Monday, August 5, 2013

No Comparison: Trayvon Martin was No Emmett Till !

Emmett Till ---------- Tryvon Martin

The phenomenon is apparent in much of the commentary, especially being promulgated by the ''dynamic-duo'' of race-baiters Messrs Jackson and Sharpton, on the George Zimmerman case. Facts were blithely ignored -- the fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic, not white, by current standards; the evidence that he and not his victim, Trayvon Martin, was pummeled and wounded; the failure to find any hint of anti-black bias in Zimmerman's past. Instead, there was a desperate longing to see this unhappy incident as a case of a white racist hunting down and murdering an innocent black -- with a view to establishing that this kind of thing happens all the time.

It isn't!   Yes, young black men are homicide victims in large and tragic numbers. But the perpetrators are almost always other young black men, as in President Obama's hometown of Chicago, where almost every weekend there are multiple such murders. Nevertheless, journalism is full of opinion articles, many written by people who should know better, like that twit Oprah Winfrey, likening the death of Trayvon to the murder of Emmettt Till in Mississippi in 1955.  The reality is that young Till was a 14 year-old black boy raised in Chicago who, on a summer trip to visit his great-uncle and cousins, came to his native Mississippi Delta region.. It all started when he accompanied them to a grocery store to buy candy. What poor Emmett didn't realize when he crossed the Mississippi state line was that he went back into the 18th Century and his Chicago free-mindedness was in alien territory. He reportedly ''wolf-whistled'' and flirted with the 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor, and held her hand briefly. Several nights later, Carolyn's husband Roy and his half brother J. Milam arrived at Till's great-uncle's house where they took Emmett, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighing it with a 70 pound (32 kg) weight around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.


The trial attracted a vast amount of press attention. The all-white jury acquitted them of kidnapping and murder after deliberating 67 minutes. Months later, Bryant and Milam, in a Look magazine interview, protected against double jeopardy, admitted that they indeed killed the young man. Till's murder is noted as a pivotal event motivating the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Events surrounding Emmett Till's life and death, according to historians, continue to resonate, and almost every story about Mississippi returns to Till, ''in some spiritual, homing way.''

In the process, Northerners were forced to confront the brutality with which white Southerners enforced the subjection of blacks. This went beyond the laws requiring segregated schools, buses and drinking fountains. Also in place was an unwritten code of behaviour, breach of which could result in violent retaliation. Blacks were called by their first names and could approach white's houses only by the back door, and black men could never, never ogle white women. In fact, from 1895 to 1935 a little more than 500 blacks were murdered in Mississippi alone! You see...this was unknown to most Northerners, as there was almost no migration between South and North in the years between the Civil War and World War II.

Rosa Parks Under Arrest
The great genius of the civil rights movement was to make Northerners face the reality -- and the violence -- of the segregation system. The Emmett Till case was one of the first incidents that forced them to do so. It was followed 10 months later by Rosa Parks' arrest for her refusal to move to the back of the bus and Martin Luther King's resulting Montgomery bus boycott. So it is sometimes said that laws cannot change customs. But the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning racial discrimination in hiring and public accommodations, did if fact change behaviour in the South. It not only ended legally enforced segregation but effectively ended the unwritten code of black subjugation.

The Way I See It.....the America of our time, the America of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman -- is hugely different from and obviously hugely better than the America of Emmett Till. Back in the 1950's, most Americans -- not only in the south but across the nation -- opposed interracial marriages. Today things are different. President Barack Obama, twice elected with majorities of a cross-section of the voting public, is the product of a mixed-race marriage. Black presence in neighbourhoods no longer results in rapid white flight.

Yet, it seems, many Americans have a desperate need to believe nothing has changed. The irony is that those who claim they lead the civil rights movement today have a vested psychological interest in denying its great triumph by drawing comparison with today's tragedy and spreading the white guilt further and ignoring the black youth crisis in their midst.

No comments:

Post a Comment