Wednesday, October 20, 2010

They’re at it again!!!

Don’t you just love how the revisionists continue to alter true history? You may recall earlier this year, the Governor of Virginia introduced a proclamation celebrating “Confederate History Month” without mentioning slavery’s role in the Civil War making it appear “kinder and gentler”.

Well there is another attempt to revise history that coincides with preparations to marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. We know the capital was Richmond, Virginia which has long struggled to appropriately commemorate its Confederate past. However, doing so, or trying too, does not give them literary privilege to recreate their version of its wretched past.

This time it is in the form of a text book entitled “Our Virginia: Past and Present” distributed to fourth graders in the state’s public elementary schools disguised as a history textbook. Joy Masoff, the author of this book, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, makes the claim that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War. This claim is soundly rejected by almost all historians. In fact, scholars are nearly unanimous in calling her accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history.

Masoff also says, the book was reviewed by a publisher’s advisory council of educators and that none of the advisers objected to the textbook’s assertions. These assertions are most often used by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause for the conflict; like the state of Virginia, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and other confederate sympathizing groups. Virginia’s education officials admit the vetting of the book was flawed adding that “Just because a book is approved doesn’t mean the Department of Education endorses every sentence.”

In its short lesson on the roles that whites, African Americans and Indians played in the Civil War, “Our Virginia” says, “Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” Now the author attributes this fact concerning the information she provides about black Confederate soldiers from what she's gleaned primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Let me stop – take a breath. Ok, now. Let’s imagine thousands of slaves, people held in bondage, abused, beaten, owned as chattel, fighting to remain in a state of wretchedness helping their amoral captors/ masters/owners continue the practice of slavery. I think, more often than not, and history shows that they would choose the side of rebellion like a Nate Turner – if anything. What is troubling is that there seems to be a continuing pattern of this type of revision of late.

For example, most of the text books used in America's schools are modeled on the books used and approved in Texas, which has commissioned a body to alter massive amounts of information as it relates to actual history. The state school board revised social studies standards to increase study of Confederate leaders and reduce emphasis on the Founding Fathers' commitment to separation of church and state. Some wanted to stop referring to the slave trade and substitute a euphemistic phrase, the "Atlantic triangular trade," but that idea was, thankfully, dropped.

Carol Sheriff, a Civil War expert at the College of William and Mary, and the person who noticed the lie clarified the facts Wednesday on

"As far as we know from the historical record, not a single black person participated in a battle under the command of Stonewall Jackson… There is historical evidence that individual blacks, usually servants who followed their masters to the front, occasionally picked up guns in the heat of battle. But it was illegal in the Confederacy to use blacks as soldiers until the waning days of the war (early 1865). A few companies . . . were raised then, but none saw battle action, as the surrender followed shortly thereafter. Stonewall Jackson had died in 1863, so no black soldiers could have served under his command."

Sheriff said that thousands of blacks worked as laborers for the Confederate army, most of them involuntarily, including under Jackson's command. But that's very different from agreeing to risk your life in combat on behalf of a government committed to your enslavement, as some Confederate apologists would have us believe.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of male descendants of Confederate soldiers based in Columbia, Tenn., has long maintained that substantial numbers of black soldiers fought for the South and supported the cause – so says Charles Kelly Barrow who has authored the book “Black Confederates.” Really! The Sons of Confederate Veterans widely dispute the accepted conclusion that the struggle over slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. Instead, claiming the war was fought “to preserve their homes and livelihood”. SLAVES – Really!

As sad as this is on its face, these untruths are a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery. The problem for me is that these efforts seek to find legitimacy of the Confederacy while implanting in the mind of future leaders that it was not really that bad or implying that it was caused by Manifest Destiny and God while denouncing the legitimacy of the emancipation itself. Like a particular Tea Bagger running for office now said that the Civil Rights Bill should be reviewed for its fairness. He was talking about fairness to white America.

More troubling is that Masoff said one of her sources was Ervin Jordan, a University of Virginia historian who claims to have documented evidence in the form of 19th century newspapers and personal letters of some African Americans fighting for the Confederacy. However, in an interview Jordan says the account in the fourth grade textbook went far beyond what his research can support. I think it is safe to assume beyond the pale of reason or what anyone’s research can support.

I often write Thought Provoking Perspectives on historical events concerning the African American Diaspora and know a little about the reality of our legacy. Therefore, I recognize that these attempts frankly are a sad commentary to truth. Let me say this: “If history that I have seen and witnessed in my life has been change, altered, and rewritten I find it hard to believe anything that His-Story professes to be true”. The shocking part about this is that it is accepted as truth. Nothing is as it seems – research for yourself and consider the source.

Finally, November 6 marks the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln, which led to the start of the Civil War. So let me warn you that for the next five years will bring a string of commemorations: Fort Sumter, the Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg, and Appomattox that will offer huge opportunities for the confederate sympathizers to continue to rewrite this sad history until the anniversary of the war’s end.

So get ready for the lies from the revisionists because the conscience dictates that they will not tell the truth.

JUST A SEASON – the novel

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Only in America

I’ll start this “Thought Provoking Perspective” with God Bless America. I ask for this blessing because there are those forces among us who want to turn back the hands of time. You know the party of “No”, who want to take over the government again to use their power to further rape the country. The characters that have emerged in this movement, I believe, are scary enough for us to ask for help from someone greater than ourselves. Of course some of these people who want to take back their country are saying the same thing - in the name of God, which is frightening too. These are the same folks who want us to believe in the false assertion that America is now a “Post Racial” nation and it is them who are now being discriminated against.

Back in the day, there were the George Wallace’s, Bull Connor’s, Strom Thurman’s and today we have a new breed; Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh – to name a few. Their rage, from sea to shining sea, infects their followers who create conspiracies and assume false motives regarding everything that quite neatly put the country into a place of perceived fear. This place they envision or want back was not all that great, I know I was there; elitism, white privilege, and America’s racial codes were the foundation for segregation, cruelty, and amoral agenda’s. So I suppose the new complexion of America is freighting to those who stole the country in the first place.

Let’s face it; it had been a pretty good run, about 400 years, with little sign of any serious trouble challenging their superiority. The system was working and humming along as they came up with new forms of government so that all people of their hue, particularly men, benefited. They controlled or occupied just about every branch of government for more than two centuries and had sole possession and leadership of its executive branch, where the symbol of power is the White House.

Today, that streak has been broken; a non-white president accepted the oath of office and they went crazy or at least the right wing faction. Hatred came forth through the likes of Former House majority leader Tom Delay who suggested that instead of a formal inauguration, Barrack Obama should "have a nice little chicken dinner and we'll save the $125 million,". The chicken thing is a clear code when white folks referred to black people with a subtle gesture of bigotry.

Then there are those who say the president was not born in the United States; therefore, ineligible to be president. His father was Kenyan and he was born in Hawaii, which they barely consider part of the United States. His mother was white and after the Kenyan guy left, she married a guy Indonesian, before coming back to Hawaii. Meanwhile, the man who looks black was brought up largely by his white grandparents. Oh, he says he's Christian, but he has a Muslim-sounding name. He's not black, he's not white. . . . Is . . . is he even human? Tea baggers and many Republicans believe in their hearts that the president is the antichrist. Pure psycho drama!

They believe the devil has taken over the country and for the first time in American history, those who controlled every endeavor for so long [government, finance, politics, business, education, the arts, ect.] are devastated. The man the rest of America voted in office has somehow stolen something from them. The fear of losing their power or being replaced by young brown and black kids is neither the America they know nor the way it is suppose to be. Facing the fact that 40 percent of the nation's population under 18 is already non-white, with that number significantly higher in the Southwest. By 2023, that number of young non-whites will be an outright national majority.

I read an article last week where the author used this parable: Its "Like tectonic plates, these slow-moving but irreversible forces may generate enormous turbulence as they grind against each other … At some point, when tectonic plates build up enough tension, that destructive energy gets unleashed in a major earthquake.” Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for what happened the day a black man got elected president. The conservative movement thought the world ended.

Naturally, these people are not thinking about how distressed the economy was when Mr. Obama took office or the two wars of which neither was implemented properly or being fought with clear goals. This is to include the housing markets that resembled a war zone, a health system crippled with costs, and an auto industry in the tank. This, one would think should be reason enough to be strong Americans and pull together to fix this mess, right? No….

Let’s take a look at what they have been doing. They vilified the community organization ACORN, which was a nonprofit that organized voter drives and worked for improved wages and housing for poor, and worked for mostly non-white Americans. Because of who they organized, they became public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of certain people not so thrilled with black folks registering to vote in large numbers. Therefore, the majority of Republicans believed that ACORN had stolen the election for Obama. So they feel justified in reaching into their bag of dirty tricks and lies.

Enter a prankster named James O’keefe a veteran at creating videos to make blacks look greedy and stupid. He spent the summer driving around the country with his accomplice making videos in ACORN offices asking for advice about avoiding tax troubles with prostitution money dress as a broke down pimp. O'Keefe had carefully edited his tapes and left out, for example, that he was decked out in college preppie clothes, not pimp-wear. At least one ACORN office threw him out, and at least two knowingly played along with his ruse. The San Diego office called the cops after he left, and the Philadelphia office filed a police report. The upshot was that after his edited tapes became public, Congress quickly voted to strip ACORN of all federal funds. The organization effectively went out of business before the case could be thrown out of court.

Months later, O'Keefe was arrested by the FBI in a bizarre prank at Senator Landrieu’s office, in which he claims he was just trying to find out whether her phone system worked to help her constituents. Enter the underhanded Andrew Breibart, who picked out another black target with another selectively edited video. This one of a USDA employee named Shirley Sherrod. His editing so mischaracterized Sherrod's words and intent that the fallout, in the words of Frank Rich, "could not only smear an innocent woman but make every national institution that touched the story look bad. . . The White House, the NAACP and the news media were all soiled by this episode."

This is what they do. They lie and distortion the information. Let’s add a few more bogymen to the mix like immigration. They have made Hispanics and others from sweltering southern destinations enemies of the American Dream. Yet, their slave labor is acceptable. As a result, they took extreme measures by passing Arizona’s S.B.1070, a law that would force its residents to carry identity papers with them at all times. Now, jurisdictions around the nation are salivating to copy suit.

Then there are the other brown skinned people - the Muslims. When an imam who had done diplomatic work for the Bush administration put together plans to build the Muslim version of a Jewish Community Center a few blocks from Ground Zero but farther away than an off-track betting joint, a strip club, and the very financial institutions that had detonated the economy, these people freaked out. They argued that Muslims could never understand the impact of 9/11.

Finally, enter Laura “N-word” Schlesinger and the great white outpouring of support following the bizarre flameout of her radio show. There was a time when even a bigot thought before calling an African American the N-word. Schlesinger used the word to a black woman on air, like twenty times in a minute. Then she implied that she did not want to be NAACP-ed, whatever that means.

I am just pointing out what appears to be a tone that does not have our best interest or America’s. For those that can remember segregation and its horrors listen carefully at the words being used by those of the extreme. I can only suggest that we use democracy the political process – VOTE!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The First Lady of Civil Rights

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was the greatest, most distinguished African American Woman Civil Rights Activist of our time. The woman known as “the first lady of civil rights" was born February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley and Leona Edwards, her parents, a carpenter and a teacher, respectively. Her ancestry was a mixture of African American, Cherokee-Creek and Scots-Irish, which some say accounts for her fair complexion. In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery, at her mother's house.

Raymond was a member of the NAACP, at the time they were collecting money to support the Scottsboro Boy, a group of black men falsely accused of raping two white women. After her marriage, at her husband's urging, she finished her high school studies in 1933 when less than 7% of African Americans had a high school diploma. Despite the Jim Crow laws that made political participation by black people difficult, she succeeded in registering to vote on her third try. It was something in her spirit that was rooted in dignified activism.

At the time, Mrs. Parks was highly respected within the local community and as in many segregated communities it was close knit and intertwined. She was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and had recently attended the Highlander Folk School which was a Tennessee center for workers' rights and racial equality. Although widely honored in later years for her action, she suffered for it, losing her job as a seamstress in a local department store. Eventually, having to leave Alabama for Detroit Michigan, where she found similar work.

Mrs. Parks remarked that it was the horrifying murder of Emmett Till, in August 1955, in which many people both black and white were moved by the brutal murder, was on her mind that day when she proclaimed to be tired of giving in. On November 27, 1955, only four days before she refused to give up her seat, she had attended a mass meeting in Montgomery which focused on this case as well as the recent murders of George W. Lee and Lamar Smith. All of this and the countless crimes perpetrated by southern whites cause her to say “enough”.

After leaving work on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Mrs. Parks, then 42, refused to obey the driver of the segregated city bus system who ordered her to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her arrest was the catalyst for a bus boycott that would cripple the city of Montgomery lasting nearly thirteen months. This event lead to what many view as the birth of the modern civil rights movement.

Many believe this act was the first of its kind in the rigidly segregated south but it was not the first of its kind. In 1946 Irene Morgan, and in 1955 Sarah Louise, won rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Interstate Commerce Commission, respectively, relating to interstate bus travel. Just nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat on the same bus system.

Less we forget that in 1944, athletic star Jackie Robinson took a similar stand in a confrontation with a US Army officer in Texas, refusing to move to the back of a bus. Robinson was brought before a court martial, which acquitted him. The NAACP had accepted and litigated other cases before, such as that of Irene Morgan ten years earlier, which resulted in a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Interstate Commerce Clause grounds. The difference as it relates to the many individuals whose arrests for civil disobedience was that Mrs. Parks’ actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Let’s journey back to a time when Jim Crow was the law in America, black and white people were segregated in virtually every aspect of daily life and not just in the South. Bus and train companies did not provide separate vehicles for the different races but did enforce seating policies that allocated separate sections for blacks and whites. School bus transportation was unavailable in any form for black school children in the South.

In Mrs. Parks' autobiography she recounts some of her earliest memories, which are of the kindness of white strangers but because of her race made it impossible to ignore racism. When the KKK marched down the street in front of her house, Parks recalls her grandfather guarding the front door with a shotgun. The Montgomery Industrial School, founded and staffed by white northerners for black children, was burned twice by arsonist, i.e. the Klan, and its faculty was ostracized by the white community.

Before I go any further, on Montgomery buses there was a separation point, the first four rows of bus seats were reserved for white people. Buses had "colored" sections for black people, who made up more than 75% of the bus system's riders, generally in the rear of the bus. These sections were not fixed in size but were determined by the placement of a movable sign. Black people could sit in the middle rows, until the white section was full. Then they had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus.

Black people were not allowed to sit across the aisle from white people. The driver also could move the "colored" section sign, or remove it altogether. If white people were already sitting in the front, black people could board to pay the fare, but then had to disembark and reenter through the rear door. There were times when the bus departed before the black customers who had paid made it to the back entrance.

Parks recalled going to elementary school in Pine Level, where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk to theirs: "I'd see the bus pass every day... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world."

For years, the black community had complained that the situation was unfair, and Parks was no exception: "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest...I did a lot of walking in Montgomery." Parks had her first run-in on the public bus on a rainy day in 1943, when the bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that she get off the bus and reenter through the back door. As she began to exit by the front door, she dropped her purse. Parks sat down for a moment in a seat for white passengers to pick up her purse. The bus driver was enraged and barely let her step off the bus before speeding off. Ironically that fateful day when you refused to give up her seat, it was the same driver who she would encounter.

After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of seats reserved for blacks in the "colored" section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded.

It was shortly after the landmark Plessey v Ferguson case that ushered in “separate but equal” in America when Montgomery passed a city ordinance for the purpose of segregating passengers by race. Conductors were given the power to assign seats to accomplish that purpose; however, no passengers would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available. Over time and by custom, however, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left.

So, following standard practice, bus driver Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three men standing, and thus moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Years later, in recalling the events of the day, Parks said, "When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night."

By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." Three of them complied. Parks said, "The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn't move at the beginning, but he says, 'Let me have these seats.' And the other three people moved, but I didn't." The black man sitting next to her gave up his seat. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the newly repositioned colored section. Blake then said, "Why don't you stand up?" Parks responded, "I don't think I should have to stand up."

Blake called the police to arrest Parks. When recalling the incident for Eye on the Prize, a 1987 public television series on the Civil Rights Movement, Parks said, "When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.” He did and the world changed that moment.

“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”