Republicans will never pass up an opportunity
to recast themselves as the party of civil rights. It is an irony
of life for black Americans that the very people who oppress them
the most, are the first to use them to establish their compassion
and caring credentials.
The Senate will pass a resolution apologizing for
its predecessors’ support of lynch law in the United States.
Nearly 5,000 lynchings of African Americans were documented between
the 1870s and 1960s. If 5,000 are documented many more took place
that were not.
For decades southern Democrats, Dixiecrats, filibustered
every effort to pass anti-lynching legislation in the Senate. Today
white southern politicians are almost all Republicans. The party
labels shouldn’t cause any confusion. Yesterday’s Dixiecrat
is today’s southern Republican.
George Allen is a Republican Senator from Virginia.
Allen has joined one of the few white Democratic politicians left
in the south, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, in passing a resolution
apologizing for the Senate’s refusal to stop the murder
of thousands of Americans at the hands of their neighbors.
Doria Dee Johnson, Anthony Crawford’s great-great
granddaughter will be present to hear the apology. Not only was
Anthony Crawford murdered for the crime of arguing over the price
of his cotton, but his family and most other black families were
driven out of Abbeville, South Carolina, where he was lynched by
that numbered between 200 and 400 persons. Crawford said he was
willing to die if he was struck by a white man, instead he died
for merely arguing with one.
Senator Allen wants to be president
of the United States, a fact that explains his new zeal to right
the wrongs of the past. It is a new role for Allen to play. When
he served as Governor of Virginia, Allen called the NAACP an “extremist
organization,” proclaimed the month of April Confederate History
and Heritage Month and kept a confederate flag in his living room.
When asked why he flew a confederate flag in his home he replied,
"It was never flying. It was nailed to a wall."
Allen, like the current Republican president, is not
the sharpest knife in the drawer. His father, also named George
Allen, was coach of the Washington Redskins football team. Allen
can’t seem to overcome that part of his heritage. He speaks
endlessly in football metaphors, so much so that it is unclear what
language he speaks.
He does not speak English. I mean that almost literally,
in that he does not construct sentences made up of commonplace English
words. Rather, he speaks entirely in a patois
constructed of football metaphors.
Allen has referred to primaries as "intrasquad
scrimmages," his staffers are the "A-team," he calls
Senate recesses "halftime" and opponents commit the sin
of "pass interference." This simple-minded boosterism
appeals to millions of Americans. If he doesn’t realize his
presidential ambitions it will not be because of his inarticulate
Whether he becomes president or not, Allen should
not be allowed to cynically claim regret for the American terrorism
practiced by people he also claims to admire. If there is any doubt
about Allen’s true feelings, the existence of a noose hanging
from a tree in his office ought to dispel any doubt. The apology
for lynching will be delivered by an apologist
When asked about the noose Allen claimed that it was
just memorabilia symbolizing his admiration for “frontier
justice.” Someone needs to point out to the good Senator that
frontier justice caused the gruesome murders of so many thousands.
It was clear that something was up when the same person
who proclaimed Confederate Heritage Month started hanging out with
Congressman John Lewis at the Edmund
Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. Clearly a conversion was afoot.
When Allen begins his run for the White House in 2008
the noose and the Confederate flag should be remembered more than
any opportunistic apology for lynching. It must also be remembered
that this so-called apology is an attack on the filibuster itself.
The filibuster is the one tool remaining that gives the powerless
Democrats a voice in the Senate.
Suddenly Republicans used their predecessors shameful
support of lynching as a rational to end the filibuster. It never
occurred to them to apologize before they needed to kick the Democrats
when they were already down.
The desire for acknowledgements of injustice is universal
among peoples who have had no redress for wrongs committed against
them. In recent years appeals have been made for apologies not only
for American slavery and lynchings but also for the Irish potato
famine, the Japanese army’s rape of Nanking, China and numerous
other examples of humanity’s ability to inflict cruelty on
their fellow humans whenever they see fit.
The request for an apology is always followed by wails
of consternation from the descendants of the evildoers. They complain
that the wrong occurred a long time ago, that they had nothing to
do with it, or that other groups were just as evil.
Allen couldn’t use legitimate requests for justice
to further his political career and ulterior motives if we just
said no thank you to apologies from people who are at the very least
insincere. If Allen is serious about making amends let him propose
legislation to compensate the families of lynching victims. He could
start with Anthony Crawford’s descendants. He might also make
police brutality, the modern day successor to lynching, a federal
A man who can’t express himself without using
sports metaphors will never do any of those things. So when he stands
on the floor of the Senate and apologizes for Senate complicity
in murder, those of us who are truly interested in remembering should
think of the Anthony Crawfords of this nation and ignore George
Allen and his ilk.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column
appears weekly in BC.
Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York
City. She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected].
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/