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A favorite argument of the Confederate monument defenders is that those who are trying to take them down are destroying history. They we are whitewashing it. That we are making future generations ignorant of history by destroying them, and that they will be the poorer for it.

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My governor, Governor Abbot of Texas, just weighed in on this issue on Wednesday.

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

What my governor, and all like him overlook, is that these monuments were never about history.  History is best taught in museums, in schools, in books, in articles, on historical tours, all of which can provide the context and details that will allow a person to understand the history.

A stone or metal statue can and does do none of that.  What they do instead though is show what values a society values   They provide a tangible form to intangible societal beliefs and ideals.

This is something that those who created and raised these monuments understood.  It is why they so often have inscriptions that make this very plain, such as that that once was on the Battle of Liberty Place monument (taken down in 2017).

McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed bb this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant –Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.

Values, not history is what is being shown here.

The same holds true for the vast majority of other statues and monuments. When not explicitly inscribed in the monument, it is explicitly inscribed in the words of the newspapers and speeches of the time on why this or that confederate monument was raised.   A testament to white supremacy.  A testament to white superiority.

This should be something so obviously true that there should be no dispute. A monument to honor the Confederacy – an almost country created to preserve and protect the ideal that whites can own blacks as easily and as morally as they can own a dog and the ideal that whites are supreme race – can be nothing else.

These were not monuments to men and history. They were monuments to the ideals of white supremacy. Their primary intent was not to remind people of a historical person or event, but rather to remind both whites and blacks of their place.

These monuments were raised to promote the values of the Klu Klux Klan. They were raised to promote the values of Jim Crow.  They were raised to promote the values of white supremacy.

Those values are, or should be, our shame now.

 

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Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

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Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

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INTRO:

In the past we have had superheroes who flew, who possessed amazing strength, astounding agility, could stretch and duplicate.  Superman, Spiderman, Batman & Captain America were the heroes we read about in comic books, fantasy universes superimposed over our own real world.

Today though, we need a new hero.  One firmly rooted in reality and our world, because our foe is the politician who lives in a fantasy world, a fantasy world that he is trying to impose upon our own.  And, if successful, will usher in a time of pain and suffering upon the innocents, and will wreck this once great country.

His tool for accomplishing this goal?  The lie.  And, thus is born Truth Matters Person.  Unlike most prior superheroes, Truth Matters Person has no set age or sex or gender identity or race or religion.  Truth Matters Person consists of everyday people who look for and do not turn away from truth, and then are not afraid to tell that truth to all.

All of these stories contain only part of the truth, a necessity in order to achieve brevity.  However, at the end of each there will be links to the more complete truth.  Also, all words spoken by Trump in these stories are actual quotes from his tweets and his speeches.

Episode 1:   The Dangerous Hordes of Refugees

2ff1cd0ecda4a9a2b839be9fb4611b56“Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?”  “Refugees from Syria over 10k plus more coming. Lots young males, poorly vetted.”

No Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we do not take in many refugees at all asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001compared to other countries.  Canada has taken in 32,400 for example.  And this is out of 4.9 million Syrian refugees.

Of those that the United States has taken in, 72% are either women or children under the age of 14.

22868475614_e0f545173a_bBut, but, but the vetting, there is no vetting.   “Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them…”

I’m glad you brought that up Donald.  The truth of the matter is that we have an extremely asian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001thorough vetting system for refugees, more thorough than any other in the world.   It takes on average 18 to 24 months for a refugee to go through this process.

It starts with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees interviewing and checking refugees and deciding which ones should be forwarded to the US as a potential refugee for the United States.  From there, the refugee has to pass numerous interviews from several agencies, their biometric data collected and checked against several security and law enforcement data bases, more interviews, and more checks.  During this process the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department,  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  Department of State, and the National Counterterrorism Center check their identity and backgrounds against several databases.

The link provided below by Natasha Hall, whose job was to vet these refugees, is an interesting read and highly recommended.  Often those countries that many are claiming do not have enough documentation –  such as Iraq and Syria –  do have more than enough to properly check people out.  And, if there is not enough documentation on a particular candidate, then that person does not get through.

Further, there are medical evaluations done, and towards the end of the process, the refugees have to attend a Cultural Orientation to teach them about practices and customs here in the United States.  By the way, once in, they are not just let loose.  Instead, various different agencies whose purpose is to help the refugee settle in and find jobs meet them and guide them during this initial period.

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c07c45_61a2c43deb564d6fa3857650cbe3858f.jpg_srz_1903_1269_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWe “are letting tens of thousands of people come in from Syria and nobody knows who these people are and a lot of those people are ISIS.” “We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.”

 

Donald, a lie does not become truth just because it is repeated.  I have already shown you that we do know who we are letting into our country.  And, the truth is, that we have seenasian_girl_vol__1_by_animegamer001 what has happened by letting these Syrian refugees in.   We save lives, and give people who are suffering and afraid and lost a chance to create a new home.

And despite the claims that these refugees are a burden on our economy, they have proven to be a benefit.  As the PBS article linked to at the bottom notes, they add to the labor market and add needed skills.  As the US News article notes, also linked to at the bottom, while Cleveland spent $4.8 million dollars settling refugees into their area, they wound up creating an economic benefit of $48 million dollars through increased demand for goods and services and because refugees start up new businesses that hire people.

As for the danger they pose, so far there have been no fatal attacks by any Syrian refugee in the United States.  As the Atlantic article notes, also linked to at the bottom,  over the last 40 years the United States has accepted 3.25 million refugees.  Only 20 of them have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorist acts in the United States.  Further, only three Americans have been killed in attacks by refugees, and these were by Cuban refugees during the 1970’s.

Due to our already extreme vetting system, refugees  pose no more danger to you and to the citizens of the US than any other citizen.  In fact, most of the attacks carried out by Muslims in the United States have been by permanent residents or native born citizens who had become radicalized.

The truth is, instead of being afraid of the refugees, we should be welcoming them.  Instead of turning the United States into a Fortress of Solitude and Isolation, we should live up to our reputation of welcoming the weary and embrace our common humanity.  We should be showing the world that we have the courage and decency to act upon our empathy for those in need instead of allowing overwrought fear to cause us to spread hatred and rejection.

Ka pow

And the Truth Shall Keep Us Free!

To learn more both for personal satisfaction and in order to better spread the truth, check out these links.

On the demographics of the Syrian refugees,

From Migration Policy

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/syrian-refugees-united-states

From the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us

http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

Good article about Syrian refugees by US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-12-19/countries-hosting-the-highest-proportion-of-syrian-refugees

More information about our refugee vetting system.

Here is the article by Natasha Hall, the former immigration official whose job was to vet refugees.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/02/01/refugees-are-already-vigorously-vetted-i-know-because-i-vetted-them/?utm_term=.304f0cda8b00

From the US Department of State, the graphic at the bottom of the article provides a very good guide to the process.

https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/

The New York Times provides a simpler version of the same graphic I mentioned above about the vetting process.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html

And here is an article by a refugee who went through the process.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/i-went-through-americas-extreme-vetting-214703

On the dangers of refugees. 

Here is an Atlantic article about the “dangers’ of refugees.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-ban-terrorism/514361/

And one from CNN on the same subject.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/29/us/refugee-terrorism-trnd/

On the economic impact of refugees,

An article from US News

https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/09/15/would-syrian-refugees-be-an-economic-boon-or-burden

And from PBS

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/whats-the-economic-impact-of-refugees-in-america/

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With so many political posts lately I had thought to make this one about religion.  After all, a blog titled Bad Atheist should be discussing religion every now and again.  However, instead, I wrote another political post.   Why?  Because, as the saying goes, shit happens.   And that shit is Trump.

This week Trump started confirming my worst fears about him.  While it is hard to pick and choose which of his executive actions was the worse, since he has provided us with a full, rich smorgasbord  of terrible decisions and actions to choose from, I am going to talk about his latest one.  The one where he stopped and banned all migrants and refugees from seven countries from entering the United States, even those who hold permanent resident status.   These countries were supposedly picked due to their failed nature, terrorist activity, and violence.

This sudden and drastic action reeks of so many things – fear, hatred, ignorance.   This action, and Trump’s and his supporters justification for it make it seem as if there is no vetting of these travelers, as if we just say “yep, come on in” without doing any sort of check.   Trump and crew seem to believe that we have avoided a terrorist attack from the citizens of these countries due solely to the grace of God.

The reality is that we do check them, each and every one.   Some more than others.  But none are given a free pass to just come and go without any scrutiny.  And you know what?  It seems to work.

Consider this fact – a true fact and not an alternate one that Trump and his followers are so fond of – none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by a citizen of these seven countries.  Not one.

Consider this fact too, none of the attacks carried out in the United States were done by Syrian refugees.

Finally, consider this fact, and it is one that Trump’s defenders are making a big to do about; all of these seven countries were identified by the Obama administration as posing special risks for visa status.  In other words, the situation within those countries are dire and rife with terrorism and violence.

And yet, with just the procedures we have now, none of its citizens who have traveled here, go to school here, work here, and live here have committed any attacks against the hnan_and_lian_fadi_kassar_5758bdbd2e3fc99559b93f42d7bf4d69-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000United States here.    Despite being from high risk countries.

Seems like pretty good evidence that we are doing something right.  And that sudden, drastic measures such as those Trump engaged in, are not necessary or needed.  Examining those procedures and tweaking them, possibly so.  Full out stop – no.

An analogy from my own background might be useful here.  If I have a productive piece of equipment that, although not giving me zero defects, does do well and whose defects are well below our goals, I am not going to shut it down to examine it in order to find ways to improve it.  Instead I will let it run while I look at improvements, or even replacement.

Now, if the same machine were to malfunction and we had more defects than good product, or, even worse, someone were injured or killed, then yes, shut it down and fix it.

Our immigration system from these seven countries was working well, as evidenced by the fact that we had no terrorist attacks from anyone from these countries on our soil.  Agreed, some from those countries have engaged in terrorist acts in Europe, but Europe is not the United States and the dynamics and situations are different.  The situation in Europe is a cause to examine our system by using what is happening in Europe to see how it could be improved.  However, it is not cause to shut it all down to do so.  As I said, our immigration system for these seven countries so far has had zero defects.

Moving on, let me point out one other fact of interest.  Refugees are going to come from high risk countries with high levels of violence and terrorists.  If it were all nice and peaceful they would not have uprooted themselves from home and family and fled their country.  What this means it that in using the criteria of not allowing people in from high risk countries Trump effectively blocks entry to this country to those who need its safety the most.

So, what does this tell us about Trump and his administration?

That they are, tactfully speaking, not deep thinkers.   In fact, they are not thinkers at all – they do not analyze and try to understand the situation and system before making changes.  Instead, they are reactors.  They react and then try to justify, often with alternative facts and denial of actual facts.  Think of them as being the proverbial bull in a china shop, only with the ability to speak.

Next, they don’t care.  They do not care about the hardship that this imposes on people and families – on their livelihood, on their jobs, on their goals and plans.  They  don’t care that many of these people are in productive jobs in the United Sates and that their absence impacts American businesses. They don’t care that some of these people are engaging in important research that could have a potential impact on our medicines and healthcare.  They don’t care that their actions may even cost people their lives.  They don’t care.  They x_lon_syriaboy_170129-nbcnews-ux-1080-600reacted and damn , that felt good.  The rest – they don’t care.

Moving down the list of things we learned from Trump and his administration.  They don’t like to communicate. Nor do they like to coordinate.  A small group wrote this up without input from anyone.  The normal vetting of this executive order to ensure it does not violate laws and the Constitution, that it does what they want it to without unwanted complications and consequences, was not done.  But of course, Trump knows it all anyway and so doesn’t need to worry about that.  Which, come to think of it, is why he so often seems to live in a fantasy world.

This last trait, not vetting it (and isn’t that rather ironic), along with not communicating it in advance and planning on how to best implement it with those who are charged with actually implementing it contributed greatly to the chaos and uncertainty that followed.  That with, of course, the fact that this was a bad, very bad, hugely and bigly bad executive order.

A bad executive order done badly .    Trump and friends managed to get nothing right about this.

All for what?  National security?  To make out country safer?

This does not do that.  Not even a little bit.  In fact, it does the opposite.  It provides evidence for the radicals claim that the US is waging war on Islam and Muslims.  That our words about freedom of religion are nothing more than hollow hypocrisy.  Trump and company’s actions have the potential to increase the effectiveness of the terrorist’s recruitments efforts.

I know, I know.  Many of those supporters of Trump would pooh pooh my claims that Trump’s actions here actually help the terrorists and radicals rather than hurt them.  This despite the fact that the reasoning is sound and is supported by actual events.

There are currently several  Jihadist groups who are hailing Trump’s piece of ant-terrorist action.  One even said that Trump was “the best caller to Islam”. Why?  Because it shows that what the terrorists and radicals have been saying about the United States, that it is at war with Islam and has no true freedom of religion, are true.  It turns what had been their lies into truth.

Or consider the citizens in Iraq.  We, the United States, are working with them to defeat ISIS.  But we won’t let them in?  What message does that send – hello, we think you make fine cannon fodder but don’t really want to have anything else to do with you. Other than help you become good cannon fodder.

Even worse, the message this executive order sends to the American Muslim community is that the United States does not care about the ideals of religious freedom.  That Muslims are second class at best.  Especially when they consider that now Christians will get preferential treatment over all other refugees.

Which brings us to another question being asked – is this a ban on Muslims?  Trump did call for such a ban during his campaign.  Add to that former New York City mayor Giuliani stating during a Fox interview on Saturday that Trump had tasked him with finding some legal way to make a ban on Muslims happen.  Then add to the pot Trump’s order giving Christians priority.

While this is not conclusive, there is enough here to cause extremely justified suspicion that it is indeed a ban based on religious belief.  A ban on Muslims disguised… rather like how laws to discourage black voting back in the good old days were disguised as literacy tests.  And if somehow it is not, then it gives every appearance of being such with all the accompanying issues and problems that such a ban would create.  Including providing aid and comfort to the terrorists.

Not good

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Moving to another one of the interesting questions being asked – why these seven countries?  Yes, President Obama had them on a list.  But, it was not for the sort of actions Trump is engaging in.   Since Trump is busily doing everything he can to undo what President Obama has done, then why not add countries who have actually had some of their citizens attack us on our own soil?   Why not add Egypt and Saudi Arabia to the list?  Or Turkey?

Hmmm, let’s see.  Trump has significant business interests in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey.  He has none in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

While not conclusive, it is suspicious.  Add to that the fact that he continues to refuse to release his tax returns and divest himself of his business holdings, or even put them in a blind trust, and I think we have a grand cause to investigate.  Is Trump trying to benefit, or at the very least, trying to protect, his business interests through the office of the Presidency without consideration on whether that is good for the United States or not.

Finally, despite all of this, the facts and the reasons, the protests and the pain it is causing to good people, I see many of his supporters still trying to justify this order and support these actions.  In reading some of the articles and in my discussions with them, some do it out of hatred of Muslims and Islam.  To those people I can only say go to hell cause we are not going to let you create one here in the United States.

Others though are doing so out of fear and ignorance.  To them I say, heal yourselves.  While your intentions may be good, ignorance and fear turn even the best of intentions into terrible actions.  They are the bricks used to line that road to hell.

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Finally, a short blog.  At least, shorter than the other two.

First and foremost:

dont-panic

Next:

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Now, big broad dramatic actions, while nice, are not necessary and are not what is going to turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people working on mundane and often boring tasks that will turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people donating time and money to organizations that work to protect our rights, our economy, our schools, our environment, our nation that will turn things around.  It will be us, the majority, who will turn things around.

National groups are nice, but look local too.  The Republican conservatives who support Trump control too many states, and that needs to change.

Write letters to your local paper, to your elected representatives at all levels from city to state to national.  This means be aware of what is happening both nationally and locally.  Join in local organizations that are working to improve the environment, poverty, homelessness, civil rights, and all of those things that are most in danger now.   If you are up to it, get involved in local boards on different subjects and problems.  Volunteer to testify on issues that most concern you – locally in city councils to testifying before state committees.

 

For myself, I have never registered as a Democrat or Republican, preferring to be considered an Independent.  And early one there were Republicans who I could and did vote for.  However, those have vanished over the years as the Republican Party became more radically conservative and radically right religious.

So, for the first time in my life, I will become a registered Democrat and work with the local party here in Beaumont.  There are other things I will be doing, and there are a great many groups and organizations that you could become a part of.  Here is just a short and not even remotely exhaustive list of them linked to their websites, in no particular order.

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Common Cause

National Center for Science Education

Texas Freedom Network –  for those living in Texas, this is a group I have worked with before and will become more active in now.

Planned Parenthood

Sierra Club

Friends of the Earth

National Organization for Women

League of Women Voters

American Civil Liberties Union

Southern Poverty Law Center

Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Zero

Black Lives Matter

 

This is not a complete listing by far.  It barely scratches the surface in fact and doesn’t even cover all the areas of concern.  Look and find something that fits your interests and greatest concerns.

And, perhaps most important of all, remember we are all Americans.  We are all human.  Look at your neighbor, at your town, your city, your county, your parish, your state, and your country, and be aware of whatever threatens your neighbors well being whether it involves civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, the environment in which we all share, education or any of host of other areas that look like they may well be under attack during a Trump Presidency.

Because of this, of our shared humanity and identity as Americans, seriously consider even going beyond if things go badly.  If the Trump administration starts a registry for Muslims, register as Muslims.  If President Trump voids the Dream Act, write and call and protest – demonstrations and marches in solidarity with those who are most affected.  If you are white, go ahead and march in a Black Lives Matter protest.  If you are black, then demonstrate in support of that 18 year old American college student brought here from Mexico when she was 3 but being deported now, if you are an Atheist march with and in support of the American Muslims and the refugees.  Let your voice and presence be heard and seen in as many ways as possible.

Be aware and act.   And vote.  Vote in local elections.  In state elections.  And in National ones.  And, hopefully, we can blunt the damage that I fear is coming.  And in 2016 start to not only blunt but turn it around.

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I had an interesting and enlightening conversation the other day with an older black woman.  I found it so because of the light it shines into one reason why so many blacks distrust the police and our justice system.

This woman is, as I said an older black woman.  She has grandchildren, one of whom is 27.  She was married to a man in the Air Force and did quite a bit a traveling until he died unexpectedly in the 90s.  She has a degree in Social Service and Political Science.

During the course of our conversation she related this story about her father.  Or more accurately, her father’s murder.  It happened when she was 13.  And it happened here in Texas.   And it happened in a sundown city.

For those too young or who may have never come across this adjective before, a sundown city was a city or town that had posted a sign stating some version of the following:

“Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Set On YOU In [Insert name of city here]”.

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There were over 10,000 of these cities across the US up until the late 60s.  The city where I currently reside was one such, and, at least until the late 90s, was still a prime area for the KKK.  Today I still see a large number of confederate flags around.  These cities though were not limited to the south but extended to Glendale, California and up to Levittown, NY.  Indeed, most of the towns in Illinois were Sundown cities.

In fact, there were so many of these cities, and so many areas where the Jim Crow laws were strongly enforced, and so many areas where police were more threat than protection for blacks, so many areas where blacks just disappeared, that a book called the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was published annually from 1936 through 1966 by a New York travel agent named Victor H. Green.

This handy book was for blacks traveling in the United States.   This book warned the black traveler of the worse areas (at least the known ones) and about the specific dangers of that area.  It also provided the names of hotels and restaurants that would not serve blacks, and of car repair shops that would not fix their vehicles.

Just stop for a moment and try to imagine this; the country into which you were born, the country of which you are a citizen, the country in which you live and work and raise a family, this country that is supposedly yours too being so dangerous for you that you need a guidebook to help navigate its perils in as much safety as possible.  A guide for traveling in a dangerous country.  One not needed for its white citizens.

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And all of this going on until the mid 1960s.

Just stop and think of that too.  The mid 1960s is not ancient history.  It is not something from our founding.  It is recent history, a history of which millions of Americans (including myself) have personal memory of.

As does this black woman I met.

Which now brings us to what happened to her father in the not so distant past, a past that is recent in fact, recent in both years and memory.  What happened to her father when she was 13?

Or to ask another way, what happened to blacks who were caught in those sundown towns after dark?  If they were lucky they were picked up and arrested by the police, then either escorted out or jailed, and possibly roughed up.  If they were unlucky, then much worse happened; as happened to this woman’s father.

He was found the next morning strung up by his ankles from a tree.  He had been gutted and his intestines soaked the ground under him.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles had been cut off.  But that was not all.

His penis and testicles were not near him as his intestines were.  They were missing entirely.  The sheriff told this woman’s mother that they were probably fed to the pigs.

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This happened within living memory.

Yes, we have changed laws and processes to reduce and de-institutionalize these more overt forms of racism and bias.  But, do those who would deny that racism plays any significant role today in hiring, in education, in justice, in law enforcement, in society; do those who would argue that there is no real racism in our institutions other than what is being played up and stoked up by trouble makers and liberals out to make political hay; do those people really believe that such deeply embedded institutions, deeply held beliefs, deeply held hatreds, do they really believe that these can be changed as quickly and as easily as a law?

Really?

Laws change more easily and more quickly than attitudes.  Laws change more easily than institutions.

The 1960s were the start of significant and needed changes in regards to race in our country.  But a start is not the finish.  To pretend that it is, to deny this basic fact is then to work to undo that start and push us back to that a different version of that recent past.

The vast majority of blacks realize that the changes needed to enact true and equal justice for all regardless of color is still only in its beginnings.  They have the stories of their still living mothers and fathers, the stories of their still living grandmothers and grandfathers, the stories of their still living uncles and aunts and cousins to tell them so. Stories of loss, of denial, of pain and suffering, of injustice backed by government and institutions, stories of death.

Stories that are reinforced and proven true in their daily lives today.  And by the fact that

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so many whites deny them the lessons of both their personal history and their own current experiences.

They have good reason to be distrustful of police, of the justice system, and of our government overall.   It has been changed, but not totally reformed.  And they remember.  As should we all.

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Today in Dallas, as I write these words, at least five law enforcement officers are dead and another six are wounded.  They were targeted and murdered by what, as of this writing, appear to be black men.

This occurred at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter march protesting the needless deaths of Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul Minnesota. Two black men killed by white police officers, both seemingly victims of racial bias, whether open or unconscious.

This juxtaposition of Black Lives and of Blue Lives seems to me representative of the action  – reaction cycle that we see over and over again.

The Action

A police officer kills an unarmed or restrained black person.   An act that occurs more often to blacks than to whites.  This, along with the racial inequalities in our justice system overall, our economic inequalities, and our educational inequalities combine to justly anger the black community who then take action.  The vast majority of those actions are peaceful – demonstrations, petitions, speeches and letters, getting out the vote, and creating organizations to keep this issue before the public eye and create the needed pressure for actions to be taken to change the system.

A few individuals though take it further.  In Dallas, they killed law enforcement officers.

Let me be clear here.  This racial inequality and bias embedded in our law enforcement and legal system does not excuse their behavior.  These men are murderers and should be caught and held fully responsible for their actions.

This bias and inequality doesn’t even fully explain their actions since the vast majority of those protesting who have suffered the same bias and prejudice do not kill, do not loot, do not destroy.  But this inequality is still one of the root causes of their actions and must be addressed if we are ever to free ourselves of such crimes.

Reaction

The bias and bigotry that sits unnoticed in too many people’s minds becomes confirmed and strengthened.  Blacks are violent.  Instead of seeing the person, they see a skin color and fear and distrust it. Blacks are violent.

People walk with wary eye upon seeing blacks.  People cross the street to avoid the threat.  Police see a threat based solely on the color of a person’s skin and so react in lethal ways when lethality is not called for.  Jurors at the trial see the black skin and agree that the officer was justified in his fear.

Less lethally but more common, police go hard line when hard line is not called for, they stop persons when such stops are not called for, they follow persons when following is not called for.

A black person is unfairly treated and the resentment, the anger, the frustration grows. And with this, the cycle completes and continues.

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I opened this piece by mentioning the peaceful protest by demonstrators in Dallas.  What I would like to mention as a possibility of hope is that these protests were so peaceful that the police were posing with the protestors for pictures.   To me, these photos provide hope that we can together work out these problems, these grave problems, to create a better society.

We have come a long way since the days of the Civil Rights marches and the Civil Rights Acts they inspired.  Progress has been made.  But the easy progress is over.  Now comes the more difficult work of ridding our law enforcement and justice system, our economic and educational system, our society of the biases and prejudices that are hidden, that are unconscious.  So hidden that too many deny they even exist.

But hidden or denied, they exist and have real effects.  Effects that result in the tragedies of Anton Sterling and his family and friends, of Philando Castile and his family and friends, and of all those officers killed on the streets tonight whose names I would list if they had been released now and their families and friends.

While many things need to change to break this cycle of pain and suffering, of injustice and death, admitting the existence of these biases and then working together to rid our society of them is one of the more important and basic of those needed changes.  Without seeing the log in our own eyes justice and peace can never be fully attained.

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