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LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE—BABY!

I have repurposed a post I wrote a few years ago for the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  The humanity, sacrifice, and love celebrated in this post really stuck with me, and I have rewritten and updated it with new cartoons in the hopes that the subject matter will strike a deep chord within all our hearts as we celebrate the 87th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Do you know what I discovered about Martin Luther King Day in 2016?  What he said in his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 was prophetic, but we’ve stopped listening and remembering since then.  We’ve forgotten or chose to ignore what it is we ALL need to do to keep the dream alive—thus the nightmare is recurring.

Racial Justice Steve Sack The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune/Cagle Cartoons

There is no such thing as a “post-racial America.”  This lie was started by a group of people who didn’t want to deal with the issues of race.  One can’t have 200 years of caustic, brutal slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow segregation resulting in abject poverty, ignorance, and want, and think that all it takes is the election of a half-Black president and racism will be banished. Whether it is the racist screed coming out of the GOP or Black on Black crime, it’s as if most of us have forgotten the sacrifices made to eradicate racism in our country.  All we have to do is listen (and watch) the front runner of the Republican candidate running for President, as he unleashes his dogs on the Black Lives Matter demonstrators who are protesting the murder by the police of a twelve-year-old Black kid playing with a toy gun in a park, along with the countless stories of other unarmed young Black men being gunned down by policemen, and you know that justice for Black people is the furthest thing from Trump’s mind and heart.

Trump Black Lives Matter Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune/Cagle Cartoons

And where did all these angry White men and their Tea Party hags come from?  Their rage has blinded them, stopped up their ears, and shriveled their hearts.  (I personally know a couple of them, and all their loss of income, health issues, and disappointment with their children’s lives they now blame on our President and a political party that has not given them what they think they deserve by divine issue.)  They cling to their guns while spouting Bible verses taken out of context, and both Jesus and Martin Luther King are weeping—of this I am sure.

MLK Angrywhitemenistan Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune/Cagle Cartoons

I watched people I once knew and loved from the 70s—who said they loved me—go to bed one night wearing Hippie dresses and spouting Born-Again Christian philosophies of love and tolerance, and wake up on the morning of the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008 spouting racism, fear, and hatred.  (It’s as if I never knew these people—never broke bread with them—never shared the vision of seeking the grace of God toward all men and women with them.)  I watched their eye balls rolling, their mouths frothing, and their heads spinning on their necks in anger at the thought of the White House turning Black.   Dr. King may have had a dream that paved the way for our first Black president, but he didn’t tell us about the nightmare of the raw hatred, obstructionism, and horrid disrespect that would assail both his terms in office.  It doesn’t matter what this President does—it will never be good enough for most of the GOP (there are always a few exceptions to the rule—thank God), and if we are being honest, the major bone of contention is his race.

President Obama Haters Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

I have tried to calmly, but urgently, address the racism, xenophobia, and homophobia with the “friends” I no longer have (influence who you know), but to do so only hardened their hearts, and increased their negativity toward our President even more.  It is as if they forgot the history of the Jim Crow and the McCarthy eras and were dooming themselves to repeat them.  I was bordering on despair until I meditated one morning on our civil rights history and remembered that there have always been angry White people, but there were also those righteous White Americans who fought alongside Black Americans to bring about Martin’s dream.  In most cases, they lost their lives to do so.  I especially remembered James Zwerg who lived to tell his story and should be seventy-six-years old now.

James Zwerg

James Zwerg in 1961 after being beaten by a racist mob in Montgomery, Alabama during a Freedom Ride/Courtesy of Wikipedia

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James Zwerg was the White college student from Wisconsin who’d been raised in a really tight-knit Christian family, and he eventually became a Freedom Rider (civil rights activists who rode interstate buses to force the South to obey Federal Law banning segregation on public transportation).  He became a Freedom Rider after seeing his black roommate treated with contempt at Beloit College in Wisconsin.  James volunteered to be an exchange student to an all-black college in the South (Fisk University) for a semester so he could get a taste of what it felt like to be a minority.

When James went to Fisk he made a decision to join the Freedom Riders from Nashville to Alabama.   James said the morning they set off, he read Psalm 27 over and over again as he prayed that God would give him courage and forgiveness for his attackers.  He prayed that the Lord would keep him from striking back if and when he got attacked by the white racist mobs, who considered white Freedom Riders as traitors and deserving of death.  The first line of the Psalm he read was, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?’ and the final line that James read was, ‘Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me.’

James was severely beaten along with the other freedom riders by the racists who stopped their bus. When the picture of James’ pulverized body appeared in the local newspaper, his parents never forgave him because they felt, as James’ father so articulately stated: ‘Those damn niggers used you.’

mlk

I remember reading that the parents’ relationship with James Zwerg was never restored even when he tried to explain that he was simply living Christ’s love as they had taught him to do.  He was beaten so badly that his teeth were shattered, his vertebrae were broken, he suffered from PTSD, he drowned his sorrows in alcohol for a season, he tried to commit suicide at least once, and he ended up in therapy for months.  As I meditated on the sacrifice that Pastor Zwerg made for me and mine, I momentarily forgot the hatefulness of some of the White people I have known in my life as the scripture rang through my head:  “Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his brother!”

And then the roll call of other Whites who stood brave and tall against the racist order of the day came to mind, and I sat for a moment of silence to thank them for laying down their lives so my children and grandchildren might live Dr. King’s dream:

Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo, ethnicity:  white.  Viola was a mother of three children from Detroit and was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama.  The last words she said to her husband were that the civil rights struggle: “was everybody’s fight.” (Wikipedia)

Michael Henry Schwerner, ethnicity:  Jewish.  Michael was one of three Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) field workers killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi, by the Ku Klux Klan in response to their civil rights work. (Wikipedia)

Andrew Goodman, ethnicity:  Jewish.  Andrew was one of three American civil rights activists murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan. (Wikipedia)

Paul Guihard, ethnicity:  white.  Paul was a reporter for a French news service and was killed by gunfire from a white mob during protests over the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

William Lewis Moore, ethnicity:  white.  William was a postman from Baltimore, and he was shot and killed during a one-man march against segregation. Moore had planned to deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi urging an end to intolerance. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Rev. Bruce Klunder, ethnicity:  white.  Rev. Klunder was among civil rights activists who protested the building of a segregated school in Cleveland, Ohio by placing their bodies in the way of construction equipment. Klunder was crushed to death when a bulldozer backed over him. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Rev. James Reeb, ethnicity:  white.  Rev. Reeb was a Unitarian minister from Boston, and was among many white clergymen who joined the Selma marchers after the attack by state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Reeb was beaten to death by white men while he walked down a Selma street. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Jonathan Myrick Daniels, ethnicity:  white.  Jonathan was an Episcopal Seminary student in Boston, and he had come to Alabama to help with black voter registration in Lowndes County. He was arrested at a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville and then suddenly released. Moments after his release, he was shot to death by a deputy sheriff. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, ethnicity:  white.  Vernon was a wealthy businessman who offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. The night after a radio station broadcasted Dahmer’s offer, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns.

After all was remembered and gratefully acknowledged, I got up off my knees and turned to face the new day with peace in my heart, knowing that the hatred I see in 2016 will not win the day because there will always be people of all ethnicities who have courage enough to fight for the freedom needed so that everyone, of every color, creed, and gender, can live the dream.

I have a dream Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Cartoon used by permission:  Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

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ELEANOR’S “SELAH” (AHA!) MOMENT ABOUT RACE IN AMERICA—2016

I am discovering that “we the people” have an ongoing, ever vigilant job to embrace that dream afresh, if we are to erase the virulent infection (and reinfection) of racism from our hearts and our country.  We must never forget the corrosive stain of slavery on our nation’s psyche.  Our white children should be reminded, not so that we hold the sins of the parents over the heads of their children who are not to blame, but to serve as a beacon of light so that they don’t repeat that history again.  We must not let our black children forget so that they don’t take for granted the freedom and liberties that have been won for them by the blood of others—both black and white.  But it can’t be done if we are too afraid to talk about racial issues that still swirl like roaches in and around our churches, mosques, synagogues, homes, businesses, and legislative hallways.  We do not live in a post-racial era.  That’s called Heaven.  As long as there are imperfect people with access to free will, we will consciously and unconsciously fall over the racial tripwires of each other’s history, and the only way to become righteously untangled is with the scissors of love, forgiveness, and grace.

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES

“James Zwerg remains a devoted loving Christian to this day and what is most important to him is love. ‘I think the thing I would add is love is still the most powerful force in the universe. Hatred will never beat it. Violence will never beat it.’”—Wikipedia

“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”Helen Keller

“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”Toni Morrison

“And yet words on a parchment [the Constitution—parenthesis mine] would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggles, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience, and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”Presidential Candidate Barack Obama

EXCEPT WHERE NOTED, ALL INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES ARE FROM http://www.brainyquotes.com

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?  Check out http://www.eleanortomczyk.com

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REFERENCES

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/15/living/martin-luther-king-dream-feat/index.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/martin-luther-king-facts-they-didnt-teach-you-in-school_5699305ae4b0ce4964244476?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2016/01/shall-we-overcome-an-invitation-for-mlk-jr-day/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Pan%20Patheos%20011515%20(1)&utm_content=&spMailingID=50475805&spUserID=MTIzNjQ2MzAzOTI4S0&spJobID=842032391&spReportId=ODQyMDMyMzkxS0

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/republicans-took-insulting-obama-to-a-new-level-at-the-gop-debate/ar-BBof5co?ocid=spartandhp

http://www.salon.com/2016/01/16/martin_luther_king_rachel_dolezal_and_donald_trump_the_recurring_story_of_race_that_has_shaped_our_history/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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HELP! I Need a White Man!

Do you know what I discovered many, many years ago?   Everybody needs a white man as a side-kick to get over in America, especially if they are black, brown, or tan.  People put on you what they fear and they see you through the eyes of their own ignorance.   Because of this, living in America can be rough when you’re attempting to engage in the activity of simply “walking while Black.”  I know this because I’m black, and I’ve been profiled since the age of ten years old, and I’m now sixty-five-years old.    I’ve been profiled so many times that as soon as I could, I decided (if I was ever going to have any peace on this Earth) to get me a white man to ease my passage through life.

Walking while black John Darkow  Columbia Daily Tribune  Missouri

Used by permission:  John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri

When I was ten years old and living in Cleveland, I grabbed my little sister, Pee-wee, who was seven years old and snuck onto the trolley train via the back door.   We rode it all the way to its final stop in Shaker Heights where only white people lived.  I don’t know why I did this.  It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Pee-wee, let’s go find the land where only white people live; it will be fun.”  I said.

By the time we got to the end of the line in Shaker Heights where the only black faces were the maids in white uniforms getting off the trolley to clean the houses, Pee-wee and I were totally and hopelessly lost.  The only people left on the trolley was a white couple in their sixties, and when they realized we weren’t the children
of one of the maids, the man became apoplectic and began to yell and scream at us for daring to enter a neighborhood where we did not belong.  Pee-wee and I were scared to death and had no idea how to get back to the “black side of town.”  Because I’ve always had more mouth than sense, I think I said something tantamount to:

“Fuck you, old man—you not my mama!”

On those choice words, the old man chased after us and tried to beat the shit out of us with his cane.  Fortunately, his wife had more sense than he did and pulled him off of us before we were hurt too badly.   I knew right then and there that I was going to need something more than my good looks and sharp tongue to get me safely through life—I was going to need myself one of them white men as a guardian angel!

racial profiling

When I met my husband (WW—“White and Wonderful”), one of the things that I fell in love with was his ability to rescue me out of situations that the profiling of the color of my skin seemed to entrap me into during the day.  Here was a man who had papers from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) to show his direct lineage to Governor Bradford of the Mayflower.   On top of that, he was always told he could be President of the United States at the very best or a lawyer at the very least.  Consequently, the man thinks the world is his oyster and has no fear. The dude can go anywhere and no one ever questions him “walking while White.”  Awesome!  So we developed a code.  He was to accompany me where “walking while Black” might get me killed if I were alone, and whenever I met an impasse on my own, I would simply holler or ring my husband on the phone with a quick command:  “Come quick—I need a white man to rescue me!”  He would arrive—Johnny on the spot—and I would appear less scary, richer, or more respectable to the profiler (remember this was a while ago—in the early days of our marriage).  It came to be known between us as:  SECRET WHITE HERO COMES TO AID OF ET “WHILE WALKING BLACK.”

Trayvon vs blasphemy of character John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Use by permission: John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune

 EXAMPLES OF ET WALKING WHILE BLACK

While living in all-white neighborhood in Virginia Beach, VA and having walked every day for six months with two white friends who lived in same neighborhood, I attempted to walk the exact same route alone one morning.  I wore what I wore every day:  an African head-wrap (as was the fashion of the day in the Black community), a jacket to ward off the chill, earphones covering my ears, and my hands in my pocket to keep the Sony Walkman from banging against my leg and bruising it. 

PROFILER(s):      (Two old white women following me in their car for ten minutes or so who began to shout at me with indignant anger.)   “Hey, what are you doing in our neighborhood?  What’s that in your pocket?  What’s that thing on your head?  Where have you come from and where are you going?  You better not be here when we get back!”

“Baby—I need a white man”:   I stood my ground (couldn’t go anywhere else—I lived around the corner) and white husband walked with me on days that white friends could not.  I never saw the old ladies again.  Never had any more trouble but sure would like to have been able to walk alone again, because that was my time of meditation with my God.  Should have told the old white bitches I was praying but didn’t think they would believe me or care.

African head wrap fashionfordames dot blogspot dot com

African head wrap fashionfordames.blogspot.com

While putting groceries in back of my station wagon in the grocery store parking lot in Virginia Beach (what was it about that goddamn city?), a white man sneaks up behind me and scares the shit out of me.

PROFILER:   “What are you doing in the back of this car?  Whose car is this?  Where did you get those groceries?”

“Darling—I need a white man”:   Profiler disappears into his church van when I stand my ground . . .

“You got a problem with me putting my damn groceries in my own damn car?”

. . . while I threaten to call my white husband to kick his ass.  Husband shops with me for a while to establish a pattern hoping that profilers will get over themselves in the town that Pat Robertson built.  Never understood why the profiler (“the man of God”) thought I’d be stealing diapers, paper towels, eggs, and cleaning products from a car I clearly had opened with my own key.  I wonder what sermon he’d ever heard that profiled black suburban moms stealing station wagons while clutching their grocery list in one hand and coupons in another.

Bag of Candy Defense Florida Gun Law John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Used by permission:  John Cole| The Scranton Times Tribune

While jogging in upstate New York, the Po-Po (police) followed me more than once, often interrogating me about why I was running along a deserted country road.  (What’s that old racist joke?  If you see a white man running, he’s jogging; if you see a black man running, he’s just robbed somebody.)  I took to wearing all sorts of bling, makeup, and expensive jogging suits to give off the signal that I was one rich-bitch that belonged in the neighborhood, so piss off.

PROFILER:           (The Po-Po) “Who are you?  Where are you going?  You look like the fifteen-year-old delinquent who escaped from the reform school last night.  Where did you get all this jewelry and these new clothes?  Did you rob a jewelry store and the fashion boutique on Main Street?  Let me see some identification to prove you are who you say you are.  A thirty-four-year old school teacher—who are you kidding?”  (I guess I should have been flattered that I looked fifteen, but I knew I didn’t really—the Po-Po only saw my black skin and profiled it into what he feared.)

“Honey—I need a white man”:    My white avenger moved us to Israel for three years after that, and what a great relief it was to live in a country where I was just the “American” and nothing else.  I could walk around and not be profiled and enjoy myself as a person.  I finally could fully taste freedom.

I’ve been profiled while shopping (“you can look at the watch but I won’t take it out of the case, because you people always steal”), profiled while depositing a check into our joint checking account after the sale of our house (“yeah, right, I’m supposed to believe your name is really Tomczyk—Smith, maybe, but never a Polish name”), and profiled while returning to the US from Canada after a business trip the week after 9-11 (“before you board, security needs to do a full-body cavity search on you, your seat will be changed, and an air marshal will be sitting beside you into DC—it is what it is.  You fit the profile—you are the only black person on the plane!”).  The list is endless and still I love this country, yet I can’t imagine having lived this long if we had had “Stand Your Ground” laws all the times I was profiled. The words hurt, but I got over those and so would Trayvon Martin, if Zimmerman had stayed in his truck and not stalked that child when he was “walking while Black” with Skittles and a tea.

Trayvon Right to Life Adam Zyglis The Buffalo News

Used by Permission: Adam Zyglis | The Buffalo News

I am discovering that the verdict of “not guilty” for George Zimmerman has left me in a great deal of pain, a lot of despair, and an inordinate amount of fear for the future of my grandson.   I listened to and read all of the defense and prosecution’s examination and cross-examination of the witnesses at the George Zimmerman trial.  If I am being honest, I knew the trial was going to exonerate Zimmerman half way through because his lawyers had mounted a much more vigorous defense than the prosecution’s case.   I don’t have a law degree, but I could tell when the prosecution’s case derailed which was high on emotion but lax on connect-the-dots facts.   The jurors didn’t necessarily believe Zimmerman’s lies, but they were charged to convict only if the prosecution had proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  I would want that type of defense if I had been in Zimmerman’s shoes.   The system worked, and I can’t fault the jury.  I, for one, will respect the jury’s verdict and leave Zimmerman in God’s hands.

George Zimmerman has been found “not guilty” but that is not the same as being found “innocent.”  Zimmerman knows he lied.  Trayvon Martin knows Zimmerman lied.  God knows that Zimmerman lied.  Martin Luther King once said:  “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”  God—the “Hound of Heaven,” and my big white man in the sky (just kidding, I know that God is black and is a woman—Ha!)—will have his justice for innocent blood that has been shed.   George Zimmerman has no idea what it is like to be profiled, but he will find out when the God of the Universe gives him no peace until he repents.  So go on Zimmerman—you’ve got a “get out of jail for free” pass now, but God don’t like ugly, and Hell ain’t half full yet!

RIP Trayvon The Truth

RIP TRAYVON

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“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.”President Obama speaking on the death of Trayvon Martin

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-nessan American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”W.E. DuBois

 “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”—Desmond Tutu

 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”—Frederick Douglass

“One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.”—Socrates

“He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it.”—Plato

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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