By Mickey Friedman
October 16, 2017
My journey to rediscover the history, heart and soul of the Co-operative Movement led me back to native son, W. E. B. Du Bois. And how appropriate, because few can shed greater insight into what is happening with the controversy over Confederate monuments. And the decision of professional athletes to take a knee during the National Anthem.
Sadly, despite what our President says about the flag, patriotism and those who serve, we are still talking about what Du Bois calls “the color-line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” Still talking about, arguing about race relations. And punishing those of color.
Take Charlottesville and the Confederate monuments. Only white people could imagine there was ever a legitimate reason to honor those who committed treason against the Republic. Honoring men who went to war to keep black men and women in chains. Some offer hollow appeals to keep them: for history’s sake, a gesture of respect for the South. As if it wasn’t crystal clear what’s really at stake when the Nazis and the Klan came to Charlottesville with their clubs? As if the President wasn’t really speaking his truth when he told us some of those Nazis were good guys; that those who stood up to racism weren’t any better than those who would deny others their equal rights.
They told themselves slavery, colonialism was God’s will, that the inherent superiority of whites justified those chains. And don’t you think the President believes he’s better than “them.”
Years ago, Du Bois wrote this about Robert E. Lee and the Monuments: “What Lee did in 1861, other Lees are doing in 1928. They lack the moral courage to stand up for justice to the Negro because of the overwhelming public opinion of their social environment. Their fathers in the past have condoned lynching and mob violence, just as today they acquiesce in the disfranchisement of educated and worthy black citizens, provide wretchedly inadequate public schools for Negro children and endorse a public treatment of sickness, poverty and crime which disgraces civilization.”
The President would like to make this a debate about patriotism, the flag, and those who, unlike him, actually fought.
But let’s remember Trump’s S.O.B.s, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reed, two football players of color who tired of watching unarmed black men and women being shot and killed by undisciplined incompetent police officers. They knew what it meant to be stopped while driving black, or questioned walking home at night. How quickly death could come.
Same as it ever was under slavery, under segregation. Few whites knew the fear of the lynch mob, the incendiary anger and resentment that could engulf white faces in a heartbeat. Look at Charlottesville: can’t you see the police dogs of Birmingham?
The Washington Post wrote a few years ago: “Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged … Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.”
Eric Reid wrote: “In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.”
Colin Kaepernick said: “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Colin Kaepernick took a knee to alert us to what people of color know firsthand. Another example: Philandro Castillo, a well-respected cafeteria worker, was shot and killed in his car. Not by a drug-crazed hoodlum but a policeman during a routine traffic stop. According to the UK Guardian, while black people make up 6.5% of the population of the three towns policed by Saint Anthony Village “roughly 47% of the arrests made in 2016 by Saint Anthony Village, MN police are of African Americans, according to a Guardian analysis of the records, and about 38% of the people arrested since 2011 were black.”
Colin Kaepernick, a now unemployed highly talented quarterback, has paid a great price for exercising his First Amendment rights. I’ll take a knee with him and Eric Reed anytime.
“Why Colin Kaepernick Didn’t Stand for the National Anthem”
“Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee”
Police arrest black people at higher rate in city where Philando Castile was shot
Mickey Friedman’s Berkshire-based I Ching mysteries, “Danger” and “Folly”, as well as his non-fiction “A Red Family” are available on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Mickey-Friedman/e/B00R4S2MSE/. His films can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/bluehillfilms