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Thursday, June 23, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Hate burns bright

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Hate burns brightHate burns bright

Ghosts of Miss. racism are alive,
well & living in U.S. politics

It has now become common wisdom that the practices of Southern racists were no less than terrorist acts. The bombings, beatings and murders were used to maintain the power of white over black. In essence, it was a legal issue.

Those rednecks were intent on making sure that the equality spelled out in the Constitution was never taken seriously below the Mason-Dixon line.

Since the Ku Klux Klan and its various offshoots were dominated in number by what has long been called "white trash" - crude, poorly educated, lower-class men who were blue collar at best - what we actually saw in their barbaric acts was the hysterical desire to be appreciated or respected as "full" white men, not the dregs of society who were never accepted, appreciated, or thought of as equal to whatever might pass as a Southern aristocracy. These men never married the boss' daughter and their own daughters never married the sons of the boss.

They were separated by social conventions.

So the only way they could get that good old feeling of being equal was in the symbolic garb of a white sheet or in the cowardly acts that proved to the world that they were not the kind of white men who were going to let those coons, those darkies, those monkeys, abuse Southern tradition by getting out of their place, which was always supposed to be beneath the feet of the white South.

Forty-one years ago, three young men were murdered because they were intent on getting the Constitution to function in Mississippi and because the idea of Negroes getting out of their place was a joyous dream.

At that time, we did not have the tasteless violence of our mass media or barbaric braggadocio, glamorization of violence and obscenity of rap to desensitize, corrupt and pollute our culture.

The howling white men we saw on television, their equally horrible wives and monstrously indoctrinated children were all very clear to us. They were authentic and part of what was wrong with this nation. Whatever they wanted to do or uphold in the social arena was something all people with civilized intentions had to oppose.

When those three young men - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - disappeared, they were searched for high and low. Before their bodies were uncovered, many dead black men were found in the state's rivers, proving that the murder of Negroes in Mississippi was a fairly normal thing.

It was equally normal for any white men charged with murdering black men to be released so that they could walk with their heads up, laughing at the idea that they might be convicted for homicide - especially if they did it.

All the laughing stopped when that 80-year-old klansman was convicted by an integrated jury way down yonder in good old Mississippi, where I am sure some feel that he was a victim, a scapegoat. But those people can take heart in the fact that redneck strain of American thought remains alive and well.

The GOP has taken up the slack. No longer Democrats, the Dixiecrat is now a Republican, or a Republicrat. As such, we heard their voices just last week when 19 Republicans and one Democrat failed to support the Senate's formal apology to lynching victims and their families, but under pressures were reduced to eight unrepentant Republicans.

Those are the real ghosts of Mississippi backwardness, and they are still with us.

Originally published on June 23, 2005

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