Dear Friends at the Sun,
Although no longer a Jackson resident, I enjoy weekly visits through the interesting pages of the Northside Sun. Thank you for bringing me news of some of my favorite people and topics.
Recently, however, my mental visits to Jackson have been troubling ones due to my seeing and feeling the similarities and, in fact, relationship, between our current national problems and those of Mississippi during the 1960s.
What can older people do to help today's citizenry avoid repeating painful scenarios? Noting shocking similarities between the Mississippi ’60s and our nation now causes me to write you as I was lively in Jackson during the ’60s and have clear recollection of our terrible times in Mississippi. Many of your avid readers are very young and I would like to share information and ideas especially with them.
At both a superficial and deep level these "new" national problems are not new at all, and I recognize many of the characters, having met them in the '60s. Please just note my descriptions of some events and the people of the ’60s and see if you recognize their counterparts in 2017.
During the ’60s, White Supremacists (I use capitals because I want to "call them out") were rampant in Mississippi. They frequently gathered, under respectable sounding organizational titles and some people were fooled by their "costumes" and nomenclature and joined, not knowing these organizations were fronts for White Supremacists. Such groups, and individuals acting alone or with like-minded companions, opposed civil rights, racial integration of public schools, suggested secession, killed people without physical provocation, unjustly jailed many, and had leaders, including those of newspapers and television stations, all fueling the same hateful flame, racism - all of this accomplished while waving the battle flag of the Confederacy and bringing out other Civil War symbols that had been respectfully "retired" for years.
I don't have adequate vocabulary to describe the effect these actions must have had on the hearts and minds of our African American brothers and sisters. Some people who claimed front pews in prominent Christian churches actually expressed seeing no connection between morality, or their soul faith, vis a vis giving all citizens - a "fair shake" - by confirming the laws and ideals upon which our nation was founded.
Such actions and attitudes as described above, sickened and angered the many white Southerners who, like me, were not racists and who, in fact, welcomed civil rights and supported efforts to bring African American people into the mainstream of American life with all the privileges inherent in full citizenship. Our anger was heightened by the use of Confederate symbols that should have been respectfully retired to home or in a museum. Some such families had come to the South very early and had ancestors who had fought and died and lost limbs during the Revolutionary War as well as the Civil War and especially resented White Supremacists masquerading as soldiers of a sad, misguided, tragic war that had killed and maimed so many and the rationale of which was to retain ownership of other human beings.
Jumping now to 2017, I think that many real Southerners, myself certainly included, finally began to realize the deep hurt African American people felt/feel when they look at statues of Civil War leaders. Prior to the recent terrible events in Charlottesville, and recognizing our own insensitivity, some, like myself, had begun to study and admire the approach of the city of Charlottesville and other cities and universities (the University of Mississippi recently announced its plan) where community leaders had created serious study committees, the results of which had, as in Charlottesville, begun to be successfully implemented.
The goal of such plans was clear - it was hoped and believed that such plans would result in history lessons which would enlighten the public on the lives of all Southern people who lived in the period of slavery, including the Civil War. It was felt that this idea was a good solution between "killing history" by removing all symbols and pretending we didn't have a Civil War, and our big mistake of being very late in recognizing the suffering of African Americans when confronted, through public statuary, of the impossible sounding fact that their forebearers had. Although the early statues that I know of, erected late 1800s and first years of the 1900s (CW 1861-65) were meant to be memorials to leaders who led many of the still living soldiers - and were not intended as a glorification of the War Between the States, still we should have realized the pain of African American people as they were reminded, through public statuary, of their former bondage. Mea Culpa. I am ashamed.
While recognizing the issues in many aspects (statuary, other symbols) of wisely dealing with our history of the Civil War - those important matters momentarily fade into the background as I grow faint when I think of the deepest threat to humankind -which, of course, is the eternal and universal challenge to prevent hate from becoming preferred food for our planet. From the vantage point of 90 years in this universe, I believe America's home problems will only be exacerbated if we try fighting violence with violence - despite its tempting possibility of brief satisfaction. Personally I can't be comfortable with the growing Antifa group even though I share their passion against Fascist and all other White Supremacist/Anti -Semitic groups.
Some wise person has said "The World is divided into haters and lovers - be a lover." Let’s recognize our sisterhood/brotherhood, yes, politics as well, and seek to come together to solve our nation's problems.
We can defeat the too familiar characters and mob scenes (rerun of ’60s) - the racists - the White Supremacists (called by many names) people who have chosen this "Confederacy’’ issue as a spring board to use in their recent Coming Out party wherein they celebrated the joy of having a president who has shown himself to be their friend through his use of bombastic language in expressing his amoral ideas and ignominious policies.
Whatever "language" you speak - we all need to say our prayers and let our representatives in D.C. know this president will never heal our America. He needs to go.
Pat Land Stevens
Phineas would definitely approve this message.