“Completing the frieze are six
vignettes illustrating the effect
of the war on Southerners of all
races. The vignettes included
a black slave following her young
master, an officer kissing his
infant child in the arms of her
Jeffery Robinson, lawyer, ACLU
I guess you supported Paul Ryan.
I guess Scott Walker was okay too. It’s a woman.
Middle-aged. White. She’s the caller. I just entered the van
and sat down. I’m strapping myself in.
Get out of here you (expletive)!
Quite a bit of expletives. Sexual references to that fact that a
woman called in! A
woman who might be a
democrat! A liberal!
She’s not married. Who’d
marry her. No one would marry her. Imagine being married to her?
a middle-aged white local talk show host. Angry. Angry!
look in the mirror to catch a glimpse of the senior and disability
van’s driver. A middle-aged white male. Looking straight ahead,
as he should. He seems content. As he shouldn’t be.
then, this is Kenosha, Wisconsin. Small town America. It would
surprise me if he weren’t the popular host in town.
one point during the ride to my doctor’s appointment, the radio
host talks to his audience about Robert E. Lee.
A good man, he says. Graduated
from West Point. Second in his class! One of the best soldiers in the
A brilliant general!
matter-of-fact. I’m looking out the window, looking at the
trees. All the lynchings to come, after Lee.
I just see the trees rustle now, on their own accord. The trees,
witnesses to what’s hung on their brethren unnaturally,
deliberately, bidding me to recall…
COVID-19. It’s like a flu.
You know this is about the fittest. The survival of the fittest.
I wait. So bold so far, why not refer to the unfitness of Black
Americans. The superiority of white Americans.
look at the back of the driver’s head, catching a glimpse of
his eyes. Focused on the road. Content. Nothing is out of the
ordinary, except maybe me. But I might be okay. Well behaved. He’s
not concerned. I appear stone.
see George Floyd’s face stuck on the ground. The knee of the
white police officer is pressing down on his neck. Eight forty-six.
He’s stopped breathing before the knee rises.
trees still rustle.
few days later, I mention to a white neighbor how it was hard to
watch the video, hard to watch and stay with George Floyd all eight
minutes and forty-six seconds. When I realized I was choking up just
remembering, I turned away, with a hand over my chest. Then I turned
back to the face of the pale woman only to see the eyes were icy. I
froze momentarily before taking a deep breath. You have to take deep
breaths. This thing in this country is so deep.
ideas carried in the minds of the Confederate colonials and generals
were the same ones present among the Founding Fathers. It’s the
mindset traveling from across the seas to the shores of the “New
World” that was Turtle Island to the many inhabitants. It’s
the same mindset of these Founding Fathers claiming their freedom
through the audacious slaughter of Indigenous people to the cruel
enslavement of Africans in order uncover and cultivate the Earth’s
bounty for just a small fracture of humanity.
the South propositions the North: In writing, let’s create a
narrative describing our rights, our freedoms, and the necessity to
fight on behalf of “colonial liberty and the protection of
property.” And as a unit, the colonists come up with a
narrative and a deep-seated concept of what it means for white men of
wealth to be free. The late historians Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen,
writing an analysis of this concept of “colonial liberty and
the protection of property,” note how it’s broad enough
to “encompass both the commercial interests of the North and
the slavery interests of the South.” Thus, a united front is
formed to confront the threat to freedom that is now Britain.
out of forty-six of the Founding Fathers are slaveholders. In the
northern colonies the accumulation of wealth depends on the smooth
operation of shipyards, ship builders, merchants in the slave market.
South, united in the recognition of it’s identity and
interests, recognized, writes the Blumrosens,
liberty as what could be “defended as the desire to protect
know the end result: the Colonists won the war against the British
Empire. And they did so by fighting against the idea that slavery for
Blacks was cruel and unjust.
Because Britain, having abolished slavery after the Somerset
decision. As the Blumrosen reminds us, this “decision would
have monumental consequences in the American colonies, leading up to
the American Revolution, the Civil War, and beyond.” Because
the decision was clear: the runaway Somerset doesn’t have to be
returned to his owner, to enslavement. Free Somerset! Free all of
the enslaved Blacks!
were opened in Britain. However, in the New World, the colonists
weren’t having it! South or North! If their collective eyes
were open, they now were closed to the truth about the cruelty of
enslavement. And frankly, it’s not that the colonist didn’t
know how slavery was leaving deep scars in the fabric of their
culture. Jefferson knew it. Read Jefferson in Notes on
Virginia referring to the
children of slaveholders. “The whole commerce between master
and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions,
the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and the degrading
submissions the other.” Children are watching! White children
watch parents “storm,” put on “airs in the circle
of smaller slaves,” exercise “tyranny,” and these
in the long run, Jefferson envisions a future in which justice
awakes, and a wrathful God takes vengeance on the colonies.
in 1775 the battle cry, I’m not giving up my n______!
followed by a call to arms.
a battle cry the world hears from Southerners rebelling against the
idea of free Blacks. Never! I’m not giving up my
the South fought the cause that still lives on today. The movement of
Black Lives Matter is a response to the legacy of anti-black thought
and practice in this nation.
easy to change policies and laws, Dr. King once said, but it’s
much harder to change minds. Most Americans think it’s the
past, but what is past? What? If white America is still “innocently”
baffled by the presence of other Americans, Blacks, Indigenous,
Latinx, and awake whites on the street protesting, calling for
justice, calling for the treating of Blacks as human beings, and if
there are Americans still demanding white supremacy, then America’s
commitment to the use of violence against the idea of racial
inclusion is very much alive and well and functioning as the
foundation of everything that is America.
in the blood of conquered Indigenous and enslaved Blacks, the
signatories of the Declaration rode horses groomed by their human
property, just as the enslaved attendants during the Civil War
accompanied Confederate generals and colonials to battlefields in the
the US in 1865, the Union lost 110,000 in combat. The Confederate
lost 95,000. The South fights to maintain “the whole commerce
between master and slave,” to maintain an economy with its
foundation in free labor and unfree
Blacks. Would Washington and even Jefferson be proud of General
Robert E. Lee and the other Southern gentlemen and soldiers for
taking up the American “cause”?
consistent in all this killing is white America’s response to
Black people, and, in turn, white America’s response to it’s
past. We remind white Americans of that very past it wants to see
erased. It’s no surprise we, in this era of Trump, and after
the murder of George Floyd and the rising protests, that there are
incidents of Blacks found hanging from trees or being assaulted by
white citizens. Angry citizens who want freedom from what they
perceive as the nightmare of their past. Here are these Americans
carrying out justice, the wrath of God against Black citizens.
while the actual past is a nightmare to white American, creating a
past more suitable to the fantasy of white supremacy becomes the new
deep and not foreign.
“Independence” day in 2020, the current occupant of the
White House had a message for Americans, a reminder: heroes “gave
their lives for Americans.” Great heroes are murderers and
enslavers here. In Europe, citizens are asked to remember the
genocide of the Jewish. Visit Auschwitz or Buchenwald. See it!
Imagine the gypsies taken away in Romania or the Jew forced to board
trains in Poland. Here, we are still debating the worth of
celebrating Columbus Day or wondering whether or not a name change is
due at Fort Hood in Texas. Why in Washington, the owners of the
Redskins, should have
waited until George Floyd is murdered and citizen protest is
demanding an awakening before awakening themselves to the racist
connotation of that team name so long into the 21st
the holding back for so long attests to the lingering fantasy of the
American myth of innocence. As Sarah Churchwell writes, “the
fantasy of an America, once populated solely by the racially pure
Nordic ‘common man’ was the Klan’s genesis myth…,
the prelapsarian past to which they hoped to force America to
return—by violence if necessary” is still with us today.
the changes are made permit only if this myth is the entity that is
killed. Erased from memory.
violence of American genocide and enslavement has never been
addressed in the way it the Holocaust was and still is, as an
on-going way of being that everyone must be vigilant and diligent at
conquering or no one is free of it’s legacy. The fantasy of
white supremacy as more than an ideology; it’s an actual
reality in the minds of Americans. It’s too real, too deep to
think it will go away of it’s own accord. Miraculously
so we have these insidious statues in the US, statues honoring,
Americans will tell you, great heroes, of our
past. Our past! As if
all the people at the gate are riders.
Poverty Law Conference counted them. 1503. Of that number some 718
were monuments and statues. Of that, at the original count, Virginia
had 223 statues and monuments, Texas, 178, Florida 61, Mississippi
131, Alabama 107, North Carolina 140, Louisiana 91, Georgia 174. Some
are down, thanks to protests. But many are still an eyesore to the
victims of conquest and enslavement, a painful reminded everyday that
America just doesn’t see enough to give a damn.
refuses to self-reflect on it’s entanglement with violence.
America wants to go on congratulating itself on the back for bobbing
its heads to Black music and applauding the looks and work of Denzel
Washington and capital accumulation of Oprah Winfrey while it’s
law enforcement has a knee on more Black necks than we can keep track
of. America wants to believe it’s too damn good for the likes
of Canada and Europe.
it comes to really respecting Indigenous people, Black people, Latinx
people, America is still enslaved itself by a past it envisions that
just chokes the life out of it’s collective breathe. It’s
too entangled with that violent fantasy of white supremacy to even
see a way beyond the same old response to anything that challenges
it’s imaginative ideal of what constitutes human decency.
“bad hombres” here, terrorists members of Black Lives
Matter, and the anti-fascist, anti-black mob contaminating young
white American minds into joining them in the destruction of history,
our history, white
history, must be challenged and eliminated.
we back in the year 1776? Or is this the beginning, again, of the
are talking about manifestation of that violent fantasy, these
Confederate statues. For the most part, these mainly granite
monstrosities taking on more life in the imaginations of white
Americans that the African Americans strung up on trees. The granite
structures come into being after the
Civil War between 1900-1921. In 1901, hundred and five African
Americans were lynched. The following year, some eighty-five Black
people were lynched, and in 1903, it was eighty four. In 1905, it was
fifty seven and sixty two in 1906. In 1908 and 1910, eighty nine and
sixty seven, respectively.
the lynching continued, the massacres grew more frequent. In the East
St. Louis Massacres of 1917, two hundred and eighty African Americans
were killed, and in Arkansas, it was two hundred killed in 1919. And
in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921, more than 300 African Americans were
Turner, a pregnant Black woman, is lynched in Georgia. 1918.
4,000 Black people are lynched between 1882 and 1968.
there will be no specific date or year in which Americans will note
the beginning of a war declared against Blacks. Unless the 1896
Plessy vs Ferguson’s 7-1 decision serves the purpose of declaring war
against the lives of Black people. Plessy vs Ferguson legalized white
supremacy in which there was no room to consider the impurities of
Black lives that can’t possibly matter!
clear to those who lived in the US between 1865 and 1896 that a war
against the idea of freedom for Black people. It will be a continuing
war with a new enemy.
the growing number of Confederate statues signposts. Pick up the
battle cry, wave the Confederate Flag.
America would wage it’s own
holocaust against what it perceived as the murderer of it’s
fantasy of white supremacy: Black people!
Keep America prosperous for
still here that slogan today. And too many Americans believe it’s
the secret eleventh commandment.
That the “anti-Negro program”
in America during the years between the first and second world wars
conjured Robert E. Lee, the great hero of a general who could lead
white America once again, in victory, against impurity
wasn’t so fantastical to an entire nation. But what is that
admiration for enslavers and murders if not the spark that ignites
America’s version of fascism.
fascism is indigenous, by definition.”
it’s followers here in the US wouldn’t think of the
ideology as alien. As Churchwell explains, fascism “claims to
speak for ‘the people.’” It claims to “restore
national greatness.” It’s a version of fascism that takes
on a “local identity.”
lynching of Blacks, then, is a way to erase the defeat of the South,
and proclaim victory. And to declare victory would require organized
hate groups such as the KKK, led by former Confederate generals and
law enforcement personnel and vigilantes to kill the visible enemy.
the Florida Panhandle, the last spectacle lynching that took place in
October 1934. Advertised in the local press, it drew a crowd of
5,000. Think of that! Over in Europe, the crowds of 5,000 are Jewish
or gypsies assembled, most, to be gassed or cremated.
can’t imagine what Claude Neal was thinking. Was he able to
think—captured and surrounded by the strange and cruel, the
burned and castrated, his “genitals stuffed into his mouth, and
he’s forced to tell his torturers that he enjoyed their taste.”
this human being, is then dragged behind a car and mutilated. His
corpse is urinated on by the crowds.
see it. It’s the validation of the herrenvolk. The
invalidating of all the other folk, writes Churchwell.
left of Claude Neal is hung from the Mariana Courtyard.
the herrenvolk suggests,
is the death of Black Americans.
today? Today? Listen to the voices on the tape and hear the familiar
American battle cry. Never. Never. Hear
the panting? It’s June, in North Carolina and the police
officers, they can’t wait! Can’t wait! The world is in
need of what they have to offer, and that is, to “wipe”
off the planet those black people! “Wipe them off the
(expletive) map.” Black people!
put them back about four or five generations.”
the meantime, several African American newspapers noted the
connection between Nazis Germany and Jim Crow America. A Pittsburgh
didn’t hesitate to blurt out the thought: “Hitler Learns
too among other African American papers was the way America committed
itself to the wiping out of any idea of Black people as free people.
In America’s commitment to maintaining white supremacy was “a
model” for the Nazis to initiate its campaign of “oppressing
and persecuting its own minorities.” Study under the tutelage
of the Klan leaders, writes Churchwell. Easy!
Hughes chimes in. “We Negroes in American do not have to be
told what fascism is in action.”
America pretending that anti-fascist, anti-black movements are
dangerous must feel something in their bones. Enough to call, once
again, for war—against the idea of democracy. Freedom for all.
say can you see…
Scott Key thought Blacks “mentally inferior,” writes
Jason Johnson, The Root.
the memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is a monument honoring
what—those great days…
authorized in 1906, the monument was unveiled by Woodrow Wilson in
1914. Standing tall is a woman, representing the South, looking very
much like a Roman goddess as she faces South. Beneath her is another
lawyer Jeffery Robinson takes us to the Arlington National Cemetery
website. There it’s
explained that six friezes exist. One vignette “includes a
black slave following his young master; an officer kissing his infant
child in the arms of her mammy…”
sure Robert E. Lee would have approved of this image of the likes of
me and all Black women like me, as mammy, submissive, our humanity
invisible to the “artist” who designed the structure…
while I’m uncomfortable for a moment, I realize I’m
subjected to the anger of a dying cause. It’s a new day for the
future of this nation.
the Confederate’s men will come tumbling down with lasting
effect when all of America joins with the Black, Indigenous, and
Latinx to focus a conquest-enslavement-centered American history.