henery and Ida Elliott were living and raising their children on a farm in eastern Arkansas. About that time, as a small boy ‘in shirttails,’ my mother's brother George recalls being "visited" by a white neighbor on horseback. Consistent with the times, the call was work-related, social interaction between the races at that time being virtually unheard-of. Approaching the Elliott home, the neighbor cut a trail through my grandparents' field, leaving to waste all of the cotton in his newly carved path. ‘My wife needs some help with her cleaning and cooking,’ the neighbor said. He ‘asked’ my grandfather if my grandmother was available to work for him. ‘She's pretty busy just taking care of these children,’ my grandfather responded on her behalf. But whatever care Henery Elliott took not to offend, his explanation that my grandmother was far too busy to work outside her home fell on deaf ears, ‘Have you forgotten who you're talking to?’ the rider demanded. Even at the turn of the century, his status as a ‘freeborn white man’ left neither my grandfather, a former slave, not my grandmother, a descendant of slaves, the option to say no. ‘I’ll be around to see you tonight,’ he threatened as he rode away, cutting another path of wasted cotton through my grandfather’s field.

“During the early twentieth century in much of the United States, even a polite, reasoned rejection by a black person of a white person’s request could be viewed as "uppitiness." My grandfather knew through tales passed along from his father and through his own experience in Arkansas that the lessons for "uppitiness" were harsh and arbitrary, ranging from threats to burned crops to lynching. And those lessons were often doled out at the hands of night riders.

“Between 1882 and 1968, Arkansas was the site of 284 reported lynchings. The incidents of lynching in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, states with higher black populations, were fewer than in Arkansas. Higher incidents of lynching occurred only in the states or Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. The grimly illustrative statistics on lynching do not begin to take into account the night rides and other tactics employed by organizations and individuals. A black family's attempts at self-preservation and protection included the telling and retelling of these stories as warnings to young blacks that the informal ‘system of justice’ born of racism was neither just nor systematic. Racial violence and the threat of such were ever present in the collective black psyche of that time.” —Anita Hill, Speaking Truth To Power, p.16-17


Anonymous said...

Please read and review for your audience Steele, Shelby. White Guilt.

Blacks like Steele, Thomas, Rice, and Cosby reject your moralizing as dated. The quote, "the prejudice of low expectations" was attributed to Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She seemed to me to be saying that the current racism comes from the guilt of "do-gooder whites" or those who feel that they can gain moral authority by championing the "poor blacks" but are actually stigmatizing them.

Anonymous said...

In 1955 the murderers of Emmett Till, a black Mississippi youth, were acquitted of their crime, undoubtedly because they were white. Forty years later, O. J. Simpson, whom many thought would be charged with murder by virtue of the DNA evidence against him, went free after his attorney portrayed him as a victim of racism. Clearly, a sea change had taken place in American culture, but how had it happened? In this important new work, distinguished race relations scholar Shelby Steele argues that the age of white supremacy has given way to an age of white guilt — and neither has been good for African Americans.

Geo said...

I'm beginning to see a method to the madness in these comments. Since my subjects are rarely racial matters, and, now, suddenly, these comments are pouring in, I think these comments are generated by a book salesman trying to sell his book.

Frankly, I feel no white guilt so I don't know what the commentator is talking about. I'm only writing about history and lynching, and why I and others did what we did in the past to correct the apartheid practiced in the South at that time. Today is today. Then was then.

Is my commentator claiming that lynching did not happen in the past? Is he claiming that the Republican Party did not play the race card in South Carolina against John McCain a few years back with whispering campaigns about his wife and himself? Why did the South run to the Republican Party after the Civil Rights Bill was passed if there is not something fishy down there? Don't forget, I was married to an Alabama girl in Mobile when Mobile public schools were integrated. Within days a whole new public school system was created. My wife was one who rushed her child to register him in private school. I believe the South, like modern Nazis on the Holacaust, is trying to white wash it's past.

This does not mean that I don't support strong educational standards for all citizens. In fact I support
WASL, Washington's testing system. So everything that this book salesman is coming up with does not apply to my comments.

I know Simpson's guilty, but I recall a commentator at that time, who pointed out that blacks were doing to whites what whites had been doing to them for years in the South—playing the race card while serving on jury duty. And, man, did we whities not like the feel of that shoe on our foot! But I think my commentator, rather than learning a lesson from how he felt about the Simpson verdict, is deciding to pretend that racism did not exist.

Look, lynching is just in the American South's past. We should not emphasize it, neither should we bury it as long as racism still exists down there in the Republican Party and its political campaigns.