A Boy’s Blood

I went to bed last night trying to get the true story of Emmett Till out of my mind.  I awoke this morning with that boy still on my mind.

I wonder what he would have grown up to be?  A young teenage black boy in 1955, apparently outgoing, smart, with a good sense of humor. Murdered in the most atrocious way by two grown white men, possibly with others, possibly with even one or two black hired “assistants”, for Emmett having had the “audacity” to allegedly “come on” to a young white woman – a Mississippi “lily” and wife of one of the murderers – Emmett, his short life and his horrible death, became the major inflection  point in the civil rights movement ensuing from that point to this moment.  While we will never know for sure all of the details and participants in his murder, it is unimportant at this point.  What is important is that we NEVER forget what happened to him.

Of course I have known a little of the story for many decades, but only just recently have I sought out more information.  What prompted me was viewing an interview on one of the major news tv channels of Timothy B. Tyson, about his latest book “The Blood of Emmett Till.”  I haven’t even finished reading it, a thoroughly researched and investigated history book, scholarly written to capture the full context of Emmett’s murder in the days of Jim Crow, and what the event, “witnessed” around the world, meant to the civil rights movement.  Mr. Tyson actually sat down and interviewed the Mississippi “lily.”

Then I found this documentary story on You Tube, which is rather long, but thorough, with interviews of his mother many others who were caught up in this sad story.  It is not easy to watch, but we should.

Today, with all the hate we are witnessing, with old “norms” suddenly coming out in the open again, encouraged by BMT (Bottomless Moral Turpitude….that which occupies the Oval Office), and a significant portion of  his base of supporters, we who stand to defeat such hate must not forget the past.  That past is really not distant at all.  Many of the sons and daughters and their children of those who belonged to Citizens Councils, KKK, and many other collections of white people who committed acts of terrorism against blacks and their few white supporters during the 1950’s and later, are still very much alive today.  I would like to believe that most have turned away from such racism, but the fact is that many have not.  The ghosts of the murderers of Emmett Till, and those who murdered so many other black people during those days, walk the Earth.

Be vigilant O Warriors of Truth and Love.

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Redtails in the morning, Nazis take warning.

Even though much publicity and media have rightly recognized the valor and accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, I continue to be in awe of these young black aviators of WW2 who lit up the skies with the flashes of their machine guns and exploding Luftwaffe aircraft, and raked German defense lines on the ground as the Allies drove the Germans northward through Italy to final surrender.

Last evening I watched a film titled “Hart’s War,” which was both unsettling, yet revealing.  I won’t give any spoilers, except to say the setting is a German POW camp, filled with American soldiers, all white –  until two captured Tuskegee aviators are brought in.  The film revealed just how deep the gulf was between whites, especially from the south, and blacks in the military.  The military was just a part of the larger racist society of that time (not to say America is still not racist in so many ways).

I had the pleasure of shaking the hand of one of the last Tuskegee airmen just a few years ago, and tried to tell him in a few seconds that my father was a bomber pilot and that he recalled being escorted by the Tuskegee airmen fighters.  I don’t think the old gentleman really caught what I was trying to say, and other people were waiting to shake his hand, so I couldn’t say also, “Thank you for keeping my father safer.”

The P-51 Mustangs in the caption photo are planes preserved from the WW2 era, painted with red tails that was the “calling card” of the Tuskegee, 332nd Fighter Group, based in the southeastern coastal area of Italy.  From there theses brave fighter jocks flew many missions covering bombers flying out of the “USS Corsica” (the island of Corsica), and later from bases in Italy, as the 12th Air Force plastered the Nazis, cutting supply lines, hitting fuel dumps, taking out major gun emplacement, knocking out flak artillery, and mowing down German troops with frags.

My father flew 70 missions as a B-25 pilot, doing all of the above, and many of his Wing went down, a number captured, a number murdered by Germans shooting them as they dropped in their parachutes after their plane was hit by flak, and some murdered by the Nazi SS.  The Redtails I know were his cover on a number of missions, and were it not for that, I may not myself be here writing this, for he might have also made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now, it must be understood, that these valiant fighter jocks were doing their duty, in spite of the fact that back home in April, 1945, others of the Tuskegee group who were still training for air combat, could not enter and partake at an officers club in the Midwest.  Over 100 of these black officers attempted to enter the club and were ultimately arrested.  Due to outside protest, the Army dropped charges against most, but some were not cleared until the 1990’s!

But, in spite of all this, you can bet that not one Redtail pilot hesitated to push his gun button when he saw an ME-109 sliding in to target one of our bombers full of white men of the same age, many of whom would not even eat at the same table with him.

Think about that.

REPARATIONS.

Harriet Tubman…..never a braver woman, or man.  Time and time again she risked everything, life, the prospect of severe torture, risked it all to lead a few more slaves north.  The sad tale of shiploads of human cargo, hundreds of years of being worked to death as slaves or forced impoverishment post-Civil War.  Thousands of lynchings and more recently atrocities such as the dragging behind a truck and decapitation of James Byrd, Jr., 1998, in my great State of Texas.  Not to mention the murdering by cops, today, of young black boys and men, even being shot in the back or while laying on the pavement.

In the 115th Congress, H.R.40 intended to address and study the effects of these centuries of inhuman treatment of the United States black citizens, and moreover, what can be done by this USA to help “rectify” these wrongs to some extent.  With this new Congress, in spite of all the distractions, I pray this can move forward.

Some of my own ancestors were slave owners, I am sad to say.  Others no doubt were involved in the oppression of blacks in the South in some way, I am sure.  Although my family was not wealthy, they were land owners, and I am sure that to some extent the wealth they had, much of it lost in the Civil War, did in some capacity put them way ahead of any black people from their own time.  That is what is called “white privilege.  But this “privilege” extends across all facets of our society, and has across each generation.  There is no way that black people in this country can ever catch up to we white folk, without some real, meaningful assistance.  The form or substance of that overdue assistance is the only question.  Don’t tell me “Well, my people came after the Civil War so I have no guilt or responsibility to blacks.”  Oh yes you do: everything you enjoy in this land today was by in large, originally built on the sweating, scarred backs of black men and women and children.  So yes, we, all white people, have a debt to pay “them.”

Homage to Black America

This being the last week of this year’s Black History Month, a fact likely missed by 99% of white Americans (and likely most Latinos and Asians and First Peoples), I wish to make a brief statement on the “situation” of race in these States.

May I first offer a quote from one of the greatest writers of all history, James Baldwin?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

The civil war that we are in right now (and yes it is a civil, not-so-civil, war), the war that never ended really at Appomattox, is slowly draining the dreams of millions of Americans -black and white and all others- and like Climate Change, we cannot just pretend that it does not exist.  We must face it.  We must face the root causes of it, and attempt collective understanding of this morass.

As a white man in America, who grew up in a “white world” until the age of 18, and who later went on to live among mostly black Americans until the present day, for over fifty years now, I feel very well qualified to repeat James statement, above.  All I have to do is watch the news feeds, watch the man holding the position of POTUS and hear and see the vile attitudes and behaviors of so many on the extreme right, to clearly comprehend that they must face their hate, and we who expound love and sharing and unity are wholly obliged to help them see the non-truth of their Weltanschauung.

All we can do on the left is hold ourselves to the arc of moral justice admonitions, check ourselves, but be firm in reaching out to the right with love and resilience of purpose.  We must push our institutions, our corporations and businesses, our churches and organizations, to look at FACTS, and stop reverse-engineering realities to justify distortions of history and of other human being who happen to not be of the same color.

There are many white people, especially men, who at one time were skinhead racists or “run of the mill” bigots, who have found the power in their heart to change, so they can be fully human being, and experience the beauty of their ultimate divine purpose.  It can be done, but only by having the courage to sit down one on one, or starting in small groups of black and white and all other Americans, to listen and hear one another’s pained and painful views.  Hiding behind Tweets and Comments is only the sign of someone who is afraid to put his or her skin in view behind those words.  So many cowards.

We must all, face the music.