• Categories

  • Housekeeping

  • Advertisements

On Hiatus as of 7/24/2018

After examining my usage statistics and level of engagement (commenting, ping backs, etc) with this blog, I’ve decided this isn’t where I want to spend my time, at least for now.

I’m leaving my blog up so that people still have access to previous content, and I reserve the right to resume posting if I feel I have something I really need to say.  If you have been following my Equal Justice Initiative posts, I invite you to explore their History of Racial Injustice Timeline.

This should not be taken as asserting blogging isn’t worthwhile for anyone. It’s just personal blogging isn’t for me, right now. YMMV

Advertisements

JULY 23rd, 1910 Press Reports Murder of Black Taxi Driver in Montgomery – Equal Justice Initiative

Today, the Equal Justice Institute shares a story from 1910 that still echoes today.

On July 23, 1910, Colored Alabamian, a black magazine, reported the murder of black taxi driver Mitchell Johnson in Montgomery, Alabama. Earlier that month, a white man employed Mr. Johnson to drive him to his home, then refused to pay the fare. Mr. Johnson reported the incident to his employer and had the man arrested. After the passenger posted bond and was released from jail, he found Mr. Johnson and shot him dead. When the man was rearrested, he asserted that he killed Mr. Johnson in self-defense and he was released.

On July 11, 1910, following Mr. Johnson’s death and a string of murders, Montgomery County Judge Armstead Brown instructed a jury to determine a defendant’s innocence based on evidence and not on class or race. He stated, “All charges of homicide should be rigidly investigated. Whether the killing be of some person of standing or a poor unknown negro.”

Colored Alabamian applauded his remarks: “White men who murder Negroes only have to tell the Court they acted in SELF-DEFENSE, to be turned loose, whether the victim was a Negro man or a poor helpless Negro woman. We are therefore very thankful to Judge Brown.”

Despite Judge Brown’s plea for even-handed enforcement of the law, distrust of the criminal justice system among black Montgomery residents grew. Two months after Grover C. Ray, a white man, murdered Ed Rugley, a black man, Colored Alabamian‘s editorial board warned, “Watch out now for the old theory of SELF-DEFENSE.” In cases where white defendants were charged with killing black people like Mr. Johnson, the black community in Montgomery increasingly came to see the justice system not as a source of protection but as complicit in shielding white men from accountability for violence against African Americans.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

I find it heart breaking that we seemed to have made little progress in this area. From George Zimmerman to almost any incident of police shooting unarmed black men, the simple assertion of self-defense or fear for one’s life is still, in the 2010s, enough to be acquitted of murdering an unarmed black man or in some cases, to avoid being charged.

We also have to take a moment to gape in horror at the level of entitlement and hatred present in the murderer of Mr. Johnson. Even if we assume that Mr. Johnson lied (which I do not) about his passenger not paying a fair, how does false witness become a death penalty offense? In the more likely case where Mr. Johnson was telling the truth, how staggering it is that the passenger, having stiffed the taxi driver, decided that the driver had to die for reporting his crime? The arrogance just astounds.

Not Rosa Parks – EJI Calendar 7/16

Today the Equal Justice Initiative shares the story of a brave and determined African American women who refused to yield her seat to a white passenger – in 1944. I’m not familiar with Ms. Morgan, but she is an American hero, along with Rosa Parks who’d come along later. Here’s a brief version of Morgan’s story.

JULY 16th, 1944

Black Woman Arrested in Virginia for Refusing to Give Up Bus Seat

On July 16, 1944, 27-year-old Irene Morgan was traveling by bus from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland, when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger.

Ms. Morgan, a black woman, purchased a ticket that day in Gloucester, Virginia, and boarded a Greyhound bus, taking a seat in the assigned black section. About thirty minutes after the bus departed, however, Ms. Morgan and the passenger sitting beside her were asked to give up their seats for a white couple who had boarded the bus. When Ms. Morgan refused and advised the passenger beside her to do the same, the bus driver drove to the local jail in Middlesex County, where a deputy sheriff boarded the bus to present Ms. Morgan with a warrant for her arrest.

Under Virginia law at that time, racial segregation was mandatory on state sponsored transportation. However, as Ms. Morgan was traveling on an interstate bus, she was adamant that she not be removed from her seat. Ms. Morgan was physically dragged from the bus, then detained in the Saluda City Jail and convicted of violating the state segregation law.

Ms. Morgan appealed her conviction, and lawyers Thurgood Marshall and William H. Hastle argued her case before the United States Supreme Court in March 1946. Less than three months later, in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, the Court reversed Ms. Morgan’s conviction and held that state segregation laws were unconstitutional as applied to interstate bus travel.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Think about the driver here for a moment. What made him decide this incident was worth wasting all the passengers time with driving to the local jail? Was this company policy? His own way of “being moral” while following the law? Did he ever show remorse for his actions?

We need to support one another in resisting unjust laws. We also need to celebrate all the heroes that make America a freer and more just place to live.

1777 Vermont bans slavery / 1917 Hundreds of African Americans murdered by white mob in Illinois: EJI Calendar 7/2

July 2nd has two entries for the day. One semi-positive and one very dark and evil.

JULY 2nd, 1777

Vermont Abolishes Slavery

After declaring independence from New York in January 1777, the citizens of Vermont developed their own constitution, which contained “A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the State of Vermont.” This declaration affirmed that all men were born free and that no male over age 21 or female over age 18 could serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice whether “born in the country, or brought from over sea.” Thus, with the ratification of its constitution on July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first North American territory to abolish slavery.

Earlier, in 1774, the Rhode Island and Connecticut legislatures outlawed international slave importation but fell short of banning inter-colony slave trade. Despite their bans, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont enacted laws interfering with free blacks’ efforts to find work, own property, or even remain in the state.

More can be found at the EJI web site.

While Vermont is to be commended for ending slavery so early, their also proof you can be both abolitionist and racist. Or they wouldn’t have interfered in Black employment and settlement.

 

JULY 2nd, 1917

Two Hundred African Americans Killed in East St. Louis Riots (bolding mine)

In 1916 and 1917, thousands of African Americans moved from the rural South to East St. Louis, Illinois, in search of industrial work. White residents and political leaders of East St. Louis attempted to dissuade African Americans from moving to the area and prohibited railroads from transporting them to the region. When these attempts failed, white residents used violence to intimidate, expel, and destroy the African American population.

The primary outbreak of violence began on July 2, 1917, and lasted until July 5. White mobs comprised of East St. Louis residents and outsiders who came to participate in the attacks ambushed African American workers as they left factories during a shift change. The National Guard was called in to suppress the violence but they were ordered not to shoot at white rioters. Some National Guard troops participated in the violence.

Estimates indicate that two hundred African American men, women, and children were shot, hanged, beaten to death, or burned alive after being driven into burning buildings during this surge of violence. The riots caused more than $400,000 in property damage and prompted 6000 African American residents (more than half of East St. Louis’s African American population) to flee the city. While 105 people were indicted on charges related to the riot, only twenty members of the white mob received prison sentences for their roles in perpetrating the extreme violence and killings.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

You might be tempted to complain that this happened over a hundred years ago and that “We’re past all that.” Are you sure? Yes, we don’t have widespread massacres of our African-American citizens, but the country seems full of white folks convinced there are spaces where black folks should not be. Instead of attacking black folks themselves, they call 911 to report on the suspicious characters. Too often African-Americans pay the price for these pointless calls.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall being taught about the East St. Louis massacre or the seemingly dozens of other instances where White mobs ran wild and murdered our fellow citizens of color and/or burned out their homes. If we don’t fully own our bloody and hate-filled history, can we ever get past it? I’m not sure.

EJI June 25th, 1964: Hundreds Attack Anti-Segregation March in St. Augustine, Florida

On June 25, 300 anti-segregationist marchers who had spent the afternoon rallying at the site of St. Augustine’s former slave market, Slave Market Square, were violently attacked by over 200 white segregationists. The segregationists easily evaded police and physically assaulted the marchers. As the marchers fled, they were chased and attacked across the city’s downtown area. Close to fifty of the marchers were injured, and fifteen were treated at the city’s hospital. Several hours before the attacks on the marchers, seventy-five white segregationists had attacked a group of 100 African Americans who attempted to wade into the ocean at a local “white beach,” and twenty people were arrested. Such violent clashes between anti-segregationists and segregationists in St. Augustine continued throughout June 1964.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Note: First paragraph of this article was snipped. I wanted to focus on the rage of the White people unwilling to share space with African Americans.

On the one hand I can barely comprehend that level rage. On another, I wonder if much of that rage, that desire to not share space with African Americans hasn’t simply been sublimated into calling the police on black folks apparently for being in places or neighborhoods “they aren’t supposed to be in.”

EJI June 18th, 2015: White Man Shoots and Kills Nine Black Worshipers in Racist Attack at Charleston, South Carolina, Church

On the night of June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, and sat in on a Bible study session for about an hour before opening fire on the other participants, all of whom were black. Prior to the attack, Roof had expressed racist views on a personal website and to friends, allegedly stating that he hoped to incite a “race war.”

The nine victims killed in the shooting were Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, and Clementa C. Pinckney, the senior church pastor and a South Carolina state senator. Five people survived the shooting.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Let me be up front, I don’t support the death penalty for anyone. No matter how vile someone is, it is not up to human authority to kill someone except in active defense of self or others (i.e. while someone is actively trying to kill others). Still, I find it troubling that Roof and many White mass shooters — who have demonstrated ability and willingness to kill — get captured alive, when many unarmed black men get killed by police. I’m not wishing Roof had been killed, but do wonder why it seems like police aren’t afraid of people who’ve killed but are afraid enough of black people to shoot them without being fired on.

This incident also shows that deep abiding hatred on the simple basis of skin color is still very much with us.

EJI June 11th, 1966: Dozens Participate in NAACP’s Birmingham March Against U.S. Steel Employment Discrimination

Despite the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, and national origin, African Americans were continuously relegated to low-paying, unskilled jobs. Many industries refused to train or promote African Americans, only permitting white employees to compete for supervisory positions.

Source: A History of Racial Injustice – Equal Justice Initiative

Looking at most high level jobs in many industries, we continue to view a sea of white male faces – now sprinkled here and there with women and people of color. This is not a simple accident, but a product of decades of purposeful exclusion. I suspect we will need to put as much effort into creating diversity as our society used to employ in actively suppressing diversity to get real racial and gender diversity in business and politics.

%d bloggers like this: