Friday, August 30, 2013

August 28 -- a date to celebrate and to mourn

Wednesday was a big day, here in D.C. Famous and many not so famous gathered in remembrance and celebration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Moving speeches were made, music sung and banners waved. It was a truly feel-good event.

Wednesday was also the anniversary of a dreadful page in our history. It was on that same date in 1955 that a 14-year old, African-American boy from Chicago was tortured and lynched in Mississippi. His name was Emmet Till.

Young Emmet had made is first trip to the south to visit cousins in Mississippi. Coming from the north, he wasn’t aware of Jim Crow laws. Of course he was familiar with discrimination, but of a more subtle sort.

Pubescence may have clouded his judgment about how to act around females. As a relatively carefree, brand-new teen, away from home, having fun was foremost in his mind. Worrying about other peoples’ opinions of him may have never crossed his mind. Little did he know that the color of his skin could get him killed.

When Emmet spotted a pretty woman, he did what most any red-blooded American boy would do. He complimented her with a wolf-whistle. His Black cousins may have turned fifty shades of white at that point, knowing that what he had done - simple as it was - was considered an insult and crime.

It didn’t take long before grown men, including the woman’s husband, dragged Emmet into a barn, beat the living daylights out of him, then lynched him. All of this done in the name of a lady’s honor. [I hope that said “lady” was forever haunted by what was committed in her name.]

We still cannot claim that all Americans are treated equally. Until those of a certain age are gone and take their segregationist and racist attitudes with them, the struggle will go on.

Younger generations are the hope for our future. However, we must protect them from the twisted thinking of neo-this-and-that groups that foment anarchy and chaos. We CAN overcome!

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