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

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

DONALD TRUMP RACIST? QUIT IT! HE’S NOT THE PROBLEM!

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-Elect Donald Trump. Nine hundred 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 lame duck 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. 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 home (hearts) before we point out another needs cleaning.

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

AS ONE NIGHTMARE ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS

A nightmare will end this coming Tuesday…or Wednesday…or in December. Despite record numbers of early and absentee voters, most of us will go to the polls on Tuesday to end one nightmare…the nightmare of the Election of 2016. Unfortunately, I believe, and many others I have listened to believe, a new nightmare will begin regardless of which presidential candidate wins.

The issues bothering us as a nation will not be resolved simply because one presidential candidate is elected, because a slew of congressmen and senators at both the national and state levels are elected, or a dog catcher is elected at the local level. Fear, racism, ISIS and terrorism, bigotry, abortion, global climate change, misogyny, congressional logjams, crime, education, gun control or rights, sucking at the welfare teat, border security and illegals, LGBT rights, military spending, unequitable taxation, Russia, etc. are a few which enter my mind in no order. My internal voices argue over these issues just as the same arguments rage on social media, on news programming and in our local watering holes. We all know what’s wrong, we just seem to be unable to correct it…because we can’t come to or refuse to come to a consensus.

Most troubling for me is our blatant hatred for each other and how it goes against the one aspect of a presidential candidate’s campaign which do I support…” We are stronger together.” We cannot be fearful and be together. We cannot be afraid of compromise and be together. We cannot hate the other side and be together. A much tougher one is we can’t feel alienated by our own leaders and be together. I am at a loss at how to get us to come together…and most troubling is hearing calls for secession or armed revolt. I think we tried that once upon a time and it didn’t work out too well for the nearly seven hundred thousand who died so let’s put that bullshit aside.

Our history is fraught with periods of division…I wonder if it is not what makes us…us. Isolationism and the Great Depression prior to World War Two, Civil Rights, Viet Nam, Watergate, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Iran-Contra Affair, just to name a few coming readily to my mind where, our elected officials battled it out in the hallowed halls of government. Somehow we rose above it, mostly came together, AND MADE IT WORK. That is democracy I think.

I see an interesting first hundred days. I see an interesting decade to come. I don’t see a quick fix. We still suffer from Cold War policies and Watergate, at least I do, forty years after the fact. I am still suspicious of our nation’s leaders. Despite my suspicions I believe our freedoms are the best in the world and at my age, I don’t want to have to start over with something new. I don’t want to have to wake up every day from some new nightmare. November the Ninth is a time for us to come together…not further segment.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

I CHOOSE CIVILITY

“formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech:
synonyms: courtesy · courteousness · politeness · good manners ·
graciousness · consideration · respect · comity”

I defined civility simply because I am unsure how many of my “social media” friends actually know what it means or if they do, they have decided that using it is just too “PC”. Two threads I started, (with what I thought was a simple comment about violent crime rates and another about the protests taking place during the National Anthem), crumbled into something else entirely. We raged far afield from the original posts and disintegrated into a playground melee stopping just short of someone yelling “yo’ momma!” Another former teaching friend lamented being verbally attacked over a position he took on one of his own treads. That would be former teacher not former friend. The word of the day, week or year seems to be ‘ATTACK’ which is why I am trying to choose civility instead of trying to shout someone down. Yes, kill them with kindness…ha…ha…ha.

I continue to hear people state “We are too PC” so I have also looked up a definition and provided it: “to criticize language, actions, or policies seen as being excessively calculated to not offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.” There was a time when I was taught that “NOT OFFENDING” was a good thing and why would you want to disadvantage anyone…ohhhhhh, you mean a perceived enemy, I get it now. ITS OKAY TO OFFEND OUR ENEMIES! The people we or you are fighting with. People we are at war with. You know, people that are trying to shoot us, blow us up, are of a different religion than us, people with a different sexual preference who might want to get married, people with different ideas about race, people who decide to protest against things we hold near and dear, or people who think that beer “TASTES GREAT!” rather than is “LESS FILLING!” FUCK…THEM…ALL! JUST LEAVE IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT I AM SPOUTING! WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE! YOU ARE NOT OUR KIND…Oh I forgot to include the guy down the road that has decorated his road front with Trump-Pence campaign signs! JUST LEAVE THE COUNTRY WE DON’T WANT YOU! Actually I just said the last one because my wall is so conservative, I mean I live in South Carolina. What do you expect, I just wanted to put a burr under my conservative friends’ BVDs and all. You know all in good fun, don’t want to offend you…come on smile a little.

You see, I believe “not being too PC” is simply an invitation to cross the line and be a bully. It’s an easy thing to be a bully hiding behind the keys of a computer after all. The keys are not likely to rise up and punch you in the eye. When a friend or my brother takes me to task on my liberal social leanings I try to pay attention because they normally provide insight and logical reasons…or at the least reasons. When an asshole provides, “I wish all liberals would die!” well, I GET PISSED and that is almost where my tread went. Also I realize somewhere there is a liberal asshole writing “I wish all conservatives would die!” I just don’t see a lot of those because my wall is so…right…I mean so conservative.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a damn lie invented by a gray-haired grandmother to take the pain away caused by the sting of the spoken or printed word. “But I was just speaking my mind” in many cases crosses the line between speaking your mind and verbally slapping someone across the chops. That is why I am choosing civility…that and my normal peace keeping tendencies. I will weigh my words carefully. Why use a nuclear bomb when a ruler across the palm of the hand is enough? Oh wait, you don’t believe in corporal punishment…Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life and humor try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

DISSENT AND WHY?

In a previous blog I presented the post REPUGNANT. I am not going to repost it but it’s still there if you would like to read it. I did write the following and I quote…should one quote themselves? Anyway…

“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.”

I now ask the question why did we protest? The answer is easy because we all have 20/20 hindsight and the benefit of great teachers and texts…well hopefully. Since we all know why I won’t waste time repeating it and simply go on to the point of this essay, DISSENT AND WHY?

Much has been written, posted, telegraphed or smoke signaled about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful dissent along with certain allies’ such as Megan Rapinoe and a lot of it ain’t been good…and I guess that would depend on which side of the argument you are on. I don’t have an opinion; I just want to find answers to questions like why do Colin and Megan feel the need to dissent, would our Founding Father’s not also be proud of their protest since our Founding Fathers are responsible for our having the old First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech placed in the constitution, and why whenever a person of color, Muslim, transgender, lesbian, gay or three-eyed green alien with antenna dissents, the overwhelming suggestion is “If you ain’t happy here why don’t you leave?”

Dissent involving patriotism or the flag has never been popular, just ask John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Muhammad Ali…or the thousands of Viet Nam War protesters. But they had real reasons to protest, right? Old Number Seven makes millions, has adopted white parents, blah, blah, blah. I posed the question to a friend of color and he answered my question with a question and this is his quote not mine. “Do you know the difference between a rich n!@@#$ and a n!@@#$?” After pondering what I thought was a trick question I answered, “Money?” He was quick to respond “No, there is no difference. A rich n!@@#$ is just a n!@@#$ to some folk.” I will just throw out a question for you to ponder, “Why is that?”

The second question is a slam dunk. Our Founding Fathers are spinning with glee in their graves…well maybe. If I remember my history courses focusing on the period before our biggest example of dissent, The Civil War, The War Between the States, The War of Northern Aggression or The War of Southern Independence…see we still can’t agree and neither could our Founding Fathers, but they knew how to compromise…well except for the Burr-Hamilton duel. Again dissent used to be a good thing…well except for Alexander Hamilton.

The third question deals with the pitfalls of social media I hope. There seems to be a small, what I hope is small, group who wants the fabric of the United States to be the same…as in white. Diversity be damned. My question is why are we not calling them out. What happened to the so-called “Moral Majority” because I believe such suggestions to be immoral! We should be able to disagree without the suggestion that we should just leave. During my first year of teaching in 1973 our black assistant principal was disciplining one of our white students. This period was just three years after forced desegregation and people were still…a…bit…irritated. When the discipline was administered, the young man expressed his displeasure with her by stating, “I wish you’d go back to ‘whare’ you ‘come’ from!” She replied, “Why do you want me to go back to Greenwood?” The young man was silent…and I just don’t think he meant anywhere in the United States.

Dissent creates conversation…and hopefully THOUGHT! It should create an open dialogue for most of us. It should provide an opportunity to study and learn. None of us are perfect nor is the United States. Instead of “Making the United States Great Again” maybe we should have a little dialogue on how to correct our ills to simply make the United States great period.

No I am not moving back to Indian Land because you disagree with me. Again don’t just disagree, ponder why we disagree.

For more unique outlooks on life by Don Miller visit his author’s page 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

LAUNCHING JUNE 19TH.

I am very fortunate and honored to be included in the multi-contributor anthology, “Why Black Lives Matter (Too)”!

Recognizing that the fight for social justice and equality is bigger than any one person and that there is room for diverse talents and expertise of anyone who is committed to freedom, this multi-contributor anthology comprises curated essays written by 50 social justice advocates from across the nation.

Our release date, June 19th, is set to coincide with Juneteenth—also known as Independence Day or Freedom Day—a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.

Book Summary: The Black Lives Matter movement evolved as a protest against police brutality against unarmed Black men. This book extends beyond police brutality to revolutionize the national conversation about racial injustice and inequality and advocate for freedom and justice for all Black Americans. Addressing a range of hot button issues and racial disparities that disproportionately impact the Black community, this is a call to action that will challenge you to confront your long-held values and beliefs about Black lives and confront your own white privilege and fragility as you examine racial justice and equality in a revolutionary way.

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.
-Dr. Mary Ann Canty Merrill

“Why Black Lives Matter (Too)”! can be purchased at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Why-Black-Lives-Matter-Too/dp/1524601209/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463924577&sr=1-1&keywords=why+black+lives+matter+too

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

I AM NOT A RACIST…AM I?

I understand “white fragility” and now understand I have it. Because of my “white privilege” I did not even know I had it. I know other people who refuse to recognize their “white privilege” or that white privilege actually exists. I guess they, like me, have an excuse although not a good one. You see for sixty-five years I have been white and have no desire to change who I am. I just want to change the way I think about certain issues such as race. I do not apologize for the fact I am white or that I view the world through white eyes. I just want to learn and understand…and be a better person because of it. For the first twenty-three years of my life I swam in a culture awash with “whiteness.” Schools, textbooks and what little media there was, were all presented from a white viewpoint. In most cases I “feel” little has changed. Back then, in the fog of my youth, African-Americans were on the fringe of my peripheral vision or in some distant city, seen only through the screen of my black and white television. It would be impossible for me to view the world any other way. But…I do have a brain and a desire to change the way that I look at the world.

I grew up in an area and in a family neither racist nor prejudiced…overtly. Now I realize there were covert lessons to be learned and I learned them well…even though I didn’t realize it at the time. When I went off to an all-white college the lessons became more overt. The fight song was officially “Hail to the Redskins,” racist in its own way, but we played “Dixie,” much more. I hate to admit that the de facto anthem of the Confederacy still causes chills to run up my arm. I CAN admit it because it is my “Southern white privilege” to do so. My first collegiate history course was taught by a disciple of the “Lost Cause” history of the Civil War although I would not realize this fact until I heard him speak at a “Sons of Confederate Veterans” meeting…the only one I ever attended. I decided, on my own, that despite their claims to the contrary, they were, in fact, racist…as am I. It was the only class I took under Dr. “White Supremacist” and I was fortunate to have a “damn Yankee” husband and wife team for most of my American History courses. They did not believe in the “Lost Cause.” As I have been too slow to realize, I don’t either.

The first time I came into contact with large groups of non-white races was in the teaching setting…students, players and teaching peers. I studied all of my new black friends and students…and Asian or Hispanics. I also studied my white friends and I had an impossible time reconciling what I was hearing about groups of people with the people I knew. The group “stereotypes” did not fit with the individuals I had gotten to know. The stereotypes could not be correct. For me this was an epiphany, not caused by a lightning strike on the Damascus Road, but rather a realization that occurred over time. Much like Job, I attempted to avoid being called to a cause and admit to having been a “closet non-racist” racist for too many years. I also admit to continuing to think of the “stereotypes” when I looked at groups of people I don’t really know. I believe many of us, of all races, continue to express this view and can’t seem to admit to the creation of a “system” which, in itself, is racist.

We sit back in our “Ivory Towers” declaring how non-racist we are and wring our hands over what is happening in cities like Chicago. We rail about how the “liberals” or “thugs” have destroyed the city and make jokes about turning the presidential “rallies” into “job fairs” to keep the protestors away. We are blinded by our own “whiteness” and refuse to admit that those of us at the top of the racial strata have caused the problems not only in Chicago but in cities throughout the country, despite the money we believe has been thrown at the problem.

After the “Great Migration” of Southern blacks to Northern and Western industrial centers to escape Southern Jim Crow, “we non-Southerners” defended our “birthright” with violence, intimidation and legal maneuvering that included mortgage discrimination and restrictive covenants in order to restrict where people of color could live, work and chase the “American Dream.” Later, in the Seventies, cities underwent what was called “White Flight” as whites with means fled to the “burbs” and a better life “away from those people.” So why didn’t the people of color just leave the decaying inner cities for better opportunities? I am reminded of a Chris Rock standup routine bringing attention to starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa: “Why don’t you just take them to the food?” I posed that question to a group of ninth graders in a geography class and was not surprised to find their answers to be quite mature. “Lack of resources to move, unfamiliarity with the new area, not wanting to leave families behind, fear of the unknown, civil and religious wars, and people did not want to accept them.” I would say most of those statements are true about Oakland, Atlanta, Baltimore, or any of the other areas “we white folk” proclaim to be bastions of free loading and democratic liberalism, along with the thought “Why should they have to leave.” More to the point “These people” are right where “the system” wants them and “these people” are angry about it…something we racist can’t see or understand.

I have been fortunate to make contact, through social media, with many former students. Some are very conservative, others very liberal and they represent a broad spectrum of races and religions. I read some of their post and am shocked and appalled at their thinking. Recently I made contact with Dr. Mary Ann Canty Merrill. I remember her as a pretty little black girl with a big smile who sat very quietly in a ninth grade class many years ago. She went by the name Mary Canty back then. Today she is a beautiful and capable woman who is anything but quiet. Among her titles, which includes psychologist, teacher, life strategist, author and humanitarian, are the descriptors warrior and provocateur. I would add activist. She is ACTIVELY involved in a WAR over the way people view and think about race. The term provocateur is defined as someone who provokes and she has certainly provoked me into thinking differently about my past life and what I want to do with the years I have left. She has also provoked me to re-edit a dozen or so “essays” I had written about “Heritage and Hate” as it relates my home state and the Confederate flag issue. Oh well, it’s just time.

Mary is not a “thug” looking for a “handout” as many of “these” people are being “wrongfully” portrayed. She is actually a “white bigots” worst nightmare. A successful, intelligent black woman who is not going to sit quietly on her hands. That sure goes against the stereotype presented by “certain” people. All of my friends of color go against the stereotype I see advertised by “certain” people. My friends and acquaintances are educated, black home owners, with families, who go to work every day and pay their taxes…just like me. Despite their successes and their hard work to realize them, they too are pissed off at the “system” that I believe “we white folk” have created and maintained for the past one hundred and fifty years. I cannot imagine how people who have spent decades without resources are feeling.

This former student has certainly become the teacher and the new student has become a rapt and uncomfortable learner. After being allowed to join Mary’s website “Voices for Equality,” I have found myself shocked, appalled and quite uncomfortable with the anger I found. I also find myself being “educated” as to why there is anger. Like Saul on the Damascus Roads, the scales have fallen from my eyes but the landscape, bathed in bright sunlight, causes me to squint and cock my head to the side in wonder. “How did we get ourselves in this hot mess?” My conclusion is that the “system” has always been a hot mess, now suddenly uncovered and stinky. Because of my comfortable “white privilege” I had been able to ignore it.

I say these things because I am still learning, still evolving as a person, an “old dog” attempting to learn new tricks…something I wish the rest of my generation might emulate instead of sitting back and being comfortable looking through their “white eyes.” I have been told repeatedly that people are flocking to a certain presidential candidate because they are unhappy. Shouldn’t we also recognize that the unhappiness spans all races and our history? Shouldn’t we ask the question “Why?” There is an answer somewhere if you are willing to allow yourself the opportunity to find it. You might start by asking a black friend…or making a black friend.

I salute you Dr. Merrill. This is Women’s History Month and you are carrying forward the same traditions of women who have passed before you. Thank you for carrying on with the standard.

From your racist student.

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