“I have always had a warm place in my heart for Mississippi, the land of my childhood and ancestors. I dislike the reputation this state has acquired as being the most backward and most bigoted in the land. Those who truly love Mississippi must work to change this image.”
Thus began a letter written by U.S. Postal Worker, William Lewis Moore in 1963. The purpose of the letter and his walk across three southern states to deliver it to the Governor of Mississippi was to bring attention to the racism and segregation that was tearing the nation apart. But before it could be delivered, Moore was assassinated while walking alone on a country road in Alabama.
In the letter he implored White Americans that they “cannot be free…, until all men have their rights. Each is dependent on the other.” Like so many, his peaceful protest – one that sought to inspire Americans to move toward decency and justice – was instead met with violence and death. However, unlike the murders of countless Civil Rights activists before him at the hands of White Supremacists – from Medgar Evers, to Rev. George Lee, and Lamar Smith – Moore was White. A White man whose death was at the hands of another White man, in the form of two bullets in his head at point blank range.
Sixty years later and nearly a thousand miles north, Anthony Huber, a White man, was murdered on the streets of Kenosha by another White man, while protesting the shooting and murder of Black men. But Huber was not armed with a letter calling for understanding. Instead he carried with him a skateboard, and an awareness of our nation’s history.
This is America.
Decades separate the deaths of Moore and Huber, but they each now serve as tragically heroic bookends to the lives lost during this escalating war on democracy and America’s humanity. The dead include a mother of five children gunned down in her car in Alabama, and another woman run over and killed in Virginia. The lives of four good people on the side of peace, decency, and equality, murdered by those on the side of hate and White Supremacy.
The lives lost in the struggle for Civil Rights are too many to mention, but given the state of our nation, now seems to be a fitting time to continue Moore’s work. Because as Moore’s voice was cancelled by bullets, his letter has served as inspiration to draft another one in honor of his sacrifice, and that of countless individuals of all races and religions whose lives were taken by their fellow Americans.
This letter, however, is addressed to one group in particular. One with the potential to either be a part of this country reaching its true potential, or continue to lead it to its demise through indifference, cruelty, and willing participation in the slow but relentless march toward fascism. Yes, this letter is for you:
Dear White America,
We have been reassured to see the diversity of participants in the marches for civil rights and in support of those affected by senseless acts of violence toward the Black and Brown community. Our hope is that you have been a part of this movement of peace and understanding. It is one marked by young and old, black and White marching arm-in-arm conveying the importance of Black lives. The streets often acting as the only place where the paths of such diverse and beautiful peoples converge. A true melting pot with unimaginable power to inspire and finally help America embody the credo that all are created equal.
The harmony of this movement, the inclusivity and cooperation in keeping with the core tenets of every faith. The sheer scope of these efforts and the powerful message it sends is an inspiration to millions. But it is also a threat to millions more as it challenges America’s wicked inheritance, and threatens to reveal the anti-social disorder and deadly facade of White Supremacy. As a result, peace has often been met with violence, and increasingly the lives of Black and White Americans are lost.
At first the brutality of such acts may seem unfamiliar, but the emboldened, armed, and now sanctioned acts of violence are actually nothing new. You see, there is a familiar rhyme and sadistic reason to the consistent violence put toward those who stand up for racial justice and equality. From abolitionists, to pastors, to those simply joining in the march, it is a cadence that goes back centuries. A cadence paced by a steady drumbeat of hate, occasionally punctuated by the sound of gunshots or the pounding of fists on flesh. When the victims are Black it is casually accepted as part of the bloodied chorus of our nation’s history. But when the victims are like you, White, it rings hollow and is so off key that it is difficult to hear or comprehend.
Nevertheless, the death of White Americans, at the hands of their own is part of America’s dance with racism that somehow remains hidden and unfamiliar despite it going back for generations.
On April 23, 1963, William Lewis Moore, a White man was shot dead on the side of the road by a White man for protesting segregation. On March 25,1965, a White woman named Viola Liuzzo was killed in a field by white men for promoting voting rights. Fifty years later, a White woman named Heather Heyer was run over on the streets of Charlottesville by a White man for protesting White Supremacy. And two years after that, Anthony Huber, a White man was murdered in Kenosha by another White man for protesting racism in America. The names of those murdered will soon conveniently and strategically be made part of America’s forgotten past. Their images will fade, and our shared history diminished.
It is almost as if there are those who want America to forget its past for the sole purpose of repeating it.
Regardless, their deaths all serve as a critical reminder that racism in America is not theoretical. It is literal, real-time, deadly and ultimately does not discriminate. It will take out thousands of people of color, and if needed, one by one it will murder one of your own.
The messaging that was once subliminal, is now out in the open after the events of August 25, 2020, in Kenosha and January 6, 2021, in our nation’s capitol. In short, no one will be spared. Not even White Americans. Defend our nation’s capitol and if you are a White police officer you will be beaten with the American flag. Stand up for justice and equality and your murder will be streamed to millions across the globe.
The murderer hailed a patriot by politicians, and maybe even some of your family and friends. Law enforcement will tell the shooter, “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” as they toss him a bottle of ice cold water on a hot summer night. So refreshing!
In short, keep up the good work. Is the message getting through?
The media, and in doing so, many across the country trip over each other trying to discern who the real victim is? Is it the dough faced boy whose mother pleads on national news to accept him as American as apple pie. A murderer of two unarmed protesters, now set for life as a reward for killing those who dared stand in the way of White Supremacy.
Or is the victim the one whose story remains relegated to a few screenshots of his still-alive smiling face, while countless loops of his death on a crowded Wisconsin street trend online. The one whose mother is not interviewed by pundits, while he is deemed a rioter, arsonist and domestic abuser. You know the one, the guy shot in the chest with a skateboard in his hand and audacity in his heart. Audacity to march through the streets of America in support of Black lives.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
What side do you choose? The mere consideration that a choice exists reveals an absence of humanity in the narrative, and its dwindling presence within yourself. For in a dying democracy, one that is goose stepping toward fascism, the murderer is cast as the hero, and the one standing up for a truly representative democracy is cast as the villain. This dearth of compassion conveys the madness and cruelty which is the message. And day, after day, it is received loud and clear by its intended audience.
Hey White America, do you hear it? It is as simple as, “Stay in your lane” or “Be thankful for your privilege.”
And do not think that just because you are White you are above the fray. Get in the way, challenge the racism and entitlement that you yourself benefit from and you will be treated no different than the Black, the Brown, the Muslim, and the countless “other” lives you naively care about. Step out of line and you may meet the same fate as that n-lover Liuzzo, the schizophrenic Moore, do-gooder Heyer, or miscreant Huber.
You will be made an example of and summarily forgotten.
So, rather than speak up, tens of millions of White Americans continue to brutally step aside in silence, while the demons of America’s past reacquaint themselves with the old ways. Terrorizing communities with rifles, lynching innocent joggers in Georgia and taking seats in the halls of our American democracy. They will stay silent at the Thanksgiving table, around the water cooler or ponied up at the bar as their family, colleagues and friends joke about an insurrection, justify the death of unarmed protesters, and bask in the dismissal of basic human rights.
Should you choose silence you may be granted safe passage. But there will be cold comfort to your newfound and tenuous sense of security. Because your silence is what fuels the violence and solidifies your complicity.
In short, you have struck a Faustian bargain, one where the price is realizing that one day the blood on your hands, may actually be that of someone you love who chose to speak up.
While Moore’s letter never made it to the Governor’s desk, we certainly hope you are getting the message with our letter to you. For his words were prescient beyond the boundaries of the deep south, and resonate 60 years later coast to coast and in America’s heartland. His undelivered letter a clear omen to a country that is teetering after confederate flags stood tall in the Capitol, White Nationalists locked arms with politicians, and the Republican party finally consummating its long-term dalliance with White Supremacy.
Like Moore, people across the country, and in this case, you and other White Americans, have likely always had a warm place in your heart for America, the land of your childhood and ancestors. You may dislike the reputation your country has acquired as being the most backward and increasingly bigoted in the land. But one would hope that if you truly love this country you would realize that you must work to change that image.
Because no one can be free, until everyone has their rights. And each will forever be dependent on the other.
Hope, Decency, and Humanity