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Lest We Forget What White Racism Looked Like When it was Unapologetic

by: Andy Schmookler

Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 18:01:03 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

People on the right take umbrage these days whenever anyone talks about racism. But of course, in these unfortunate times, they take umbrage at the mention of most aspects of reality.

So a propos of racism, I thought it might be useful to look at this little bit of history, from a bit more than a century ago, depicted by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her excellent book -- The Bully Pulpit -- about Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the progressive journalists who helped make that an era of political progress. Here's a quote from page 321:

"[S]outhern Republicans had never forgiven [President Theodore Roosevelt for the unprecedented dinner invitation extended the previous fall to the black educator Booker T. Washington.  At the time, the vehement reaction in the South had stunned and saddened Roosevelt. Newspaper editorials throughout the region decried the president's attempt to make a black man the social equal of a white man by sharing the same dinner table. 'Social equality with the Negro means decadence and damnation,' announced one southern official. 'The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place,' declared South Carolina's [U.S. Senator] Ben Tillman."

(Whatever else Senator Tillman's statement meant, it certainly signals as clearly as could be that terror was the instrument of choice in the South to maintain the regime of racial tyranny and oppression.)

I've written before about "the persistence of culture." (That's the idea that the patterns embedded in a culture tend to continue -- to succeed in transmitting themselves -- over long periods of time.)

Do you suppose that response to a president's having invited a black man to dine in the White House in 1901 has anything to do with how some Americans have responded, since 2009, to the black man that's now actually the President of the United States?

Andy Schmookler :: Lest We Forget What White Racism Looked Like When it was Unapologetic
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the times hopefully will change (0.00 / 0)
At  Tempel  Beth El  on tuesday,               I  had the privalege   of     meeting  93 year  old  ferdinand Day  the guy  who integrated  alexandria schools.   There is  a school named  for him!   He is  a civil rights  hero.  Since we are blessed to have civil rights  heroes    still around,      it will make  sense   to also      have     Jim Crow racists   and    white supremicists  still walking the earth

The thing about "the persistence of culture" (0.00 / 0)
is that the patterns renew themselves through the generations.

When I see the unprecedented disrespect, even contempt, that the Republicans in Congress show to a duly elected President of the United States, the echoes of racism I sense are not from 93 year-olds still walking the earth with attitudes they imbibed when "strange fruit" was still hanging in the trees. But rather, what this unprecedented conduct is made possible -- made politically viable -- by patterns that have gone from great-great grandparent to great grandparent to grandparent to parent to presently middle-aged and young adults for whom that scornful conduct toward the president is expressing something imprinted on their hearts.

[ Parent ]
Remember Macaca? (0.00 / 0)
Sadly, nothing seems to have changed.

Tillman (0.00 / 0)
Two things to remember:

1.  At the end of the war (of Yankee aggression) there were only two states whose populations were ,majority black:  South Carolina and Mississippi.  In these two states, white knew that they could not regain political control through organizing.  Accordingly, terrorism and murder were the tolls available.  And it is these two states that have had the nastiest history of race relations from then to now.

2.  "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman grew up in this environment.  While he is remembered as a "populist" on some issues, he was as unreconstructed a racist as anyone, and a leader of many).

One more note:  Ben Tillman ran an academy in Edgefield (SC) and taught Strom Thurmond.  Later, he was Strom's political mentor.  

The Tillman quote, like much of Strom's rhetoric was for public consumption, but it was surely grounded in his own experience and beliefs about Southern whites; their reduction of status after the war, their disenfranchisement and their "right" to reclaim what they had lost.  



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