In the gaze of the other

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Ten for Today: Race, Myth and Dead Boy’s Birthday

2 Comments

July 26, 2016
 
Yesterday was Emmett Till’s birthday, his 76th had he not been brutally beaten and drowned by white men, when he was only 14. It was 1955, I believe, and he was visiting the South from his home in the North. His mother warned him to be careful. But he acted like a silly black 14 year old in a seriously white-colored-hating town in Mississippi, and got lynched.
 
Coincidentally today’s class assignment was John Edgar Wideman’s “Father Along”, which chronicles Emmett Till’s trial, the one which his mother, Mamie, attended to watch her dead son get lynched again as the jury acquitted her son’s murderers. Before the son, his father, Louis Till, was hanged for treason in Italy, a fact revealed to the jury, despite being classified information illegally released and improperly introduced in evidence.
 
In class, we discussed how race is myth and power that perpetuates the myth. Wideman claims that race will disappear when we stop talking about it, but not just talking, also seeing, stop accepting the lies of implanted cultural inheritances that segregate races in the minds of generations.
 
And then I glimpsed a small clip of the DNC today, the part when a group of black mothers banded together to grieve and fight for awareness–of guns and violence and black youth, the sons they lost to guns and violence. Trayvon Martin’s mother spoke. That’s who I caught speaking in the five minutes I was able to snatch at work in between customers.
 
I’m not sure one Presidency can change that, meaning America’s racism, America’s segregation in the minds of its people. Though those women, and many other people maintain hope that the nation will inch its way toward a racially free society. I do too.

2 thoughts on “Ten for Today: Race, Myth and Dead Boy’s Birthday

  1. Racism is taught. No one is born a racist. Ending racism is impossible. It’s not a matter of changing the course of a cargo ship. It’s gathering together all the ants in the world and teaching them ballet.

    • Agree that racism is taught. That’s my hope that it can un-taught, or disappear in good teaching or taught only as history in a brighter future where people understand the power of color blindness. It may seem polyanna-ish, but we have turned the ship some in the past 100 years–with force (of law) and violence and words. It may seem impossible, but the outpouring of the American underbelly’s rotten soul in racism right now in this election season may be, hopefully, its swan song. The end of the reign of the inherited white power may be teetering and slowly, decades long, dying. Coalition is next.

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