It has been a hellish and interminable 2016 presidential election cycle, best described by the immortal words of Charles Dickens from the opening salvo of his historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities.“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”Read More
No one should have to pay for the crimes of others, or be condemned simply because they share skin tone, profession, or religious affiliation. America isn’t that far removed from a time when Blacks, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics, Mormons and others had no legal recourse for being discriminated against. But we as a country and society have made great strides. However, in the last few days, much to the dismay and horror of the majority of Americans, the disenfranchised have chosen to discard reason and rational discourse to engage in ex-judicial violence.Read More
UNITED STATES - In my heart I’ve always wanted to believe that racists are simply radicals who comprise a very small percentage of the population back in my native U.S.A. Sadly, that hope has been increasingly hard to hold onto over the years and it looks like 2015 might just be the year I have to admit that I've been wrong. Sure, there are radicals (and extremists and supremacists) who out-crazy even the most fanatical racists but it looks like lies and IGNORANCE are breeding a brand new army of Americans who may not even self-identify as being racist yet.
The Reluctant Racist
When I say reluctant, I really do mean it. First, because someone very special to me back home in California believes a whole lotta wrong at the moment that is turning them into a racist.
Secondly, because I still want to believe that people are fundamentally good and they just don't have enough information to know better at the moment. The right-wing media in the U.S., coupled with the insanely racist (and completely unqualified to be a politician) Donald Trump, are spouting some crazy things that some Americans are buying into because they believe the media and influencers without doing their own homework.
Instead of digging into topics that really matter and sharing facts and data with the American people, most mainstream media seems content to mislead them. In fact, it’s mostly the liberal news channels and journalists who look beyond the superficial story. The liberals also choose NOT to take rare or isolated or extreme cases and turn those into ‘the new trend’ or ‘the direction America is headed’ when reporting, which is how the media and Trump and recruiting their new racist army.
The topic is too broad to attack on all fronts so I’m going to crack into just two issues:
- The so-called confederate flag
- The negativity surrounding immigrants and the idea of abolishing the 14th amendment
The Confederate Flag
After the race-fuelled mass shooting in a South Carolina church, the U.S. finally rallied to remove the country’s #1 symbol of racism. This important person in my life believes that it is simply a symbol of the South with a rich history dating back to the 1800s. They listened to what the news said without looking into the facts and decided that they are pro-flag. I’m sorry but the only people who should blindly be pro-confederate flag are white supremacists and current or legacy KKK members. But not the people I care about in my life, and certainly not the people in yours.
- The flag everyone is all riled up about is NOT the Confederate Flag
- In the 1800s, the real Confederate Flag went through 3 designs. The first design looked too much like the real American flag and soldiers were confused at times who to shoot at so it was scrapped. The second one included the design people believe to be the confederate flag up where the stars are on the real American flag and replaced the red and white stripes with a symbolic field of pure white. The third rendition added a red band on the right side of the field of white. Again, the real Confederate Flag of the rebels is NOT the one Americans are being shown today.
- The perceived current confederate flag (which in the 1800s was only used by the army in Tennessee on the battlefield towards the end of the war I believe) went away for the most part and was only resurrected in the early 1940s by the race-driven Dixiecrats, the political party dedicated to maintaining segregation between whites and blacks in the South.
- In 1948, the University of Mississippi flew it for the 1st time when white students protested Truman’s civil rights proposals. They hated the thought of being educated alongside black students so this flag became the brand image for racism in Mississippi.
- In 1963, it was raised over the state Capitol of Alabama for the 1st time in history. Alabama Gov. George Wallace raised it in protest against desegregation. He wanted to keep whites and blacks apart, definitively turning it into the #1 symbol of racism in modern-day America.
- It remains the unofficial symbol of the Ku Klux Klan.
My German friend Rando commented, 'Would it be okay for us to fly the swastika over German town halls on special days as it is certainly part of our history, and under Mr. H pre-WW2 the country boomed economically, the VW Beetle was created etc? The confederate flag stands for slavery.'
Mainstream media doesn’t share the facts above, though. Sadly turning more intelligent and generally caring people into reluctant racists. EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE of the current ‘confederate flag’ being flown in the south has 100% direct ties to racism and oppression. It is NOT a symbol of our fallen brothers in war but that is the bullshit being told by influencers and the media. It doesn’t represent Southern heritage, well at least not one that any American should be proud of. It represents racism and hate, plain and simple. There is no other truth.
Immigration & Foreigners
I was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of a 5th generation immigrant. Our ancestors left their friends, family and possessions behind and came over from Europe in hopes of a better life in the 1860s. Some of our family hails from Ireland and in those times the Irish were despised as the worst sort of immigrants arriving to American shores. During the famous Potato Famine years, close to one million Irish arrived by boat to America. ONE MILLION!
If they washed up in Boston, well that was probably the roughest place to be welcomed to America. English Puritans could trace their lineage back to the Mayflower some 230 years earlier and the city underwent what was described as a ‘social revolution’ because they did not want ‘those Irish people’ in their country.
The Irish didn’t look like them. They wore clothes that were night and day different to the English settlers. They sounded different. They often came over poor and would have to settle into unsanitary conditions. And heaven help them if they only spoke Gaeilge or a Celtic language! All they wanted was a chance to live a better life than was possible in Ireland.
My Mom tells me that our family came over because they ‘wanted to be American.’ To me that means they had hope and ambition and wanted to give their children a better life. They wanted to work hard and live the American Dream. Well, I’ll bet their American Dream didn’t originally include the extra gift-on-arrival of hated and discrimination by Americans who viewed them as outsiders and who wanted that nationality OUT OF AMERICA. Yet they endured, for which I'm thankful because I wouldn't be alive otherwise.
Flash Forward to 2015
Donald Trump and the media tell Americans that today’s generation of immigrants – the new ‘Irish’ if you will – are the worst kind of people. They brainwash Americans to think that ‘those people’ don’t want to be true Americans. The media reports that ‘they’ only want to live for free in America, sucking up hard working taxpayers money, without wanting to embrace the American dream. The media insists that ‘they’ retain their cultural heritage from their homeland, which bugs the hell out of Americans. In fact, the same way it did in the 1800s:
According to one report I read >> 'Wherever they settled, the Irish kept to themselves to the exclusion of everyone else, and thus were slow to assimilate. Americans were thus slow to accept the Irish as equals, preferring instead to judge them by the stereotypes published in newspapers of the day.'
The same way the English Puritans persecuted my own ancestors, today’s cry of ‘go home immigrant’ feels like a 360° loop back around to the 1800s – and again it is turning former immigrants (or the children of immigrants) into a potentially scary breed of reluctant racists. Unless someone is an American Indian, they aren’t natives of the country. U.S. citizens have families who fled their country of origin in hopes of a better life, just like mine did, and just like everyone arriving to our shores today. Why can’t some Americans see that the rhetoric they are espousing is as cruel and unnecessary in 2015 as it was in the 1850s, back when U.S. immigration records indicate that the Irish made up 43% of the foreign-born population?
I’ve lived in Mexico, Spain, India, China and I’ve been living in Hong Kong now for about to a year. I know that the news I read as an expat is different to what Americans back home consume but it’s shocking how many people are jumping on this ‘us versus them’ bandwagon. In fact, the special person in my life who inspired this post has very strong ideas about just how ‘they’ are ruining America, for all the reasons I mentioned the English had (and strangely almost verbatim every single thing in that 'report quote' above!).
Yet the funny thing is that when I asked, the only personal experience with immigrants they've had is beautiful and not hateful or negative. They have Mexican neighbours who emigrated some years back with two sweet children. They applied for and gained their American citizenship and are trying hard to learn English, have just bought their first home, and for all intents and purposes ARE living the American dream, just like my Irish relatives who emigrated in the 1860s.
I just don’t understand why the hearts of some Americans can’t see that these real-life examples right in front of their face are the TRUTH of immigration, instead of blindly supporting the negative view that is never witnessed first-hand but believed because extreme examples are the battle cry of influencers like Donald Trump and the right-wing U.S. media.
WASHINGTON, DC - Among Attorney Julius W. Robertson many talents as an author, civil rights activist and lawyer, he was also the lead attorney on the case of Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, and he is my maternal grandfather.
I believe that his passion for fairness, equal treatment for all individuals regardless of color, religion, or sex instilled and inspired me to advocate for the rights of people across the globe whose plight is often overshadowed by the latest trends, capricious and specious news, or banal entertainment.
Julius Robertson graduated at the top of his class from Howard University in 1948 with combined degrees (B.A. and LL.B.); and today would have received the order of the coif for his academic standing.
Upon graduation, Attorney Robertson established the law firm of Robertson & Roundtree in 1950 as a firm with junior partners, of which Attorney Dovey J. Roundtree was the first. Attorney Roundtree has acknowledged that Attorney Robertson was her mentor as well as her law partner. He was the “majority” partner of Robertson & Roundtree, receiving 51% of the firm’s income to Attorney Roundtree’s 49%. Today, Attorney Robertson would be referred to as “senior and managing partner.”
According to written reports and my mother's anecdotal stories, my grandfather was a brilliant litigator, distinguished civil rights activist and author, much sought after speaker, and well-respected member of the legal community in good standing. Attorney Robertson was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Claims, and the United States Supreme Court.
Attorney Robertson was a member in good standing of the American Bar Association—one of its first ‘official’ Black members, the National Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar Association—all until his untimely death in 1961.
Attorney Robertson was recognized as a gifted intellectual with a broad range of knowledge of national and international geopolitics. He spoke, read, and wrote fluent German and was invited in the 1950’s to sit on the World Court of Israel after the close of the Nuremberg Trials. After graduation from law school, Attorney Robertson received a fellowship to Harvard University Law School but was unable to accept the offer.
- In 1944 my grandfather, Attorney Robertson wrote about Race Relations in This Bird Must Fly.
- JET Magazine, December 2, 1954 featured an article about this landmark case titled, ICC To Outlaw Jim Crow In Interstate Travel.
- In 1955 Attorney Robertson argues a Civil Rights cases on behalf of the plaintiff Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company
- JET Magazine, November 23, 1961, pg. 50, Smooth Talker Tangles With.
- JET Magazine, July 13, 1961, pg. 23,His Obituary
Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, 64 MCC 769 (1955) is a landmark civil rights case in the United States in which the segregationist Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to a complaint filed in 1953 by a Women's Army Corps (WAC) private named Sarah Louise Keys, broke with its past racist practice and banned the segregation of black passengers in buses traveling across state lines.
The November 1955 ruling, publicly announced six days before Rosa Parks' historic defiance of state Jim Crow laws on Montgomery buses, applied the United States Supreme Court's logic in Brown v. Board of Education (347 US 483 (1954)) for the the first time to the field of interstate transportation, and closed the legal loophole that private bus companies had long exploited to impose their own Jim Crow regulations on black interstate travelers.
Keys v. Carolina Coach was the only explicit rejection ever made by either a court or a federal administrative body of the Plessy v. Ferguson (163 US 537 (1896)) 'separate but equal' doctrine in the field of bus travel across state lines, and the ruling made legal history both at the time of its issuance and again in 1961, when Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy invoked it in his successful battle to end Jim Crow travel during the Freedom Riders' campaign.
Argued by pioneering civil rights lawyer Julius Winfield Robertson [founder of law firm, Robertson & Roundtree] and his partner, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, on the eve of the explosion of civil rights protest across America, Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, along with its companion train desegregation case, NAACP v. St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, 298 ICC 335 (1955), represents a crucial milestone in the legal battle for racial justice.
CASE BACKGROUND: MIDNIGHT IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH
The Keys case originated in an incident that occurred at a bus station in the tiny North Carolina town of Roanoke Rapids shortly after midnight on August 1, 1952, when African-American WAC private Sarah Keys was forced by a local bus driver to yield her seat in the front of the vehicle to a white Marine as she traveled homeward on furlough. At the time of the incident, Jim Crow laws entirely governed Southern bus travel, despite a 1946 Supreme Court ruling meant to put an end to the practice.
That decision, Morgan v. Virginia (328 US 373 (1946)), had declared state Jim Crow laws inoperative on interstate buses on the basis that the imposition of widely varying statutes on black passengers moving across state lines generated multiple seat changes and thus created the kind of disorder and inconsistency forbidden by the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Southern carriers managed to dodge the Morgan decision, however, by passing segregation rules of their own, and those rules remained outside the purview of state and federal courts because they pertained to private businesses. In addition, the federal agency charged with regulating the carriers, the Interstate Commerce Commission, had historically interpreted the Interstate Commerce Act's discrimination ban as permitting separate accommodations for the races so long as they were equal.
The ICC had ruled so consistently against black complainants since its establishment in 1887 that it had become known as "the Supreme Court of the Confederacy." The ICC's 'separate but equal' policy, upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in a 1950 railway dining car segregation case known as Henderson v. United States (399 US 816 (1950)), thus remained the norm in public transportation.
So hardened was the practice of Jim Crow in Southern travel when Sarah Keys made her journey in 1952 that even black travelers who had started their journeys in the North on integrated trains or buses were, with few exceptions, forced to comply with Jim Crow carrier regulations once they crossed into the South.
When Sarah Keys departed her WAC post in Fort Dix, New Jersey on the evening of July 31, 1952 for her home in the town of Washington, North Carolina, she boarded an integrated bus and transferred without incident in Washington, D.C. to a Carolina Trailways vehicle, taking the fifth seat from the front in the white section.
When the bus pulled into the town of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, however, a new driver took the wheel and demanded that she comply with the carrier's Jim Crow regulation by moving to the so-called "colored section" in the back of the bus so that a white Marine could occupy her seat. When Keys refused to move, the driver emptied the bus, directed the other passengers to another vehicle, and barred Keys from boarding it.
An altercation ensued and Keys was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, jailed incommunicado overnight, then convicted of the disorderly conduct charge and fined $25. When that charge was sustained on appeal by a North Carolina lower court, Keys and her father brought the matter to the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) office in Washington, D.C., headed by Howard University Law School professor Frank D. Reeves.
With Thurgood Marshall, Reeves had run the Legal Defense Fund's New York City office in the early 1940s, and he was working with Marshall and his team in the early 1950s on the legal drive to end school segregation that would culminate in the groundbreaking 1954 Brown v. Board decision. Reeves referred the Sarah Keys matter to his former law student, Julius W. Robertson and his partner, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, a World War II WAC who had herself been subjected to Jim Crow during her military travels.
A THREE-YEAR BATTLE FOR JUSTICE
The match of client and attorneys proved fortuitous. Though Robertson and Roundtree were but a year at the bar in the summer of 1952 when they undertook to represent Sarah Keys, they had been schooled at Howard Law by such renowned civil rights lawyers as Thurgood Marshall, James Madison Nabrit, Jr., and George E.C. Hayes and were deeply involved in the movement to dismantle segregation in the courts.
It seems at this time, my grandfather also enjoyed some press for his part in identifying and taking down a con-artist impersonator.
Ragged pieces of the Confederate Flag Dipped in blood still smoulders upon The basement floor of Mount Zion AME Church.
A White man in 'Blackface' Adorned in the KKK’s uniform Waves his right hand in the air, Once the crowd ceases talking, He opens the meeting by reading Job 2:1-7 And the group of men and women respond with laughter.
“These niggers are nothing like Job,”
“Kidnapping, enslavement, and lynching clearly hasn’t been enough for them,”
“As long as we have Monkey Obama pushing his legislation to appease the American people, we have nothing to fear.
Their so-called leader has turned his back on them.”
“And who allowed a Black man in the White House anyway?-“
“SILENCE!” Commanded the lonely Black man.
“Hey nigger, you show some damn respect when you address your superiors.” “Yeah, we n da middle of a war here. Ain’t no time for some monkey uprisin'.”
The man in 'Blackface' motions his right hand towards the creed, The crowd repeats the allegiance to the cause:
LONG LIVE WHITE SUPREMACY!
“Hey Uncle Tom, can we get along with this meeting? Gotta get home to my wife and kids.”
The man in 'Blackface' welcomes Father Joshua to the front for his portion of the meeting.
“I am delighted to see almost everyone here tonight, Long live white supremacy, The only time of the month where we allow ourselves to utter these very words For it is important to clothe our behavior with popular terms such as WASPs, American government, and Fox News-“
Everyone erupts in laughter.
“Now I will not give much attention to the stupidity of our young comrade Dylann Roof, but I will say that a job well done is a job well done!
These youngsters just have to remember the most important rule, NEVER GET CAUGHT!
For Christ’s sake, we have senators, policemen, and generals to make our jobs easier That young lad got too excited, And now we have moved forward in the war During a time when we were not clearly ready.
But do not worry! For our weapons are worthy enough to bring us victory.
"NEXT ORDER OF BUSINESS........"
Who shall I thank for setting fire to the Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina?”
Eyes look everywhere around the room.
“Oh, now don’t be shy, We here must praise the work of our comrades.”
One man speaks up:
“Sir, no one has said anything cause no one set fire to that church In fact, we have no clue how that fire started.”
“WHAT??!! But it was on our list for that day and time. What about College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee?”
“Yeah, we did that sir. And Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, And God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, But, we have no idea who did Fruitland Presbyterian or Greater Miracle”
“WELL WHO IN GOD’S NAME IS BURNING THESE CHURCHES THEN??!!”
Mary, a seven year old girl, wakes up In her Princess and the Frog bed She looks at her window As she usually does when she wants to gaze at the stars and moon. Her favorite night was when the moon was red However, this night was different Because of the thunderstorm.
She usually runs to her parents’ room, To hide from the lightning Instead she sat up and watched the sky.
In the distance, the Mount Zion AME Church illumined briefly, Beneath the brilliance of the lightning dancing above it. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning strikes the building And it bursts into flames, She watched as the building burned down to the ground, And prayed that her pastor was not in the basement on this night.
POET & SOCIAL CRITIC: @ chrycka_harper