At my big age of [redacted] having been on Al Gore’s Internet for the past 20 years, you’d think I’d be numb to white maliciousness. There are white people who hate us — why am I still surprised? Yet here I am, shocked once again, that some white boys would go out of their way to express their hatred of Black people so publicly and completely unprovoked.
One week after a photo emerged of white University of Mississippi students posing with guns in front of a bullet-riddled sign honoring murdered civil rights icon Emmett Till, campus groups and faculty have denounced the school’s weak response, demanding the administration discipline the students and remove a Confederate statue from university property.
The three students in the photo were suspended by their fraternity, the Ole Miss chapter of Kappa Alpha, an organization with its own racist history. (The fraternity’s website refers to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder.”)
But Anne Twitty, an associate professor of history at Ole Miss, said the three students should be expelled.
Do you need a refresher on what happened to Emmett Till?
In 1955, Emmett was a 14-year-old boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi for the summer. Carolyn Bryant was a 21-year-old white woman who owned a grocery store with her husband. Emmett and his cousins went to the store where Carolyn was tending shop alone while her sister-in-law attended to other duties in the back. What happened in the shop is unclear after all these years but most (reliable, non-fabricated accounts by Carolyn) say one of three things happened:
- Emmett, who went to integrated schools in Chicago, said he had white friends and his cousins dared him to speak to Carolyn.
- Emmett, who was always joking around, whistled at Carolyn to get a laugh out of his cousins, who were terrified at what just happened because a Black boy (Black man, to racists) cannot whistle at a white woman in Mississippi.
- Emmett, who had a stutter, whistled while he was talking to alleviate his stutter, something he had a habit of doing.
Carolyn said 14-year-old Emmett Till grabbed her wrist, asked her for a date, grabbed her around the waist, told her not to be afraid of him, said he’d been with white women before, and asked her if she could take it.
A 14-year-old Black boy. In 1955. To a white woman. Is supposed to have done all that.
In 2008, Carolyn finally admitted on her deathbed that she had been lying about the physical and verbal advances, and she said in an interview that “nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.” (x)
Later that night after Carolyn’s husband Roy and his half-brother JW heard about the incident, they asked around to find out what boy offended his wife. They said they had intended to kidnap Emmett, beat him up to scare him, and then send him on his way. According to Roy and JW, when they were beating him, Emmett called them bastards, said he was just as good as they were, and bragged that he had been with white women before. So they continued to beat and torture him before shooting him in the head and tossing his body in the river. When Emmett’s body was found, his mother insisted on an open-casket for the funeral and the photo of his mutilated body was printed in newspapers and magazines across the country. It was one of the sparks of the Civil Rights Movement.
So we have here an innocent 14-year-old boy who AT MOST whistled at a white woman in a store, and for that he was beaten and tortured by two men and then murdered. What continues to shock me is the reality that white men in 2019 derive some kind of pleasure from mocking this boy. Why am I shocked? I’ve seen this before. White people reveling in Black pain is not new to me, which is one of the reasons I stopped re-posting videos of the police brutalizing our community. I think it shocks me every time because I don’t have a frame of reference for it. If someone is in pain, I feel their pain too, whether I like them or not. It’s the commonality of human experience. I can put myself in their shoes and understand how they’re feeling. What is it about a roadside memorial for a 14-year-old boy that makes ANYBODY — racist or not — want to gleefully pose next to its bullet-ridden sign with shotguns?
And how does this not rise to the level of expulsion by the university? They got suspended by their fraternity (which is already racist, given their belief that General Robert E. Lee is their “spiritual founder”) and that’s it. They look ready to commit a hate crime. That photo says Emmett Till deserved what he got, because he was Black and wasn’t sufficiently deferential to a white person. That photo says Black people who don’t know their place deserve to be tortured and murdered. That photo says Black people are not safe on campus and the fact that Ole Miss didn’t come to the same conclusion is the reason we still fight for the viability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
I have a master’s degree, and I failed on the first question.
I know what a literacy test is, but sadly, I’d never looked one up to see what the questions were like. During Jim Crow, they were used to keep Black people from voting. Some poor and illiterate whites got caught in the net as well, and that makes sense for a country who, when founded, only gave voting rights to landowning whites, but the purpose was to keep Black people from being heard. Former congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr. posted a literacy test today, and you can’t pass it. I can’t pass it. No one can pass it.
This particular test from Louisiana in 1964 was to be administered to anyone who could not prove they had finished 5th grade or higher, which would overwhelmingly apply to more Black people. We had less access to education and were more likely to quit school in order to work the land and help our parents keep a meager roof over the family’s head back when so many Black people were sharecroppers.
And there’s no uniform key for this test. The white registrar reads the answers and decides whether you answered correctly or not. I’m sure this test, on the rare occasion it was given to white people at all, was graded more leniently when the hand turning it in wasn’t colored.
So. Take it and see if you would be able to vote in Louisiana in 1964, less than 60 years ago.
Ten minutes to complete 30 questions is about twenty seconds per question, and you have to get every single one correct. If this was an actual literacy test, I would pass with flying colors, because I can read well enough to know that some of these questions are unanswerable, but it’s not about literacy. It’s about creating a standard that no one can meet and then applying it unfairly to Black people. It’s giving Black people additional burdens to be perfect that white people don’t have. It’s disparaging Michelle Obama for showing her arms in her White House portrait even though Melania has nude photoshoots online. It’s arresting Black people for marijuana at 3 times the rate of white people, even though the same percentage of Black people smoke weed as white people. (x) It’s Black college students being just as likely to find employment as white people who didn’t even finish high school. (x) It’s cops shooting unarmed Black people and taking a white mass shooter to Burger King. (x)
A lot of Black kids heard this refrain from our parents growing up: You have to be twice as good as the white folks to get half as far. However. When the judge and jury of your achievement is White America, you can still fail the test they never even have to take.
A moment for Gwen Berry
It’s so funny to me that Conservatives think we care what they have to say about Gwen Berry being unpatriotic when those same people don’t care that the Capitol was stormed and vandalized.
One of these is a protest.
The other is a crime.
**Black lady turns away from the flag.**
WHAT A DISGRACE TO AMERICA!
**White people break into the Capitol and erect a gallows to hang elected officials.**
awwww economic anxiety
France is giving the United States another Statue of Liberty.
Another symbol of liberty to a country that’s still oppressing its people.
NYC has another Statue of Liberty on the way. France is sending us a smaller version to be placed on Ellis Island just across the water from Liberty Island where the original stands as a beacon to freedom…or something.
This new bronze statue, nicknamed the “little sister,” is one-sixteenth the size of the world-famous one that stands on Liberty Island.
“The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world,” said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM [National Museum of Arts and Crafts]. “We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship.”
If you want to put a symbol of “freedom and light” anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the United States.
If you want to give the Statue of Liberty to the United States all over again anyway, give it in the spirit with which it was originally intended in the first place — as a gift to celebrate Black Americans.
I grew up with the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants. “Give us your tired, your poor…” and all that, but Lady Liberty had been there for twenty years before those lines by Emma Lazarus were inscribed onto a plaque and installed at the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration (the voluntary kind, not the shackled and chained way most Black people got here) for two reasons. One, immigrants latched onto the massive sculpture, which is understandable because she was the first image of New York for most European immigrants arriving by boat on the way to be processed at nearby Ellis Island. Two, the creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, pitched the idea to raise funding from Americans in the most general terms of “liberty” without specifically referencing Black Americans. His plan worked since the United States did indeed agree to pay for the pedestal if France paid for the actual statue, but it was a pivot away from the original idea.
Édouard de Laboulaye was a French abolitionist and it was he, along with his social circle of abolitionists, who conceived of a massive gift to present to the United States after the Civil War — once slavery was outlawed. The proposal of Lady Liberty initially held broken and shackles to signify the broken chains of slavery instead of the tablet she holds today. The chains eventually made their way into the final version down around her feet, the original significance lost to most people and barely noticed.
The years immediately following the Civil War were filled with promise for Black Americans and de Laboulaye wanted to recognize that. We made great strides in education, civic engagement, and politics, but the South regained its footing and struck a compromise in the 1876 Presidential Election that saw federal troops removed from the Old Confederacy. Black people were back in chains, invisible shackles placed on our communities through coalitions built between lawmakers and law enforcement, private businesses and private citizens. When Bartholdi finished Lady Liberty, there was no way to “sell” the idea to the United States as a celebration of slavery’s end. Black America hated the idea, because we were being oppressed, terrorized, and murdered, and White America would’ve scoffed, because they were doing the terrorizing. She was pitched as a symbol of liberty, immigrants saw her as the first welcoming image of the United States, and then the government solidified that feeling by using words from Emma Lazarus.
Today, it’s more important than ever to remember why the Statue of Liberty was conceived in the first place, not a symbol of general liberty and freedom, but as a symbol of Black liberty and freedom. We are still fighting to have our history accurately taught in schools. We are still fighting to be the country de Laboulaye thought we were becoming when slavery ended. And we are still fighting to live up to the promise Lady Liberty has symbolized to millions of immigrants. This little sister will probably be all over the news as we get closer to July 4th, so whenever you see her, make sure you remind somebody that the Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a gift to celebrate the end of slavery, but the US put Black people back in chains too quickly for her to actually symbolize liberty and freedom for us.
Simone Biles and the Twisties.
Adventures in rehab.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
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