America’s Worst Sore—Racism—Remains

A certain segment of this country fails to acknowledge that they have a sore called racism. It is a sore that just won’t heal. It has been around since the inception of this country and even before. It is a sore used as justification to invade Africa, steal its humanity and enslave a race of people for over 250 years. It led to the Black Codes after the Civil War and Jim Crow Laws after Reconstruction. The sore caused two to three Blacks to be lynched or burned at the stake every week in the South during the years from 1890 to 1917. It precipitated the Tulsa Massacre on June 1, 1921 when over 300 Black men, women and children were murdered, followed the next year with the slaughter in Rosewood, Florida. It is the same sore that gave us the Scottsboro Trials of the 1930’s, the lynching of Emma Till in 1955, the lynching of  Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama in 1972, the slaughter of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas in 1998 and now in present day America, the killings of young Black men by Police Departments in many cities.

In his autobiography about growing up Black in the Jim Crow South, the late Dr. Benjamin Mays recalled his childhood in South Carolina. “If a Black boy wanted to live a halfway normal life and die a natural death, he had to learn early the art of how to get along with white folks.” Before Emmitt Till headed South to spend the summer, his mother counseled him on the proper behavior for a young Black teenager in Mississippi. She feared for his life if he failed to remain invisible. Today, in the year 2019, parents are still counseling their young boys on how to act while traversing what are assumed to be the free streets of America.

This soreness that has plagued white America over the centuries is based on an erroneous, but very arrogant assumption that the white race is some kind of a superior race over others and especially Blacks. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois wrote that the idea of superiority based on skin color evolved out of Europe and Winthrop D. Jordan in his work White over Black wrote about the color of white possessing much more intrinsic good and value than the color of black. The notion of white superiority served a valuable purpose during slavery for it served as a justification for the brutal treatment of Africans by Europeans. It continued to serve the same purpose after the Civil War as whites continued their brutality. Today, superiority of white racism serves no particular purpose, but the sore just seems to hang around and fester like the “Raisin in the Sun.”

White America has desperately tried to pass on that sore to other races especially Blacks. They claim men like the Honorable Louis Farrakhan are racists. But nothing is further from the truth. His criticisms of the white race are not because he believes that he is superior to them based on skin color, but only on what he observes as their participation over the centuries in the oppression of Blacks. Before Farrakhan, they tried to pass on their sick sore to Malcolm X, but it just didn’t stick. In fact, even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was accused of being a racist by the racists. Try as they may, they just cannot jettison that sore. It belongs to them.

For the eight years that President Barack Obama occupied the White House we all believed the sore had gone into remission. But with the election of Donald Trump it has resurfaced with a vengeance. How long it will remain active depends on what White America decides to do in 2020. It is their choice to make. They can, “Do the Right Thing,” and toss the racist president out and finally begin the healing process for a sore that has plagued them and made a mockery out of their perceived democracy or they will continue to suffer as they have for over four hundred years. We all are pulling for the former choice to win because we do care for and love this country but are resolved to the strong probability that the second choice will prevail. That seems to be the nature of America’s worst sore and racism may be destined to be with us for a very long time into the future.

 

Four Hundred Years of Glory

This year of 2019 marks four hundred years since the first African slave landed on the shores of this country. Over those years a beautiful people suffered through some of the most horrid conditions, but throughout all that time of pain and agony, they began the process of creating a mighty race and culture. The chains, the whips, the bondage for two-hundred and fifty years couldn’t stop the progress of a mighty race and culture. Another one-hundred-years of lynching, apartheid and attempts at mental emasculation still couldn’t stop the progress of a mighty race and culture.

Over these four hundred years of glory, the legacies created past and present are numerous. Let’s start with Phillis Wheatley, who wrote some of the most beautiful poetry, when it was assumed that Blacks did not possess that kind of talent. In her short 31 years of life (1753 to 1784) she left a legacy of the power of words that proved the innate ability of the African. Her poem, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” was widely accepted as outstanding in the Americas and in England. Early in our history in this country, Ms. Wheatley laid the ground work for hundreds of outstanding poets who followed in her footsteps, to include such greats as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni and of course the great Maya Angelou.

The outstanding Black novelists are just as impressive as the poets. And there is a long history of those men and women who put pen to paper. Harriet E. Wilson’s Our Nig: or Sketches from the Life of a free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North, Showing that Slavery’s shadows Fall Even There, is considered the first novel published by an African American in the United States. However, the first novel written by an African American was William Wells Brown’s Clotel: or The President’s Daughter, published in 1853, but in London, England. Great Black novelists such as Charles W. Chestnutt, Paul Laurence Dunbar (primarily known for his poetry, but also wrote novels), the Harlem Renaissance novelists to include such names as Claude McKay, Walter White, Jesse Fausett, Wallace Thurman, and after the Renaissance period that lasted until 1929, other novelists such Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison sustained the legacy of great novelists.

The list of music and musicians are endless. If there is one art that Blacks have excelled more than any other, it must be music, beginning with the great spirituals sang by our people as they sought ways to survive in a hell here in this country. Years following slavery the Fisk Jubilee Singers traveled the world memorializing such spirituals as “Go Down Moses,” “Who’ll Be a Witness for My Lord,” “I Got a Home in Dat Rock,” “We’ll Soon Be Free,” “I Thank God I’m Free at Las’,” and many others. Once Blacks began the great migration from the south to the inner cities of Chicago, New York and Detroit, gospel replaced the spirituals. But all music, gospel, jazz, blues, rhythm and blues and now rap stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who created a legacy of music, right in those cotton fields of the south, and is an essential element of our glory.

The great thinkers of the race rival the thinkers of Ancient Greece in their wisdom. The political philosophers who debated how best a race of people could survive in a country that deliberately attempted to oppress them, debunked the white man’s propaganda that Blacks were a mentally inferior people. Great thinkers like Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin DeLaney, Henry Highland Garnett, Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Dr. Cornell West, and many others represent a legacy of great thinkers and add to the four- hundred-year glory of the race and culture.

There are many other areas of greatness in which our race has excelled, sports being another. The boxer Jack Johnson sent white men scurrying to find a “great white hope.” In the 1936 Olympics, Jesse Owens embarrassed the German dictator who had claimed the German runners were unbeatable, by defeating all of them in the one-hundred-yard dash. In fact, Owens won four gold medals in the Olympics that year. Black jockeys rode so many Kentucky Derby winning horses, they were banned from competing in the sport for fifty years from 1921 to 1970. The world knows of the major break through in baseball back in 1947, when Jackie Robinson walked on the playing field of a major league baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Blacks have now come to dominate both football and basketball.

One of the most magnificent achievements in the business world happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma when from 1911 until 1921, Black Americans built a financially independent community against all odds. The business men and women of the Greenwood district were so successful, Booker T. Washington titled the area Negro Wall Street (Negro was official designation of Blacks then). Their legacy has passed on to successful businessmen like John Rogers of Ariel Finance in Chicago, the great grandson of J. B. Stradford, Black Wall Street’s most successful and richest Black man. Dr. Howard Shelf, who is now 89 years old and still building his very successful real estate firm here in the San Antonio area, is also typical of the men and women who, over the years, have built businesses. I had the privilege to write Dr. Shelf’s life story (The Autobiography of Dr. Howard Shelf: Legend of the Greatest Generation) about how at six years old, he was forced to sit quietly and alone in the corner of his first-grade classroom, because his mother could not pay the sixty-five-cent tuition. Despite his meager beginnings, the man became a millionaire and at one time had over one-hundred realtors working from him. It is men and women like John Rogers and Dr. Howard Shelf who have sustained that legacy of great businesses. Those two men are only the tip of the iceberg of Black successful business men and women in this country.

I could write for days and tons of pages about the greatness of my race and the strength and beauty of my culture. I am satisfied that the examples I have provided substantiates my assertion that Black American’s four hundred years in this country have been glorious years, despite the unbelievable obstacles placed in their way by a hating and greedy race of people. We, who now make up the race and culture, have an obligation to continue and sustain the greatness of our race as we begin the next four hundred years of glory.

 

Unraveling the Conspiracy of Silence

The great Black historian Dr. John Hope Franklin spoke the truth when he addressed the issue of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. He had a long history with Tulsa, Oklahoma having graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in the Greenwood segregated section of the city in 1931. That was ten years after the devastating unmerciful attack perpetrated on Black Americans by angry, racist white Tulsans. In the year 2000, on the seventy-ninth commemoration of the destruction Dr. Franklin said, “Posterity has not been charitable, for it has sealed the lips of those who should have spoken and blinded the eyes of those who witnessed the tragic events. Indeed, a veritable conspiracy of silence enveloped a considerable portion of the city for some seventy-five years.”

Exactly what was this “tragic event” that caused the state of Oklahoma to conduct a conspiracy of silence so that the rest of the world would not know what happened the morning of June 1, 1921. At 5:45 of that fateful morning a loud shrill whistle from a grain factory near the Frisco Railroad tracks sounded and was followed by low flying airplanes that preceded over seventy-five hundred mad, hateful white men and children who then invaded the Greenwood section of the city better known as Black Wall Street.

The men in the airplanes began to toss turpentine-soaked projectiles onto the many business buildings located on what was know as greater Greenwood. The Williams Confectionary, the Dreamland Theater, the Gurley Hotel, Stradford Hotel and over one hundred other black businesses that represented Black Wall Street went up in flames. The mob followed the planes and continued the burning of homes and the slaughter of over 300 Black men, women and children. It was the greatest massacre of American citizens in the history of the country and the first time American soil was bombed from airplanes.

When in 2009 I visited Tulsa to write the life story of a lady from that city, I was shocked to discover 1) that such an event had occurred on the streets of this country and 2) it had been kept out of the history books for so many years. The massacre was finally forced out of a dungeon of darkness and into the light of day by Don Ross, a determined Black state legislator from Tulsa. He insisted that the state conduct a thorough investigation into exactly what happened. After considerable research by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Riot of 1921, an accurate report of what happened was released on April 6, 2000. Once that report was made public, writers began their own interpretation of the events. The silence was shattered and the Commission in their introduction to the study wrote: “The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission is pleased to report that this past tragedy has been extensively aired, that it is now remembered, and that it will never again be unknown.”

Much of what the Commission expressed is true and many media outlets have written about the massacre. I have studied most of the written documents, to include the commission report, and I have also written extensively about it. But now it is time to take the story to a higher level and that is to put it on the big screen, not only here in the United States but internationally also. After struggling for five years to do just that, I believe I now have an excellent team that will release a movie sometime in 2020 about 1) the successes of black men and women in building an economically independent community, where the money stayed there for at least five to six exchanges and 2) the extreme hate that finally destroyed their good work. Furthermore, our story will not portray Black Americans as victims but as victors. The veterans that took on the horde of murderers put up an excellent fight, allowing many of their brothers and sisters to get out of town before being murdered. They were only defeated because of the superior air power and the overwhelming number of invaders.

Presently, with the expert assistance of Ms. Judith James of Dreyfuss and James Production Company out of Hollywood, California, Mr. Adger Cowans a world renowned photographer as well as a Hollywood still photographer, Professor Antoinette Winstead, Associate Dean of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Our Lady of Lake in San Antonio, Texas and independent film maker Ada Babino, I have constructed the history of the tragedy as a screen script and we are now in the pre-production stages of our project. Besides my extensive research, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Laurel Stradford, the great granddaughter of the richest Black man on Black Wall Street, John Baptiste Stradford, and she has joined our team.

With the extremely talented and knowledgeable experts that have recognized the importance of telling this story to the rest of the world, I know we will be serving a larger purpose than our own individual gain. Borrowing from the famous English Parliamentarian and scholar Edmund Burke who wrote: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it,” my team’s bringing this hidden massacre and unraveling the conspiracy of silence to the screen, will hopefully stimulate conversations around the country as to how we can make sure this never happens again. Given the turbulent racial times we are encountering in our country today, communication is the key to make sure there is never another Tulsa Massacre as occurred on June 1, 1921.

Black Men-White Women-And the Noose

Bill Cosby has been sentenced from three to five years in a maximum-security prison. He was found guilty for drugging and sexually assaulting a white woman. He is the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be jailed. He is eighty-one years old and considered a sexually violent predator and, therefore, placed in maximum security. A predator is defined as “someone who follows people in order to harm them or commit a crime against them.”

Cosby is not a healthy man as was very apparent every time he was seen making his way into court. I doubt seriously that even if he was on the outside, Cosby is in any kind of physical shape to be a predator. It was a convenient excuse to place him in maximum security prison. For that reason alone, one can assume that the system’s determination to punish him was not about justice, but revenge, something that Black men have confronted all their lives and for decades. I doubt seriously if his punishment would have locked him up in maximum security if the victim of his crime had been a Black woman.

Black men in this country rather guilty or not have always been the target of white men whose greatest fear has been his perceived notion that he must protect his women from the savage nature of the Black man. That was the theme in the movie, Birth of a Nation, back in 1915. And that fear was best articulated by a South Carolina Senator, Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman when he took to the United States Senate floor and delivered the following peroration:

“I have three daughters but so help me God, I had rather find either one of them killed by a tiger or a bear and gather up her bones and bury them, conscious that she had died in the purity of her maidenhood, than to have her crawl to me and tell me the horrid story that she had been robbed of the jewel of her womanhood by a black fiend.”

This perception of the Black man spread throughout the country and men of color were not safe from the lynch mob. Leon Litwack explains this sickness in his outstanding history of the South in his work, Trouble In Mind. He writes,

“To endorse lynching was to dwell on the sexual depravity of Blacks to raise the specter of the Black beast seized by uncontrollable savage, sexual passion that were inherent in the race.”

Of the nearly three thousand Blacks lynched between the years 1889 and 1918, approximately 19% were based on rape. The combination of Black men and white women and revengeful white men added up to the noose and a lynching. According to Litwack, one of the most brutal attacks on a Black man occurred in Rocky Ford, Mississippi:

“An angry mob chained J. P. Ivy, a Black field hand and an alleged rapist, to a woodpile, poured gasoline over it, and roasted him to death before a crowd of six hundred white spectators.”

Probably the most vicious attack on a Black community occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 1921 and the initial catalyst was the belief that a young Black man, Dick Rowland, had accosted Sarah Page, in the elevator in the Drexel Building, when nothing was further from the truth. In that instance, white men and even women and children attacked and slaughtered over three hundred Black men, women and children. With the help of airplanes flying over the Black community, thirty-three blocks of Black businesses and homes were burned to the ground. Following the slaughter in Tulsa, was the vicious attack in Rosewood, Florida when a Black man was wrongly accused of attacking a white woman, and years later there was the Scottsboro Case.

What is really ironical about the Cosby sentence is the judge claiming that no one was beyond the law. How about all the Black women who have been raped by white men during the brutal years of slavery and afterwards? Evidently, those men were beyond the law because, unless Black men took the law into their own hands, those rapes went unpunished. White men were “beyond the law” for the inordinate number of Black women who fell victim to their crimes.

If Mr. Cosby sexually abused as many women as has been reported then, of course, there must be some form of punishment. In all crimes, justice must prevail. But in this country, we know that justice has never been meted out in a fair and equal manner. To place a rather frail and sick Black man in maximum security prison is not justice, it is revenge. And it is a warning to all other Black men that the Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” is on the prowl and we, as always, are the center of their attention.