There is an old Chris Rock skit where a woman has caught her man cheating and tells him, “I know you did it! Just admit it!” I’d like to use the same technique to address American racism and those who are trying so hard to protect it nowadays.
For those who follow my column, you have heard me say on numerous occasions that American racism can’t be denied, primarily because it was openly practiced and the perpetrators left a ton of evidence of their racism. The breadcrumbs are everywhere. They were not afraid of being a racist, they had no shame about their racism and they had no fear about being racists. That changed in the 1940s, through 1960s when people of color, having the courage in groups, began to say very loudly, “enough is enough.”
Racists of today are much less honest than their forebears. They tend to be ashamed of being called racists. They know that it is no longer a badge of honor among most people in this country, the way it used to be for most of American history. That does not mean that they don’t harbor the same racists beliefs and act on them regularly. It means that most of the time they will deny how they really feel. They will say things like, “I am the least racist person in this room.” They will say they can’t be racist because they have a Black wife or a Black friend at work, or a Black neighbor.
They will also come to local school board meetings and claim their children are being harmed by what they call critical race theory. They don’t know what critical race theory is, they don’t care to know what it is. They just want to use the phrase as proxy for what they truly mean which is primarily systemic racism. They will go on social media and complain that systemic racism is a myth or even more ridiculously, they will say it is a conspiracy theory. They know that anything that is called a conspiracy theory is automatically going to make it seem illegitimate.
The racists of today will claim to be protecting White children from guilt about racism at the same time they are telling children of color, mostly Black kids, that they don’t need protection from racism because it does not exist anymore. The irony of them trying to dictate what ugly parts of American history should not be taught, provides clear evidence that systemic racism is alive and well.
These angry suburban moms, and rural community dads, threatening and calling for the firing of administrators that allow conversations about racism to take place in their schools, are the same people that stood on the sidewalk at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. I say the same people, but what I really mean is they are the children and grandchildren of those racists who said they “won’t go to school with niggers.”
They are the symbolic millions who voted for the openly racist, South Carolina Senator, Strom Thurmond, who ran on the States Rights Party ticket for president in 1948. They are the embodiment of people who spat on Black children and Black adults who had the courage to challenge racism. They are the angry descendants of the angry White people who rioted over court mandated busing for integration.
These racists today are the descendants of the federal government officials who created “Operation Wetback” (real name) to keep Mexican people out of the country. They are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the racists who stole Native American children and placed them into White assimilation schools they called “boarding schools.” They are the descendants of the people who herded 120,000 Japanese Americans into what they called “internment camps,” while refusing to do the same to Italians and Germans during WWII.
The ones who stood by and watched, cheering the state troopers in Selma, Alabama who brutalized hundreds of peaceful, unarmed Blacks attempting to march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965, are the ancestors of today’s racists.
The crowds of so-called “good ole red-blooded Americans” who attended by the thousands, brutal ritualized murders, called lynchings, are the same faces I see in the anti-Black Lives Matter crowds.
Are all of them racists? Probably not, but they support and provide shielding to the racists. Back in 1926, tens of thousands of Ku Klux Klan members from all over the country, marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. They were cheered on by a raucous crowd of some 100,000 supporters. Were all of the supports Ku Klux Klan members? Probably not, but they supported and provided shielding to the Ku Klux Klan as they randomly and wantonly assaulted and murdered Blacks.
The racists of today are the progeny of the White people who put their hand on a Bible in court, promising to uphold their duty as police officers or witnesses and then commenced to lie in open court as if it was second nature. These racists still go on jury duty today, promising to do what’s right and then descending into racist deliberations, sending thousands of Blacks to prison for crimes they did not commit. How else can we explain the 1,410 Blacks who have been fortunate enough to be exonerated since 1989 after spending years, sometimes decades behind bars?
Atticus Finch is a mythical character that is in no way, shape, or form based on a real person. Despite this, he is one of the most beloved characters in America’s favorite novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” He is the attorney who defended a Black man against a false accusation of raping a White woman, not because he wanted to, but because the case was assigned to him. The character has been the inspiration for an untold number of Whites who wanted to “do the right thing” and become an attorney, defending the innocent.
Those White people who love the book apparently miss the ending when Tom Robinson is found guilty and eventually shot in the back multiple times and killed. I don’t finish that book feeling good. I think many of the White people who love it immensely are simply blind to the character of Tom Robinson. He is more an object for the “White Savior” Atticus Finch to save than he is a human being. The book is not a feel good book for Black children or adults.
Racism is so readily apparent in the copious evidence that racists have left behind. You could not begin to fill the Superdome in New Orleans with the evidence of America’s racist past without running out of room very fast.
American racism is present in so many laws in this country, that a book the size of War and Peace would pale in size to the one with racist laws written in it.
To me the most ironic thing about those who want to kill the teaching of this ugly part of the American past and present have gone out of their way to disown the feelings of their ancestors. Their racists ancestors must be turning over in their graves, hearing their descendants say the Civil War was not about slavery. These racists from the past would be ashamed that their progeny are so ashamed of their deeds that they are willing to lie about what they said and did to prove that systemic racism is a myth.
Listen! We know you did it. It is time you admit it.
Library of Congress