Just viewed, for the first time, the 2012 ESPN documentary ‘Ghosts of Ole Miss’ written by Wright Thompson and directed by Fritz Mitchell. The film covered the 1962 segregationist riot at the University of Mississippi in opposition to the first Afro American student being enrolled there, James Meredith. Interspersed into it all was the undefeated Ole Miss football team and how they had to maneuver through all this mayhem. Their coach made sure to keep the players, as best he could, secured in their dorm rooms while the violent mob fought with the federal Marshalls. One player, whose name now escapes me, confessed in an interview for the film how he sneaked out and joined a group throwing Molotov cocktails. He felt relieved when his didn’t hit anyone, and this woke him up to the wrong he realized he had become a part of. Things get so terrible that JFK had to ‘ Federalize’ the National Guard to maintain order. Two men were killed during the melee and scores of Marshalls wounded, then hospitalized. Where was the local political leadership? The governor at the time was Ross Barnett, a demagogue and fascist segregationist.
On September 13, 1962, Barnett rallied his people on statewide television and radio.
“I speak to you now in the moment of our greatest crisis since the War Between the States,” Barnett declared. “We must either submit to the unlawful dictates of the federal government or stand up like men and tell them, never! I submit to you tonight, no school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your governor!”
That was 61 years ago, and tell me, what really has evolved culturally in our nation? Forget about the fact that blacks now attend colleges, or have better employment than their ancestors. Yes, they can sit on any seat on any bus or train or airplane of their choosing. In some cases, NOT regularly, they can buy or rent a home or apartment of their choosing anywhere. For those like this writer, who worked in real estate, there is still the operation of both redlining ( not giving equal type mortgage loans based on race and income status of neighborhoods) and outright refusal , using various techniques, to sell or rent to non white customers. This is not just for housing, but in other businesses. In 1985 I worked as a health club sales mgr in Brooklyn, NY. The neighborhood was 95% white, made up mostly of Jews and Italian Americans. The owner had another health club, not nearly as lavish as this one, in another neighborhood , which was comprised of perhaps 50-50 white and black. His order to us was direct: ” If a black comes in to check out the club I want you all to steer them to the other club. Use the lower prices there to strengthen your argument. Do whatever you can, even with higher price quotes here, to keep them out.”
A year earlier I worked at a real estate office on Long Island, handling rentals. The owner, a native Irishman, wanted me to rent a home he owned near our office. He ran an ad and one day an Indian couple called to see the place. The man was an MD just hired by the local hospital. He had a wife and a young child. I showed them the house, gave them the price and they immediately said OK, we want it. They handed me a deposit check and I told them to meet me the next day at the office to sign the lease papers. When I arrived at the office the next morning the owner called me over. He told me to give the check back to the couple when they arrived, apologize and tell them that he had already rented it. I was shocked. Why, I asked, they’re a nice couple and the guy is a doctor. ” I don’t care if he is Shiva himself Phil”, as he raised his shirt cuff over his wrist. ” If their color is darker than this ( slapping his forearm) I don’t rent… period! ” Then he gave me the BS how it wasn’t him, but his neighbors that he was doing it for.
What the Florida governor and his lackeys have just done regarding the teaching about slavery fits right in with the mindset of that mob and their governor Barnett in 1962. When you ‘ dance around’ the truth about what was done to black people who were sold here into slavery, and juxtapose in about their ‘ having learned skills’ you give power to white supremacy. First, DeSantis used his power of office to delete the teaching of slavery as historical fact , because, in his view, it would’ cause too many young white minds to have terrible guilt as to what their ancestors may have done’. Is this the prelude to a greater growth of outright fascism, as with what transpired in 1930s Germany? This is how the negation of tolerance and fraternity between cultures begins. Question is: Where will it end?