I wanted to find a way to connect this week’s blog post with last weekend’s display of hateful bigotry: white supremacists violently protesting the removal of Confederate General Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. Demanding that Confederate symbols remain is another way of saying “We approve of the Confederate stance that blacks should be enslaved; that they are subhuman.” Even if only the most racist of Americans would actually mouth those words today (like the white supremacists in Charlottesville), back in the 1950s and 1960s, whites spoke openly against blacks entering their communities–and thought they had good reason.
Two of the nation’s deadliest riots exploded 50 years ago–in July 1967, within two weeks of each other. July 11th 1967, The Newark Riots blew up on an early Sunday morning, after a cab driver was brutally beaten by Newark police. After four days of rioting, looting, and destruction, 26 were dead and hundreds injured. On July 23rd, 1967, Detroit erupted in a riot triggered by a police raid of an unlicensed after-hours bar, where 82 African Americans were celebrating the return of two local GIs from the Vietnam War.
"Thirty-seven-year-old Medgar Evers, Mississippi’s NAACP field secretary, was shot in the back with a high-powered rifle as he walked from his car to his home on June 12, 1963. He died an hour later. Again, mass black protests, followed by mass arrests were broadcast on TV around the world. I later learned that neighbors had heard Evers’s children screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” I thought of my daddy. What would I do without my daddy?