Today I spent several hours walking through the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. I did not get to see all that there was to see and I’m sure that some of the things I saw…I need to see again. I felt a great sadness on many levels. As a friend said who introduced us to some of the exhibits, THIS is American history, a significant part of what we are today is captured in this museum. Our history is multidimensional, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-geographic…diverse. That’s America. And yet, a large number of us are afraid of that diversity and manifest that fear with hate.
I looked at the photos of black people going to school in Alabama surrounded by ‘normal’ looking white women and white men screaming at the blacks with hate and vitriol; same in Mississippi; same in Georgia; same in Arkansas; same in Minnesota. The same looks I saw in the marches last week on the faces of the white supremacists and nazis. Really scary that we are in the same place we were 50 years ago.
After the civil war, federal troops were deployed throughout the south to guarantee voting rights, ensure the safety of the freed slaves, and attempt to “normalize” the governing infrastructure. During the election of 1876 the election was very close and the electoral college was not allowed to decide a winner. The Republicans under Hayes, then the party of Lincoln, made a closed door deal…Hayes would be allowed to become president if he promised to pull all the troops from the south. Hayes became president and the troops were withdrawn. At that point, terrorist groups in the south, like the KKK, began a campaign of terror and horror for years and by the turn of the century, most black voters had been disenfranchised and could not vote. There’s been a flip over the years as Democrats have become a party of the diverse and the Republicans have become a party for the whites.
By passively supporting racism as he did last week and by pardoning Arpaio, trump will demonstrate that he is doing the 21 century equivalent of pulling the troops out of the South. There is no protection of law from the federal executive branch. If George Wallace was blocking the doors to colleges today in Alabama, that would probably be okay with trump.
As you pass through the exhibits in the Museum and you remember this week’s headlines, you could easily imagine that history is repeating itself…today, right now. We are apparently in the midst of an historic “do-over;” we are re-doing the suppression of the “redeemer” south in the 1880s, the Jim Crow Laws and Black Codes from the 1870s to the 1960s. We are doing it through gerrymandering and “enhanced” voter registration laws, as well as domestic terrorism. Normal people with faces filled with hate because a black person is doing a normal thing that a white person does.
But sometimes, the faces were hidden. Hidden because the haters wanted to remain anonymous and because they wanted to instill the fear of the unknown on their victims. The picture below is a KKK hood.