June 15, 2005

Words, Words, Words

Via ABC News:
To the victims of lynching 4,743 people killed between 1882 and 1968, three out of four of them black, the Senate issued an apology Monday night for not standing against the violence.

"The apology, while late, is very necessary," Doria Dee Johnson, an expert on the subject of lynching and the great-great-granddaughter of a victim. "People suffered. When the United States government could have done something about it, it did not."

Two words come to mind. “Bull” is one. You can guess the other.

The same article later continues:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the Senate's only black member, said, "I do hope that this chamber also spends some time … doing something concrete and tangible to heal the long shadow of slavery and the legacy of discrimination so that 100 years from now we can look back and be proud and not have to apologize once again."
Let me respond to Senator Obama (Or as Uncle Teddy likes to call him, “Osama bin Obama”) by saying that the chamber did do “something concrete and tangible to heal the long shadow of slavery.” In fact, it did quite a few things:
  • The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and was ratified on December 6, 1865.
  • The 14th Amendment gave automatic citizenship to all former slaves, and was ratified July 9, 1868.
  • The 15th Amendment ratified February 3, 1870, ensured that a person's race, color, or prior history as a slave could not be used to bar that person from voting.
  • The 24th Amendment eliminated the poll tax, was ratified on January 23, 1964, eliminating one of the last legal vestiges of segregation.
These constitutional amendments are of course in addition hundreds of civil rights bills, appropriations bills, federal programs, and resolutions that have been passed to help minority communities over the years.

It might be of some historical note to Senator Obama that all four of these constitutional Amendments were necessary to counter the tendency of southern Democrats and their Ku Klux Klan confederates to try to marginalize blacks—often violently—something that still continues today.

The ABC News article continues in the very next paragraph:

Simeon Wright said, "Good men did nothing" as his cousin, Emmett Till, was dragged from his uncle's Mississippi home and murdered, reportedly for whistling at a white woman. Wright, who was there the night Till was abducted in 1955, said that if there had been a federal anti-lynching law, "there was no way men would have come into my house and taken him out and killed him."
Mr. Wright, do you care to run that by me once again?

The abduction and murder of your cousin Emmitt Till is shocking and tragic, just like the abduction and murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, the three young men murdered by Klansmen in the summer of 1964 for helping blacks in Mississippi register to vote. Both of these cases were lynching, and a federal lynching law wouldn't have averted either one of these cases, nor the 579 other lynchings that happened in Mississippi between 1882 and 1968.

Not a single one.

While the rhetorical flourishes are nice, the Senate apology means nothing. It is political grandstanding, three decades too late. The legislation the Senate filibustered would have meant nothing to the ignorant racist thugs that carried out these attacks and the thousands more just like them.


Both of these assaults, and probably the vast majority of other lynchings, were planned with malice aforethought. A civil rights law not would dissuade single-minded, bigoted predators already willing to commit premeditated murder and kidnapping.

A senate confirmation of anti-lynching legislation, whether passed 105 years ago or in 1963, would have changed nothing. Mr. Wright's words are wistful and full of emotion, but they have no bearing on reality.

This Senate apology is a resolution of words, not substance. At least one other person seems to feel the same way.

"If you hit someone with your car, but you apologize, he's still hurt. It's (the apology) a good idea, but it's too late."
His name is James Cameron, and he should know. Now 91, he is the only known survivor of a lynching.

The practice of lynching came from intolerance and hatred, two things of which the Senate and politics in general are never in short supply. While Robert Byrd's favorite tool of the filibuster stalled federal legislation about lynchings, it was only changes in the greater society itself that led to the near disappearance of lynchings in American life.

The American people have long since passed the time of race-motivated public lynchings.

It is time the Senate does the same.

Note: Via Instapundit, David Hardy weighs in (correctly) that is the Supreme Court, not the Senate, that should be issuing an apology.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 15, 2005 12:02 AM