When Attorney General Bill Barr testified before a Congressional committee, he refused to acknowledge that systemic racism existed, and does exist, in law enforcement. It is this type of head-in-the-sand attitude that allows it to continue. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage our nation, I am reminded of a conversation with a black co-worker when a city-wide curfew was issued. Because we were considered “essential” we were required to carry a special notice from the governor which allowed us to ignore this restriction. I expressed my concern to my co-worker, stating that I, an older white male, would not be questioned, but he, as a black male would certainly be at risk. Even reaching for the aforementioned letter could be fatal.
This is the world we live in and white privilege is real.
Those who are uninformed believe the Black Lives Matter movement began with death of Travon Martin. They see it as a relatively new phenomenon aimed at taking down Donald Trump. Because they are so short-sighted, they ignore those who preceded Martin in death.
Emmitt Till was a 14 year old African American boy from Chicago. He was visiting family in Mississippi and was apparently unaware of the rampant racism that still existed in the South in the 1950s. He made what he thought was an innocuous, flirtatious comment to a white woman. He was tortured and murdered by the woman’s husband and another man.
The sign indicating the site of his murder has become a frequent target of white supremacists who would riddle this marker with bullets and otherwise destroy or steal the sign.
The current sign, the fourth one, is bulletproof and weighs 500 pounds. This is meant to discourage those who wish to deface this memorial.
Medgar Evers was an early advocate of the Civil Rights Movement as he led the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP. As the state’s field secretary, he was tasked with the duty of organizing voter registration and boycotts of white businesses that refused to allow equal access to black customers. Evers was also instrumental in re-opening the case against those who murdered Emmitt Till.
Evers was assassinated in his driveway. His murder resulted in increased support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Despite overwhelming evidence, his assassin, Byron De La Beckwith, was acquitted by all white juries in two trials. The case eventually was reopened and Beckwith was convicted in 1994.
They were attending choir practice. They had no idea they were being targeted by racists who wanted to send a message of intimidation to those who were simply demanding their Constitutional rights.
The church bombing was the third in eleven days as members of the Ku Klux Klan sought to prevent the integration of Alabama schools.
Like the Medgar Evers case, those responsible for these despicable actions were initially acquitted, or not even charged. It was not until 2002 that the last of four men who committed the heinous act was finally convicted.
In what became known as “Mississippi Burning”, three Civil Rights’ activists were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan as they sought to organize voter drives in the South. Two of the men were white and the third, James Chaney, was black.
The investigation that followed resulted in the arrest of 18 participants in the crime, including two members of law enforcement. Again, those involved in the murders were acquitted of murder charges, while just seven of the 18 were convicted of lesser charges.
The only conspirator who was brought to justice was Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2005.
So, while the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others are at the heart of the current Black Lives Matter movement, it is the deaths of those I have mentioned, along with countless others that have caused the outrage that has permeated our cities in recent months.
Perhaps this time there will finally be a change.