DONALD TRUMP RACIST? STILL NOT THE PROBLEM

I wrote this piece eight months ago, well before the events of yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I did update the post and believe my words rang true eight months ago and ring true today.

Countless people are pointing a finger, no not that finger…ok, maybe that finger…. Starting over, countless people are pointing out the racism seemingly enabled by President Donald Trump. Over a thousand documented examples of hate crimes have occurred since his election. Some people seem to believe somehow, this one man is responsible for it all. I also heard a similar argument regarding our previous executive, President Obama. “We are more racist now than ever” resounded through my social media accounts. Remember the old quote, “When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you?” I’m sure you do.

I believe both arguments are misplaced. I don’t know when the concepts of racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, or any other -ism or -phobia de jure came into being. They may well have been around since a Neanderthal looked at a Cro-Magnon and said, “Hey man you are different.” Yes, Neanderthals had a language and could have said such although I’m sure we would have needed a translator.

I believe our bigotry, anti-Semitism, etc., etc., etc., were just covered up in the same way that a person might add a layer of fresh kitty litter to a soiled cat box. Everything appears well, might even smell well…until your favorite feline steps in and begins to cover up its leavings. The more it tries to cover, the more the unsavory stuff gets uncovered. When Felix gives up, nobody is happy including the cat.

Our racism, bigotry, etc., etc., etc. simply got uncovered. It had been just under the surface waiting to be exposed to the light of day. No amount of legislation or executive action can actually bury it until those three fingers point in some other direction. We must want to change and some of us have tried. The problem is, when the litter box gets uncovered, even those of us who are not overtly racist, anti-Semitic, etc., etc. etc., suddenly feel the need to defend ourselves with statements like “Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank)” or “People just need to let go of (fill in the blank)”

Just because we have a few (fill in the blank) friends doesn’t mean we are not part of the problem, so just quit trying to deflect from the problem and quit pointing fingers at Donald Trump. He is just the enabler.  The Alt-Right was there all along, they have simply embraced President Trump.  The League of the South or people like them have been there all along and they too have embraced him. Fear bred hatred of people not like us, has been there all along, President Trump’s campaign message just allowed it to uncover the litter box.

Our country has been anti-whatever since before we were a country. Until we actually believe, deep in our hearts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (women and those unsure) are created equal” it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We should worry about the cleanliness of our own litter boxes (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

Blog Picture from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/US/unite-rally-virginia-sparks-counterprotests-state-emergency/story?id=49176243

More of Don Miller’s misplaced rantings may be accessed at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

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A QUIET, LITTLE PARK

I have childhood memories of gazing across the main street at the granite soldier standing guard inside the Confederate Park in the small town of Fort Mill. I was probably standing in line for a Saturday matinee at the Center Theater. That would be my guess. Some shaggy dog movie or maybe an oater starring Rory Calhoun or the like. I stood in line pondering the Confederate Soldier perched upon his stand gazing off to…where? Another time? “Good times they are not forgotten….”

The park seemed to be a quiet and serious, an almost religious place despite the Parrott Rifle and mortar guarding the four memorials located within; the Confederate Soldier erected in 1891, two tributes erected in 1895 memorializing sacrifices by loyal slaves and women, and finally, in 1900, a memorial to the Catawba Indians who served with the Confederacy. There is a bandstand, a place to sit and have lunch, contemplating whatever adults must contemplate. The little boy me knew nothing of this, he simply wondered why the granite figure seemed to be so lonely.

Confederate memorials don’t seem to be very quiet or religious these days. Arguments have erupted, again, over the removal of Confederate memorials and the Confederacy’s sacred cloth, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. Virginia, Louisiana and locally, my adopted home, Greenville, South Carolina have been focal points. I vacillate on my position. I don’t believe the removal of such monuments erases the history but I wonder how much both sides are trying to change history to fit their cognitive dissonance.

My problem is with the view of my heritage. My issue is with the heritage we Southerners are so proud of. The heritage we are determined to protect…or even invent. Tributes to brave men, our forefathers, dressed in gray and butternut, charging through the smoke, braving musket fire and grapeshot. Brave men on the wrong side of history. Outnumbered but valiant, dying, their blood staining the sacred ground of “Dixieland” …despite their Lost Cause. Defending the land of their birth, their way of life, their rights. Bravely giving their lives in a struggle reminiscent of Ivanhoe at his best.

It is the other side of our heritage I ponder. The heritage we attempt to, if not ignore, deflect from. We protest that the war was about Northern aggression and invasion, state’s rights, defending our homeland from an overreaching federal government and its unfair taxation through tariffs. This is my problem. Politicians, Southern Heritage groups and revisionist are quick to deflect, it’s Heritage Not Hate. My problem is the question I ask, “Where do African-Americans, their forefathers shackled in chains, where does their heritage fit?”

Maybe we should just add a fifth memorial to those already found in the quiet little park near the home of my distant youth. A marble testament to those who suffered under our heritage. We are quick to point out “it is time to move on,” that no one alive has picked cotton as a slave or owned slaves or a half dozen other excuses. In a way, I agree…but not until we take our own advice.

Don Miller writes “about things that bother him so” and things that don’t bother him at all. Should you desire, you may connect with him at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

HERITAGE, HATE AND THE LIBERTY PLACE OBELISK

I’m not sure where I stand on the removal of monuments celebrating the “Lost Cause” mentality of the War for Southern Independence…well I guess I am sure. People have pontificated about the removal of monuments as being paramount to removing history itself. I doubt it. Jefferson Davis is still going to be the only president, ever, of the former Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, it’s most noted general and P. G. T. Beauregard, the commander of Confederate forces who first fired upon Fort Sumter, regardless of what monuments are removed. Southern history will remain, including Southern history contained within the pesky primary documents written prior to 1866. I view the dismantling of later memorials as removing the CELEBRATION of certain histories not removing the history itself. I view the Liberty Place obelisk, recently dismantled and removed from Iberville Street in New Orleans, as one of those monuments which should be hidden from sight…except for those who WISH to see it in a museum somewhere…and yes it should be treated with the respect it deserves.

We Southerners WILL continue to wage war defending our heritage, but the monument celebrating “The Battle of Liberty Place” had LITTLE to do with our late great, great grands attempting to stem the tide of a Federal invasion in 1861. Rather, the obelisk had everything to do with the memorialization of white supremacist attempting to disenfranchise one group and re-establish a government run by and for whites just before the end of Reconstruction. The original inscription, added by the City of New Orleans in 1932, leaves little confusion as to why the 1874 battle was fought. An all-white militia, made up of members of the Crescent City White League, fought a pitched battle against racially diverse metropolitan police for control of the city of New Orleans. The inscription stated, before being covered later, the battle was fought for the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” No confusion at all.

With the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction ended and Federal troops marched out of Southern states leaving the Redeemers to usher in constitutional changes reflecting their beliefs; disenfranchisement, Jim Crow and placing whites back on the top of the pyramidal pecking order. It was not only true in Louisiana but true in most, if not all, Southern states after President Hayes ended Reconstruction as part of a backroom political deal even modern Americans should be familiar with. This is a part of OUR Southern heritage and it too should not be erased…or ignored.

MY DIFFICULTY with monuments which praise of our Confederate forefathers, including the Battle Flag, has much to do with the other side of the coin. If we embrace our heritage, do we not have to recognize the other side of the argument? I read posts from many ardent supporters of Southern heritage espousing the “need for some people to just move on.” Isn’t “moving some people along”, while wrapping ourselves in the Confederate Battle Flag and lamenting the removal of memorials such as the obelisk, a bit hypocritical? Shouldn’t we just come out and say, “Our glorious heritage is MUCH more important than the pain YOUR forefathers experienced?” If we are going to own one side of the coin, do we not own the other?

For more of Don Miller’s writings please visit https://goo.gl/pL9bpP on Amazon.

IN PRAISE OF DIVERSITY

I thought I would avoid this question but I got the dreaded “When are you going to teach white history?” Why are some of “white” America so “butt hurt” over Black History Month? I have seen social memes and comments that have included “When is White America going to have a Month?” “Black History Month is Racist!” “Why do we have to have a Black History Month?” In a perfect world, YOU WOULDN’T. Nor would you have Women’s History Month, in March, a Native American Heritage Month, in November, a Hispanic Heritage Month beginning in the middle September or any of the others you can take the time to look up…including Irish-American Heritage Month in March. Unfortunately, we are not, nor have we been, living in a perfect world. To quote a former student, “We celebrate white history in all months which don’t begin with F.” Well, there are those two months teachers are NOT on vacation.

As a retired, high school history teacher I know history books are written from a decidedly European-American point of view…well…at least where I taught and if any of the research I have done is to be believed. Asians are mentioned about four times. Transcontinental Railroad, Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese involvement in World War Two and China goes communist and the Cold War. That makes five. Hispanic contributions, maybe a bit more. Spanish colonization, Mexican-American War, Imperialism, Pancho Villa, and then a jump to NAFTA and the question “Why are they taking our jobs?” Notice, these are all mostly decidedly negative when viewed from a European point of view. Native Americans are prominent but disappear after Wounded Knee unless you happen to bring them back up in the Sixties with the many social movements. Again, until recently, Custer’s Last Stand was viewed negatively by European America. Damn Redskins stepping on our Manifest Destiny and the only good Indian…! I digress.

I rarely taught Black history during Black History Month. I was wrong. I deluded myself into thinking I taught ALL HISTORY ALL YEAR LONG and didn’t need to focus on Black history. Then I began to assess what I had taught. I’m not happy. Kind of like ALL HISTORY CAN’T MATTER UNTIL BLACK HISTORY MATTERS. Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B Dubois versus Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King and maybe Malcomb X. There were others but most were only related to only two aspects of African-American lives and American history, slavery and Civil Rights. Decidedly important aspects but besides George Washington Carver and Langston Hughes there little about other contributions.

Black History Month should be viewed as an opportunity to spotlight contributions by African Americans. Musicians, artist, writers, poets, inventors, explorers, scientists, business people, soldiers, etc. As a teen, I picked up one of my father’s books, Foxes of Harrow. It was written by Frank Yerby. I read all his books my father had and along the way picked up a few more. They featured historical fiction and a bit of…latent eroticism. Nothing graphic! As a young adult, I was looking for more of his books and found out he was bi-racial and from Georgia. Who knew and it didn’t matter. Just like celebrating Black History Month shouldn’t matter to those railing against it. It should be a positive educational experience.

Three of my last four years teaching were teaching “cultural” geography. I loved it. One, I had no end of school testing pressure and could go off on any tangent I desired go off on. I could be creative and allow creativity from my students. It became about cultural diversity. It also reminds me of a paragraph I wrote in a story about a former student. “Today I look at diversity as a smorgasbord of delights. I believe we should just focus on how diversely different people party. How can you be distrustful of people who produce such wonderful food? My life without Latin, Soul, Oriental and Cajun foods would not be life ending but life would not be as joyous, especially without a Belgian, Mexican, Jamaican or German beer or maybe some Tennessee whiskey to go with it and a Cuban cigar for afterwards. Someone might as well play some Blues, Reggae or a little Zydeco to help the atmosphere along. It is just as easy to focus on the positives about diversity as it is the negatives and again with knowledge comes understanding.”

I realize I am a social liberal and make no excuses. I believe the rights someone else is given doesn’t take my rights away from me despite what I might think, including the right to celebrate Black History Month…or Cinco De Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day for that matter. In fact, I have joined in. Who knows? This old dog might just learn a new trick or twenty.

Uniquely Southern, uniquely insightful, books by Don Miller can be bought or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

MAW

We had played together every Monday for the previous two years…that is, every Monday when the sun was shining…regardless of temperature, since we had turned four. A lot of my memories have become muddled with the passage of time or the fact that I was just four or five, but there are bits and pieces I grab on to and, if I hold on tightly enough, they will turn into memories. My recollections of Maw are quite clear. Mondays were Nannie’s wash days and she still held on enough to the old ways that she did her wash outside even though a wringer washing machine had replaced her washboard and tin wash tub. There wasn’t enough room inside the house for the washer, especially after an indoor bathroom had been added to what was once a back porch. The new washer sat on what was left of the back porch. Water was boiled on the old gas range and carried outside to the washer. After the clothes were washed or sometimes “blued” in the old, claw foot style bathtub, they were hand cranked through two rollers called a wringer, an act that scared me to death. I was always fearful a body part might get caught up in it. The clothes were then hung out to air-dry or freeze if the temperature was too low. On days, it was not in use, the washer became my personal spacecraft or tank and, despite my fear, possessed a hand-cranked machine gun or pulsar cannon.

Miss Maggie Cureton was Nannie’s wash woman and friend even though during those days saying that your friend was a “colored” wash woman was not something a white woman could admit. After Paw Paw died and Nannie moved in next door with my parents and their new washing machine and dryer, Miss Maggie became obsolete but was not replaced. Miss Maggie just became Nannie’s fishing buddy. I’m not sure a woman would like to be described as “thin and wiry” but that is the description that I must use. Miss Maggie looked to be as tough as harness leather with strong muscles roping her thin arms. She was also as black as the end of a burned stick and always wore a kerchief around her head, unless she donned a huge straw hat given to her by my grandmother. While small, she could pull her weight and then some when lugging around baskets of water-soaked sheets or stringers loaded with fish. My fondest remembrance of her was the way she addressed me as “Honey Chile.” Her endearment was a little more loving than being referred to as one of the “you chaps” that was as close to an affectionate utterance that I would ever get from my grandmother.

During harvest season, Mondays were also “get ready to go to the cannery day.” The cannery was open at the local school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Garden bounties had been picked Friday through Monday so there was a lot of bounty to be cleaned, shelled and readied to be canned the next day. My grandmother’s front porch became a gathering place for a, impromptu and less than static, soiree that that included family and friends. This “shelling party” ran well into the evening. Beans were snapped and shelled, tomatoes peeled and cored and corn creamed in the cool breeze created from the evening shade on that porch. There were also stories to be told, maybe just a bit of juicy gossip to be imparted and a lot of laughter to be heard. Some days there would be a mix that included corn, okra and tomatoes which would become the base for my favorite dish, Nannie’s soup. Because the cannery was for “Whites Only” Maggie could not go but was always sent home late in the day with a part of that bounty and would later be given cans of veggies. The cost of the whole operation was an expensive penny per can to process.

One Monday morning Miss Maggie did not come alone but brought Maw and his two-year-old sister Bessy along with her. Maw’s mother, Maggie’s daughter, had found work at a church in Lancaster and would later marry the minister. Maw and Bessy were Miss Maggie’s grandchildren. While Maggie was ebony, Maw and Bessy were not. They were more the shade of the rich Luzianne coffee and cream that my grandmother drank. Their skin was shiny and seemed to glow in the morning light which accented their reddish hue. I heard them later referred to as “redbone” and was too young to understand the dynamics of someone who was bi-racial. The shine of their skin was due to the perspiration caused by their already hot and humid walk across the wide, sometimes cotton and sometimes hay, field that separated their home from ours. Maw was my age, a few months older, and stood with his right foot planted firmly on the ground with his left nervously tucked, toes curled, under his instep. Both he and his sister were barefooted and dressed in hand-me-downs as was I, but I had not had to navigate the stubble and briars that had been left behind from the last hay cutting. While only slightly older, Maw was already a half-head taller and several pounds heavier. Not intending to be stereotypical, Maw was the athlete that I wished I could have been.

After our introductions, we spent a few minutes nervously looking at our feet until the contemplation of new adventures came to mind and someone broke the silence. With sixty acres of fields and woods to play in there were plenty of adventures to be shared. My grandmother’s driveway and the “river road” formed a natural triangle that included trees for shade or for climbing. There was a ditch that naturally filled with sand to be moved with toy trucks and cars or to form a battle field where wars could be fought with little green soldiers armed with their guns. This became our play area because it was close enough to the washing area so that our grandparents could keep an eye on us. We suddenly found our voices and for one day a week became fast friends. I remember asking him what kind of name “Maw” was. I was informed that it was short for “Maw-Reese.” Later, as we got older, we graduated to exploring the barn and its loft which could be a castle keep or the bridge of a pirate ship or the high ground for a rousing and, sometimes painful, corncob fight. On occasions, we would simply run amok in the woods that bordered the fields and pasture. As Bessy got older she joined in with the adventures and I found her to be just as athletic as Maw. Lunches of sometimes fried bologna sandwiches were always accompanied by raucous laughter that often-included fresh milk squirting out of our noses. My grandmother referred to us as “being louder than a dozen blue jays.”

Our little idyllic existence would come to a crashing halt in the late summer of 1956 as we began preparations for school that fall. Losing our freedom for school would be bad enough but I would suddenly find out something that I had forgotten for the past two years. Maw and Bessy were not like me. I knew it but had learned, without realizing, that friendships could overcome race differences or could be destroyed by them. The dumb white boy found out that Maw and I would not be attending the same school. Instead, I would make the mile trip to my school, while Maw would have to travel the eighteen miles to his, despite a court ruling that neither one of us knew about that had put “separate but equal” to rest two years previous. I had heard comments after the Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court ruling and my parents had even attended meetings to discuss “What are we going to do when ‘coloreds’ began going to school with our kids?” For some reason my five or six-year-old mind had not made the connection that Maw and Bessy were one of those “coloreds.” I remember standing at the end of my driveway with my mother awaiting my bus ride for my first day of school. Despite the expected feelings of anxious anticipation and fear, I also remember feeling a bit of sorrow in my six-year-old heart as the “colored” bus to Barr Street passed me by.
Maw and I saw each other for brief periods during the coming years but too many things got in the way and we drifted apart over time until we did not see each other at all. School, sports, band, new friends and girls all contributed to our form of segregation but I am quite sure that the attitudes of this time played the most divisive roles. “With all deliberate speed….” was more deliberate in our part of the world than speedy and all the faces in my classes looked like me. Twelve years later when I left home and went off to college it was, for the most part, much of the same. My senior year we did have the Springs children—Charles, Harvey and Leroy— who became our “tokens” when “token integration” was forced upon us by that Yankee government in Washington in 1968. They were eighth graders and my brother’s problem. I ignored them less than I ignored my brother. Despite the order for total integration in 1970 there would be no total desegregation for me until I went to work my first year as a teacher in 1973.

During my summer vacation from school in the early Seventies, my grandmother received word that Miss Maggie had passed away. It turns out that she was a good deal older than I thought, in her eighties, and the wages of a hard but well-lived life finally caught up with her. I took Nannie to the service and it would be the first time I had stepped inside of an African American Church. It would be several years later before I set foot in my first African-American home. I realize now that I had never been invited to visit at Maw’s house. I found neither the homes nor churches to be any different than what I was used to…except for the length of the church services that is. We were greeted by ladies dressed in white, given fans to fight off the summer heat, humidity and bees which made their way through the opened windows. With much pomp and circumstance, we were ushered in…all the way to the front of the church but off to the side of Maggie’s family. I was uncomfortable for many reasons other than the heat and humidity. It seemed that the attention being given to us was somehow taking away from the reason we were here – the celebration of Maggie’s “Day of Jubilee.” Despite having recently attended a James Brown concert and being a minority, I realized just how fearful an African-American might feel sitting in a sea of differently colored faces.

I grew up Methodist and, in my heart, I guess that I still am despite my public dunking into the Southern Baptist Church. This funeral service was not very Methodist-like…or Baptist-like. It was the difference between plain white grits and grits that included cheese, chives and sawmill gravy—much richer. Congregational participation seemed to be expected much more than the occasional “Amen” that was uttered by Mr. Gordon in my church. People stood, danced and waved during the many musical selections and the minister, darker and shinier than even Miss Maggie, had a rich baritone voice that was melodious whether he was leading the singing or preaching the Gospel. I was particularly moved by his version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” “Can I get an Amen?”
At the end of the service an usher moved down to us and the moment that I most feared came to fruition. “Missus Griffin, would you and your grandson like to pay your respects to the family?” I had seen Maw and Bessy come in. It had to be them. No one in the church had that “redbone” complexion. While I had topped out at five-foot-nine, Maw was well over six feet and well-put-together, but not as well-put-together as Bessy! Bessy was…was…awe-inspiring with short, afro-styled hair and dressed in a skirted suit short enough to display great legs but long enough for the funeral service. Maw was dressed in a dark suit that had a cut in tune with the times and an Afro that was blown out to Biblical proportions. As we carried on a somewhat uncomfortable conversation I found out that his mother had married a minister with money, moved to Orangeburg and, from her size, appeared to have eaten her way through most of it – money or Orangeburg. Maw was a junior at Benedict, majoring in history which was also my major and Bessy would be attending next-door Allen in the fall. Our conversation was just uncomfortable enough for me to realize that too much time had passed and that Maw and I would never be able to restart our friendship.

It would be years before I learned that I could be just as good a friend with an African-American as I could with anyone else. I am a bit bitter that Jim Crow, Dixiecrats and prejudice had deprived me of that early friendship and possibly others. As I think about it I would guess that my animosity is not nearly as acute as that of the millions who have felt and continue to feel the bite of racism and cultural or religious hatred. I also am thankful that I have most of my own prejudices with the hope that I can be forgiven for having had them.

Thank you Dr. King for helping to change the world for the millions who live in it.

Books by Don Miller may be purchased or downloaded at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

REPUGNANT

I do find this meme repugnant. This might be the first time I have used the word repugnant…EVER. It is not a word I usually think of but after seeing several of these and similar memes I decided to become repugnant to those who post them. I am going to be short and only address two points of repugnancy.

Point one, the idea that all protesters should go out and find a job is…well…repugnant. I personally have five friends, that I know of, who participated in one or more of the #BlackLivesMatter protests. All are law abiding, don’t want to see our policemen shot down in sniper attacks but yet believe there is a problem with our country as it exists now and also don’t want to see people of color beaten or shot. Actually, despite SOME people’s beliefs, they don’t want to see anyone beaten or shot. All five have jobs. All five have what are called “advanced degrees.” One has Doctor in front of her name. All five have families and just want their children to grow up safe and your children to grow up safe as well. I know this goes against the vision some of you wish to believe but most #BlackLivesMatter protesters just want a better and safer America for everyone.

Second point. The United States has a long tradition of protest. It actually dates back to before the United States was the United States. Anyone remember the Boston Massacre? It began as a protest by a group of people who believed an unjust government and its “minions” was marginalizing them. Granted the protest probably began with one or five too many drinks at a local tavern but it escalated to the hurling of insults and snowballs (maybe rocks too) at British Redcoats guarding the Customs House on Kings Street in Boston. It ended with five dead colonists and was heavily used as propaganda by the likes of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. In a “no matter how much things change, they remain the same” moment, six of the soldiers were acquitted of their “crimes” and two others were given light sentences. Five dead colonist along with six wounded didn’t seem to amount to much.

Most of that I learned in school. What I didn’t learn, until I studied it on my own, Crispus Attuks, the first casualty of the so-called massacre and maybe the first casualty of the American Revolution, was the son of an African slave father and a Native American mother. I wonder what he would think about his sacrifice now? I think he would find this meme repugnant too.

More of Don Miller’s non-fiction is available at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A YEAR LATER

This was written one month after the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

“Evil is such an elusive quality…But no matter how you slice it, the earth itself isn’t evil, and neither is the sky or the sea. Evil always begins and ends with man.”
“The Dead Play On”-Heather Graham

“Evil always begins and ends with man” …and not with a square piece of cloth.

I don’t know why I have been hit so hard by the shooting deaths of nine innocents at “Mother Emanuel” Church in Charleston. While their deaths were horrific I feel that somehow I have failed even though I never knew Dylann Roof or the “Emanuel Nine.” How does a young man fall through the cracks of the educational system of which I was a part of for over forty years? In my heart the question is probably “How many have I let fall through the cracks that I could have saved or helped in some way?” All it might have taken was a hand. I know, it “Takes a village to raise a child” but where was his village or was the water so polluted that it didn’t matter? I guess only Dylann or God can answer that.

The families of those innocents showed monumental strength and the forgiving power of the human spirit while leading the people of South Carolina through what had proven to be a volatile minefield in other parts of the nation. All it might have taken was a single spark to cause the situation to explode like Ferguson had. I have hopes that the people of South Carolina are just better than that. The sideshow that became the cry to remove the Confederate Battle Flag may have diverted attention away from the suffering and questioning that was taking place by focusing that attention on that inanimate object which had been both a symbol of heritage for one group and a symbol of hatred for the other. While people raged back and forth on the issue of the flag the Emmanuel Nine were exalted for their love and care for a person who did not look like them and then one by one laid to rest.

While watching the funeral for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, I could not help but feel pride in the way that South Carolina had handled this travesty…until the President spoke and suddenly my social media sites exploded after he mentioned gun control. So much venom was spouted and across a myriad of subjects. Do you suppose the President should go to every dead service member’s funeral? Wouldn’t it make more sense to end the war so there would be no dead service men or women? Between the murders, funerals, gun control, the flag and gay marriage it was a rough week and I suddenly wondered about my group of “friends.” I also realized that Dylann Roof may have been on his way to get what he professed to have wanted: “a race war.” Exactly one month later as I write this I have seen few assurances that this won’t happen.

We have had more death and suffering. An Islamic radical has shot and killed five Marine and Navy personnel and rather than focus on the dead and their family we seem to have more concern about whether the act is branded domestic or foreign terrorism, lone wolf or a cabal. More flag controversy has sprung up but this time it is over the tardiness of lowering the United States Flag to half-mast.

I always taught that period leading up to and including 1968 was the most divisive and dangerous period of our existence as a country since the Civil War. Civil Rights legislation, the Viet Nam War protest, Mai Lai and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all combined for a low point in my life. I believe that we are in a much more dangerous period with ISIS, The New Black Panthers, KKK, Texas Secessionist and (fill in the blank with any wing nut hate group) have all surfaced like turds in the toilet bowl. Add to those groups the discussion on illegal aliens, gay marriage, a more militant NAACP, #BlackLivesMatter, too many Republican hopefuls, not enough Democratic hopefuls and a president who can’t poop without someone disagreeing with the time, color or texture. The word divisive just doesn’t cover the situation that we are facing.

There are other issues within our country that have to long been overlooked and as I have learned, the longer you let something tend to itself it tends to do nothing but spiral downward. To me none of that matters. It starts and ends with hate and a particularly galling aspect are the statements of history that are being bandied about that are “apologist” or “protagonist” half-truths to make each side feel better and their points more embraceable. To me they are still out and out lies or half-truths at best.

I don’t want this to be a history book. I want it more to be a series of stories that support history but I also know that I am old enough for “my wants not to hurt me” and will supply footnotes and citing’s as I need to. I will also attempt to provide humor wherever I can…and maybe, just maybe a little understanding.

POSTSCRIPT
Since originally writing this piece, divisiveness continues. Cities have erupted over seemingly unjustified police shootings, terrorists have been active all over the world including the US, the NRA battles supporters of gun control over mass shootings and now we have an uproar over transgender bathroom rights.

In the greatest measure of dissatisfaction, Donald Trump has risen to the top of the Republican heap amid controversy and protest swirling around him. He has managed to disparage almost everyone except for whites who are not members of the Republican mainstream. Trump has uncovered an ugly truth; Our government is perceived to have ceased to function for a large portion of our people and people are mad. Trump has also employed a proven method of consolidating his political power: Scapegoating groups of people to focus our hatred upon. I believe Trump is using the fear and hatred that has always been there, our bigotry and racism. Trump is a manifestation of our ugly secret.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

7/10/2015 – Heritage and Hate

WHY BLACK LIVES MATTER (TOO) me

Why would an old…well… “seasoned”, Southern, white guy come out in support of Black Lives Matter? Shouldn’t I be the “flag waving” rebel who really ain’t racist because I once knew a black guy back in the eighth grade. After spending my life trying to fly under “the radar” of controversy why would I risk alienation of friends, family and racist of all walks of life? “BLM is more racist than the KKK!” after all. Because it is time to “poop” or get off of the can and admit to my own cognitive dissonance.

I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy flying under the radar, comfortably settling into retirement and confident that I wasn’t a racist…at least not overtly. I didn’t laugh at racist jokes…but I didn’t take people to task over them either. I just made a point to distance myself from the offender…but I kept quiet. If “white folk” commented that President Obama had done more to disunify the nation I snickered under my breath and thought “Yeah right, only because he is the first Black President and exactly what was more?” When a former teaching friend, former as in teaching and friend, shared a meme depicting a nude, strung out prostitute as President Obama mother, I was both appalled and silent. I am ashamed that we didn’t part company at that moment instead of later when I alienated him over another post…one I had made defending the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from our statehouse grounds and the original impetus behind my quest for awareness.

The deaths of nine innocents at Mother Emmanuel hit me on a personal level and the firestorm over the flag removal made me recognize the huge riff still existing between races. It became apparent “our racism” had simply been covered in the same way my kitty covers her business in her litter box. Most importantly it made me ask myself questions and search for the truth. THE TRUTH, not your truth or my truth but the actual truth. It would appear real truth is quite elusive.

I was a history and science teacher. I was not a historian any more than I was a scientist but the love for both spurred me to look for truth. The pain I was feeling over Mother Emmanuel and the flag spurred me to write about it and the history teacher in me wrote from a historical perspective. The following will probably be included in the second chapter of a short compilation of I hope to publish on the anniversary of the massacre.

7/10/2015 – Heritage and Hate

Word came to me that our General Assembly had voted to remove the flag from the capitol grounds and place it in the Confederate Relic Room with its own area for those who believe in its heritage can give it the reverence they think it deserves. For those who believed that it flew in the “face” of a large portion of the population and represented hate and racism, kidnapped or not, it is out of sight, if not out of mind. That short journey began at 10:10 this morning and, thankfully, was over in the blink of an eye, although what it all means will continue to be debated ad nauseam, including, I hope, this set of stories.

In the year 2000 I felt the flag should have been removed but, unlike now, I was too timid to say so. Despite feeling one wrong has been righted, I am thankful those who want to celebrate their heritage still have the opportunity to do so…in any way they so desire, provided it is not illegal and doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Infringement on rights might be the fly in the ointment or, maybe worse, the “Baby Ruth” in the swimming pool.

I have always questioned where my rights ended and others began. You want to play your music loud, louder and loudest and employ woofers that could create a sonic wave strong enough to knock a fighter jet out of the sky. At what point do I get to ask you to turn it down? More to my point – as I have viewed and read the comments on social media or had discussions with friends, I have been both shocked and appalled at some people’s venom when it comes to OTHER people’s rights. “Some people,” along with everyone else, have those pesky First Amendment rights whether we agree with the “connerie” people might be spouting or not. They have the right to say anything hurtful short of “Fire” in a crowded theater, I guess. They do have the right to call me a stupid asshole just like I have the right to unfriend them on social media which I didn’t but probably should have. One question I have not answered is why if you have the same rights as I have, why does it remove my rights if you are insured of your rights?

As the debate over “rights” raged, I am thankful for the grace shown by the families of the “Emmanuel Nine” and for most of South Carolina. Dylann Roof was definitely one of those “Baby Ruths” in the pool. He has given us an opportunity to examine how dirty and polluted the “societal” water was before he climbed into the pool. I hope it will give us the opportunity to drain his pool and fill it with clear and pure water. I would settle for just potable.
It is true that the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia did not pull the trigger that took those nine lives. Dylann Roof killed them and we do not need to place the blame on “that flag” nor should we place it on the gun he did it with or the fact that gays have the right to a civil marriage or that I must have the right to go deer hunting with an AK47. (Sorry, I could not help myself!) We do, however, need to place the blame on those who hijacked the Battle Flag and turned it into a symbol of hate and created a fertile garden of prejudice and racism for Roof to grow in. That would be people just like me.

I was born in South Carolina in 1950 and was taught both the heritage and the hate. I was born just two years after Strom Thurmond’s bid for the presidency running as a Dixiecrat, the party of segregation. The Dixiecrats might have been the first to hijack the flag as they rallied round the Battle Flag while playing “Dixie” during their convention. Prior to that time, for over eighty years, the Battle Flag had rarely been seen, used only at parades or memorials and the like, in other words, just as it should have been, the way Robert E. Lee would have wanted and not a symbol of racial hatred. After 1948 it became much more than a symbol of heritage and I lived through it all, seeing the efforts to keep African-Americans segregated after Brown replaced Plessey in 1954. I saw it all on my little black and white with Walter Cronkite. I heard it in church and in school but, fortunately, I did not hear it at my parent’s knee. I saw it in “Whites Only” restaurants or restrooms. I saw the burning of crosses and Freedom Rider buses, The Little Rock Nine, The Greensboro Four, “Bombingham,” fire hoses and police dogs in Selma and an assassination or ten.

Thankfully none of this occurred in my part of South Carolina but then I might just be suffering from the disease of cranial rectitus that goes with the color of my skin. I do remember being taught that one did not call “coloreds” mister, “birds of a feather flock together” so much so you never expect to see redbirds with crows. In a history class I learned that the familiar statement “All men are created equal” was not true because you had those people born “lame, retarded and colored.” Unfortunately, too many times these occurrences were accompanied by both Confederate and US flags and none of my friends or family attempted to rescue them. We simply must recognize what our Southern history stood for and admit to ourselves that it was as much about hate as it was about heritage.

On a Sunday afternoon in 1970 I stopped in a small upstate “nameless” town on my way back to Newberry for a milkshake that was, in fact, vanilla. As I sat at a concrete picnic table I heard cheers and yelling from behind a stand of trees and privet hedge. Being of a curious nature I decided to wander down a path and see what was going on. As I broke into the clearing the smell of kerosene became strong as a six-foot-tall cross burst into flames with a gigantic “Whoosh!” It was a small cross but there were plenty of white sheets and Confederate flags to go with the fifty or so people in attendance who were cheering the festivities on and shouting about the n@$$%^& bucks who would be raping our daughters during the upcoming school year. Looking a little like a Jewish banker, I remembered that “Curiosity killed the cat!” and made a hasty retreat instead of rescuing the flags.

Activities such as this or the Klan rally that took place on the statehouse grounds after the flag removal should not define our culture as Southerners in general nor should it define South Carolinians specifically. It also doesn’t explain racism and prejudice in other parts of our land or why we think certain groups of people should just “get over it.” We must accept that our racism is as much a part of our heritage as the flag. So are the heritages of the others who live here and don’t look like me. I applaud our diversity and love it. Dutch Fork BBQ, Blues and Blue Grass, Shrimp and Grits, Sea grass baskets, the Gullah language, Catawba pottery, the people who created them along with an Indian-American governor named Haley – just to name a few things that came from someone else’s culture. I also thank the people who made my re-education possible – those teachers, parents and students whose cultures were different than mine…and yet the same.

WHY BLACK LIVES MATTER (TOO) A Revolutionary Call to Action will be on sale June 19th. All proceeds will benefit The Sentencing Project, a leader in the effort to bring national attention to disturbing trends and inequities in the criminal justice system through the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns and strategic advocacy for policy reform. Our gift to the organization will support their efforts to promote reforms in sentencing policy, address unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocate for alternatives to incarceration.

Don Miller has also written three books which may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY-PEPSI COLA

This is an excerpt from the book PATHWAYS entitled “Pepsi Cola.” Because of “Separate but equal” and “With all deliberate speed” I had very few opportunities to interact with African-Americans until I graduated from college. Pepsi Cola would be the first African-American adult male that I would have the opportunity to meet and observe. I have heard it said that it was easy to fear what you don’t understand, meeting Pepsi Cola would provide the opportunity for one of those first steps toward understanding. Please note, I attempted to write this from the stand point of an eight-year old mind and in the language of the period.

“While I had seen African-American males I would not meet my first African- American adult male until the very late fifties when we remodeled our house. A black brick mason with the interesting name of “Pepsi Cola” Mobley was hired to add the brick veneer to our original home along with the two new rooms added onto each end. Not only would he add layers of brick to my home, he would add layers to my thinking and understanding.

“Pepsi Cola” was impressive, as were his two sons who served as helpers and apprentice brick layers. It was their responsibility to carry the bricks and “mud” to their father as he did the placing of the brick runs. I found the whole endeavor to be interesting but not nearly as interesting as the “colored” folk who were carrying out the tasks. The acorns did not fall far from the tree! Close-cropped “steel wool” hair over clear ebony skin; they possessed the whitest of stereotypical teeth below broad flat noses and wide cheekbones. They looked nothing like my friend Maw, who, though tall, had an almost delicate look compared to them. All three were powerfully built with muscles bulging and glistening with sweat from handling and placing the bricks. “Pepsi Cola’s” decades of brick work had given him shoulders so wide I doubted his ability to walk through a door without turning sideways along with hands beaten, scarred and as rough as the slabs on the side of my grandparent’s barn. All three started the day in tattered yet clean tees and denim pants that had patches patched over patches. As the heat of the day intensified, shirts would be discarded exposing broad, powerful chests that were covered in tight black curly hair. Curiously, whenever my grandmother or mother stepped outside, there was a bit of a scramble to put their shirts back on. “Pepsi” was gregarious, singing Negro hymns and laughing his way through the day or “holding court” for anyone nearby, which was usually the eight or nine-year old “little man” that was me. I found him to have the most interesting accent to go along with a lot of words that began with “dees” and ended in “esses.” His sons were the exact opposite – quiet and, I would say, somewhat sullen. In hindsight, my guess is that there was little way to wedge a word in edgewise with “Pepsi Cola” around.

I learned a lesson of the times during the course of the remodeling. Sent to carry a jug of water out to the workers, I asked Mr. Mobley, “Mr. Mobley, would you like some water?” “Eyes do, Eyes do, indeeds, Little Man,” he answered with his best grin. In turn, I gave the sons water and returned to my grandmother who informed me of my grievous faux pas, “You don’t refer to ‘coloreds’ by mister unless you use their first name.” Okay, “Mister Pepsi Cola!” “

If you would be interested in reading the complete selection “Pepsi Cola” and the book Pathways, you may purchase a paperback or downloaded a version using the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: 1951 SAN FRANCISCO DON’S FOOTBALL TEAM

I was motivated to do a bit of research on the 1951 San Francisco Don’s football team after seeing a piece on CBS prior to the Super Bowl. It was as good as the game was bad so I decided to share.

After 40 years of football mediocracy, the 1951 San Francisco Dons finished their season 9-0. The team would produce four NFL hall of famers, Gino Marchetti, Bob St. Clair, Ollie Matson and their sports information director Pete Rozelle who would spend thirty years as the Commissioner of the NFL despite never actually playing it. The Dons were considered for bowl bids to the Sugar, Orange and Gator Bowls and offered by the Orange but only if they left their African-American players Matson and Bob Toler at home. This of course was due to the prevailing attitude of segregation that existed in the South during those days. Despite being in severe financial straits and needing the bowl money badly, the team refused to participate without their team mates. Because of their financial situation it would be USF’s last year as a Division I program. They would eventually discontinue football totally in 1982 after participating as a Division II school.

Matson would go on to win a bronze medal in the 400 meters during the 1952 Olympics and have a very successful NFL career as a running back. He would be selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was named an All-Pro five times. Ollie Matson would be named to the NFL All Decade team for the 1950s before being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

Toler, an offensive lineman, could have join Matson in the NFL had he not injured a knee. He would instead give up playing football totally and complete his degree in science and become the first African-American game official in the NFL.

The 2008 Fiesta Bowl honored the Dons and they were a subject of the documentary “’51 DONS.”