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Deep Dive Into Racism


To your Bucket List, be sure to add a visit to The National Museum of Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which was one of the primary slave trading centers in the United States.  (Please don’t call it the “Lynching Museum” as it is more commonly known.)

As a non-racist Southern boy, I was certainly aware of the barbaric treatment of blacks by white people.  However, because no ancestor of mine ever owned a slave that we know of and with passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I assumed that was a problem that would resolve itself over time.  I was sure the lingering anger of young black men would eventually go away.  I was wrong, and now I understand why.

There were types of racism I knew nothing about, e.g. convict leasing, where a black is accused of jaywalking, for example.  He would then be arrested with no trial date.  To cover the cost of jailing an innocent black man, the County would “lease” him to plantation owners, for picking cotton or whatever else slaves used to do.  Some counties received over half of their revenues from convict leasing.  No trial date and no trial certainly smells like continued slavery to me.

One medical researcher dissected black women, while they were still alive, because “they don’t feel pain like white people.”  There are two statues honoring this man, who became known as the Father of Gynecology.  Was Nazi Germany as bad?

Thousands of blacks were lynched.  This museum maintains a list per county.  Orange County in Florida lynched 33 blacks but only two had names.  The others weren’t important enough to have their names captured.  Even in my home town of Virginia Beach, we lynched Mr. Noah Cherry on November 15, 1885.  (By the way, don’t use the term “slave” as that suggests something that is not a person.  Use the term “enslaved person or enslaved people.”)

Laws concerning slavery remind me of an onion.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave protection to black people for voting, for education, and for employment, but not for criminal justice.  Everyone knows the skewed statistics, showing blacks have a much higher percentage of the prison population than they do in the general population.  Everyone knows what “driving while black” means.  If I were a young black man, I would also be angry.  Take your time in this museum to uncover more layers.

Those visiting the museum were probably 90% black, which is a shame.  No white person can truly understand the issue of race in America without visiting this museum.  One improvement  for the museum would be some recognition of those white people who put themselves at risk to help black people.  Our Jewish friends have the wonderful expression of “righteous Gentiles” — Gentiles who put themselves at risk to help Jews.  I saw no mention of the “righteous Whites” in this museum.

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