Updated: Jun 10, 2020
A full three days before the most powerful country in the world announced a National State of Emergency on March 13, my wife had already had me in self-quarantine because of my Multiple Sclerosis. Realizing I was facing months of isolation, I committed to doing a variety of things to grow my brain. My wife suggested a few books to read but let me preface this with, I’ve never been a book reader. Living life as a radio DJ, my daily printed intake was the hometown paper’s local gossip section, People and Teen Beat magazine, current events were always important to my show.
“The Book of Joy” by the 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of my wife’s favorites where the authors discuss the challenges of living a joyful life. I was about half-way through the book when one afternoon, I happened upon a rerun of “The Great American Read” on PBS, their book show presentation where viewers were asked to vote for their favorite novel. Because I was already in the reading mood, I watched with great interest.
As the countdown was nearing the end, titles of the top 5 books were familiar to me, People magazine had probably done feature stories on the number one bestsellers which made them recognizable; The Lord of the rings, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Outlander... before they announced number one, I decided regardless, I was going to download it from Audible.
Drumroll, Hoopla, and host Meredith Vierra announced the biggest vote-getter for the “Great American Read” was “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee! I picked up my phone for a download. Keep in mind, I was assigned to read this book and write a book report in the ’70s, but I was one of those students, faked it... failed it.
While reading a book set in the era of 1935, I repeatedly had to stop and acknowledge a hard fact. Holy Crap, nothing has changed.
Chapter 23, after Tom Robinson was convicted on circumstantial evidence in the rape of Bob Ewell’s 19-year-old daughter Mayella, lawyer Atticus Finch explains to his son Jem that regardless of the evidence, it was circumstantial and the jury that convicted Mr. Robinson was predisposed to do so. He told Jem that if it were a jury of kids his age, most likely Tom wouldn’t have been convicted, “So far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process.”
But of Tom’s jury, Atticus said, “You saw something come between them and reason,” even though it was “he said, she said,” she was white and he is black. “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”
When does the loss of reason occur? Babies aren’t born with hate in their bellies so it must come from their surroundings. What else could it be? Is it because of the butter we eat or the milk we drink or the Oreos we eat or the air we breathe as we mature into adulthood? We all wake up in the morning to do what needs to be done for ourselves or family to survive another day under the sun. Some BBQ, some drink beer, some mow their own yard, some play on swings and teeter-totters, some go to work, some have dogs and some don’t, some own their home and others rent, some can’t work and some don’t want to work, blacks and whites. We go work at the office, the landfill, or the job site, we hit up Subway or McDonalds or Popeyes for lunch, some wear Depends garments and some don’t wear underwear. The difference is black and white.
Reading about the same attitudes and actions of those in 1935 Maycomb and comparing them to 2020 America is shocking. Nothing has changed for some old white people in America since reconstruction (they don’t teach reconstruction in public schools today so, you may have to Google it). When Lincoln freed the slaves, there was a MINORITY of white Americans who decided they were superior to black Americans and didn’t want them to have the same rights. They terrorized and hunted black men, women, and children and chased them down with dogs. They burned their home and raped their women. Ropes, trees, and guns did their dirty work instilling fear that resonates today. The documentation of white supremacy in America is proof a minority of men and women have bred a history of hate against a people and as Atticus told Jem and Jean Louise on page 252, “There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance. Don’t fool yourselves--it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it. I hope it’s not in your children’s time.”
Did the knee on the neck George Floyd bring on the “time”? As a white American who’s never been afraid to research the ugly side of American history, this is an aggregate score. Those of George’s race have every reason to feel distressed beyond reason and want to take to the streets and tear the place up. But I think today, it’s different. Not only are those of George’s race angry, but the other colors of the American rainbow are angry, too.
I’m not seeing only black people protest, I’m watching young people of black, brown, and white who’s collective anger has been welling because; their black friends get harassed, there’s no protection for their LGBTQ friends, they can’t get a decent paycheck, they have no healthcare, their planet is struggling, their president is a liar and sending American troops to attack American people.
As a 65 y/o white guy, I’m pissed that after being born in 1955, our society is still struggling with race relations. I watched Kennedy and his brother shot and killed and I was getting ready for a Jr. High band concert the night Martin King was murdered. I was of the belief the old white guys running our country at the time were going to fix it; that’s what the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was all about. I thought we were making progress. But then there was Rodney King and the rest and there’s never any progress. it’s been the same since before Atticus Finch.
After I mentioned Rodney King in my original post, I shouldn’t have stopped. The call to “Say
their names” has struck me as important in this discussion. I went back to the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin by a wannabe cop in 2012. In 2014, I was in NYC staying at the hotel that houses BB King’s Blues Club and was kept up all night with the sound of citizens protesting the death of Eric Garner. Other notable deaths of 2014 were 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Beginning in 2015, you see a noticeable increase in violence against blacks and browns by
cops and wannabe cops. What major occurrence could have sparked the growing fire? Not sure if there’s any connection but on June 16th, 2015, Donald Trump announced his run for the office of the president of the United States. Since then; police or citizens who believe they have policing authority, have been involved in killing black and brown people at an alarming rate*.
Incidents in 2015: Artago Damon Howard in Strong, AR., Lavall Hall in Miami Gardens, Fl.,
Thomas Allen in St Louis, MO., Charly Leundeu Keunang in Los Angeles, CA., Naeschylus,
Vinzant in Aurora, CO., Tony Robinson in Madison, WI., Anthony Hill in Atlanta, GA., Bobby
Gross in Washington, D.C., Brandon Jones in Cleveland, OH., Eric Harris in Tulsa, OK., Walter
Scott in North Charleston, SC., Frank Shephard in Houston, TX., William Chapman in
Portsmouth, VA., David Felix in New York City, Brendon Glenn in Venice, CA., Kris Jackson in
Lake Tahoe, CA., Spencer McCain in Owen Hills, MD., Victor Emmanuel Larosa in Jacksonville,
FL., Salvado Ellswood in Plantation, FL., Darrius Stewart in Memphis, TN., Albert Joseph Davis
in Orland, FL., Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati, OH., Christian Taylor in Arlington, TX., Asshams
Pharoah Manley in District Heights, MD., Felix Kumi i Mount Vernon, NY., India Kager in
Virginia Beach, VA., Keith Harrison McLeod in Reisterstown, MD., Junior Prosper in Miami, FL.,
Anthony Ashford in Point Loma, CA., Bennie Lee Tignor in Opelika, AL., Jamar Clark in
Minneapolis, MN., Nathaniel Harris Pickett in Barstow, CA., Miguel Espinal in New York, NY.,
Michael Noel in Breaux Bridge, LA., Kevin Matthews in Dearborn, MI., Bettie Jones in Chicago,
IL., Forgiveness for those I missed.
Incidents in 2016: Antronie Scott in San Antonio, TX., David Joseph in Austin, TX., Dyzhawn L.
Perkins in Arvonia, VA., Calin Roquemore in Panola County, TX., Christopher F. Davis in East
Troy WI., Peter Gaines in Houston, TX., Kevin Hicks in Indianapolis, IN., Jessica Nelson-
Williams in San Francisco, CA., Michael Eugene Wilson Jr. in Hallandale Beach, FL., Vernell
Bing in Jacksonville, FL., Antwan Shumpert in Tupelo, MS., Deravis Caine Rogers in Atlanta,
GA., Dalvin Hollins in Tampa, FL., Donnell Thompson in Compton, CA., Levonia Riggins in
Tampa, FL., Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, OK., Alfred Olango in El Cajon, CA., Christopher Sowell
in Philadelphia, PA., Andrew Depeiza in East Point, GA.. Forgiveness for those I missed.
Incidents in 2017: JR Williams in Phoenix, AZ., Darrion Barnhill in Reagan, TN., Nana Adomako in Fremont, CA., Cad Robertson in Chicago, Il., Raynard Burton in Detroit, MI., Alteria Woods in Gifford, FL., Ricco Devante Holden In Converse, LA., Marc Brandon Davis in Petal, MS., David Jones in Philadelphia, PA., Aaron Bailey in Indianapolis, IN., Dejuan Guillory in Mahmoud, LA., Charles David Robinson in Woodville, GA., Anthony Antonio Ford in Miami FL., Dewboy Lister in Corpus Christi, TX., Calvin Toney in Baton Rouge, LA., Lawrence Hawkins in Prichard, AL., Keita O'Neil in San Francisco CA., Juan Pedro Pierre in Lauderdale Lakes, FL. Forgiveness for those I missed.
Incidents in 2018: Arthur McAfee Jr. in Longview, TX., Ronnell Foster in Vallejo, CA., Mario
Dantoni Bass in Woodbridge, VA., Shermichael Ezeff in East Baton Rouge, LA., Cameron Hall
in Casa Grande, AZ., Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA., Danny Thomas in Greenspoint, TX.,
Juan Markee Jones in Danville, VA., Marcus-David L. Peters in Richmond, VA., Tony Green in
Kingsland, GA., Rashaun Washington in Vineland, NJ., James Leatherwood in Hollywood, FL.,
Charles Roundtree in San Antonio, TX., Danny Washington in Franklin Township, PA., Gregory
Griffin in Newark, NJ.. Forgiveness for those I missed.
In 2019: Marcus McVae in Boerne, Tx., Isaiah Lewis in Edman, Okla., Ryan Twyman in Los
Angeles, Ca., Josef Richardson in Port Allen, La., Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, Tx., Michael
Dean in Temple, Tx., Forgiveness for those I missed.
In 2020: William Howard Green in Temple Hills, Md., Donnie Sanders in Kansas City, Mo.,
Breonna Taylor of Louisville, Ky., Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis, Ind., Ahmaud Arbury in Glen
County, Ga., George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Forgiveness for those I missed.
END OF UPDATE
A minority of old white people decided upon white supremacy after reconstruction and as they feed that bile to their kids, a minority of white people still live in the history of their ancestors. White supremacy is a long-term campaign and they are loud.
For the last 50 years, I’ve been told a growing number of minorities were going to outnumber naturalized white Americans. The US Census counts white Hispanics and Latinos in their count of white Americans. Dismiss the white Hispanics and Latinos and the actual number of white Americans is much lower, possibly a minority in their own country. My hope is the younger part of the American rainbow population (and the older part like me who believes in the younger part) is finally ready to form a much different quilt than their ancestors. An America focusing on personal worth and not color.
I choose to live in the innocence and understanding of Jem and Jean Louise Finch and show the strength of Mr. Link Deas. Mr. Deas gave the widow Robinson a job and Mr. Ewell, who everyone knew abused his very own daughter, would “chunk” at Ms. Helen and terrorized her as she walked to work. Ms. Helen was being menaced by the man responsible for her husband's death. Mr. Link Deas said he’d get the law on Ewell and charge him with the Ladies Law if he didn’t leave his cook alone.
If you haven’t read “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee lately, do it. If you didn’t and said you did, do it. And, go back and read my blog, The Commencement Address to the Class of 2020. An encouragement for young people to get involved and vote to make the changes needed to finally root America of our long history of racism and a variety of other ills, available at KRCurry.com.
Until next time,