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An American Mourning: A Remembrance of Emmett Till, Rodney King And Trayvon Martin

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“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. Then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”  Mahatma Gandhi

Mississippi 1955. If you know the name of Emmett Till, murdered fifty-seven years ago on this day, August 28th, then you know that his death was a crucial turning point for the Civil Rights movement in America.  What you may not know is that Emmett was a breech baby, that he was talented at art and science, and was a very good speller. At six years of age, he contracted polio, and was left with a stutter. His nickname was “Bobo” and he loved to play pranks on his friends. His mother would often recall his beautiful teeth. On his trip to Money, Mississippi to visit family in the South, she finally gave him his father’s ring to wear. Perhaps she saw, as he boarded the train, handsome in his suit and hat, that her fourteen-year-old son was now becoming a man.

Facts like this may not matter to those interested in Emmett Till the historical icon, but when people become icons, the smaller details, the ones that keep his memory alive, obviously don’t make newspaper headlines.  An icon belongs to the public, and to history books, preserved in the amber of memory.  In The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, his mother Mamie Till Mobley remembered that they almost missed the train, that they could hear the whistle blowing. As Emmett ran up the steps, she said to him, “Wait a minute. You didn’t kiss me goodbye, where are you going? How do you know I’ll ever see you again?” and he said, “Aw, Mama” and gave his mother a kiss.  He also gave her his watch for safekeeping because he wouldn’t be needing it, and she wore it home.  This is what a mother remembers.

Till, like many black children from the North visiting Southern relatives for the first time, was warned about the white people and Southern life in 1955. Mobley was right to be concerned about Emmett.  As his friends described him, Emmett liked mischief and was sometimes fearless; one friend later described him as having no sense of danger.  For a black boy who grew up in Chicago, who bragged to his cousins of having white friends in his class, and even a white girlfriend, Money, Mississippi might as well have been Mars.

The kind of racism Emmett would face wasn’t something that could be combated with a rulebook.  The particular lessons of Southern racism were learned in blood, passed down through generations. While Northern cities had their own forms of discrimination and brutality, Mississippi had to have been a psychological time warp for a boy like Emmett, a place where blacks lived under constant mental and physical terror, no matter how deceptively pretty the landscape.  Emmett hadn’t grown up in a world where whites were Ma’am and Sir, where a perceived sign of disrespect, eye contact, for example, or the slightest hesitation when a white man or woman gave an order, could lead to lethal repercussions – the loved one being taken in the middle of the night and “disappeared,” to be found later hanging from a tree.   The relationship between Southern whites and blacks was an intricate and complicated routine: grotesque,  but with subtle inflections and nuances.  Like a held breath, peace depended on blacks’ knowing their place at every moment; explosive violence, the subtext to all black and white interactions, could be released at any time. How could Emmett at fourteen really understand a system where blacks had no protection under the law, were intimidated to discourage them from voting or demanding fair wages, where it was inconceivable that a black man would testify against a white man in court?  Arriving in this unfamiliar apartheid, he might as well have been on a ship to South Africa.

The rest of the story is legend; on August 24, Emmett went to a store with his cousins in Money, Mississippi to buy candy.  It is disputed what happened in the store; some say that Till whistled at the white woman who owned the store with her husband, others maintain the whistle was part of Emmet’s speech impediment. Other accounts say that his indiscretion was that his hand touched hers when he gave her the money. Whatever it was, in her mind she had been violated, so she went out to her car and got her gun. The boys left the store, and Emmett, frightened at first by the reaction around him, eventually put it behind him.  Four days later, Till would be found in a bayou, tied with barbed wire to a seventy-pound cotton gin, bloated by the water and mutilated beyond recognition, one eye torn out and one missing, his skull split in half, and a bullet-hole through his head.

Ray Bryant, his half-brother, J.W. Milam, and another man who some sources say was black, came in the middle of the night and took Till from his bed in front of his family; they threatened to kill his great-uncle Mose Wright if he reported what he had seen. Everyone assumed that they would abuse Till as a punishment, but being a child, they would eventually bring him back.  Soon after Till’s body was found, Milam and Bryant, were tried and acquitted for the murder. A grand jury refused even to indict them of kidnapping. Protected under the laws of double jeopardy, and thus unable to be tried again for the crime, they later admitted to Look magazine that they had committed the murder.

Despite the brutality of the crime, there were many whites and even some blacks that felt Emmett got what he deserved, that he was “showing out” and should have known better.  It is easy to fall into this trap, needing Emmett to be a perfect boy, an angel, in order for him to be a victim.  If Emmett was disrespectful to an adult, then he deserved to be talked to by his family — he didn’t deserve to pay with his life. Mamie said in interviews that she raised her son to be a gentleman, and the story of Emmett as a cussing, disrespectful hoodlum wasn’t true.  Recalling the case, I think about Trayvon Martin, lying dead in a morgue, as controversy surrounds what he was wearing the night he was killed, what he bought at the store, what he was doing in that neighborhood in the first place.  When Bryant showed the body of Emmett Till soon after his murder to a local black man, the man was quoted as saying, “That’s what smart niggers get.”

Smart niggers make certain white people nervous in America. Sometimes they can’t be controlled; they may even run for president, and win. Emmett was supposed to be an example, as lynchings always were, to other boys his age who may have been impressed by their cousin from Chicago: this is what happens when you forget who you are. Know your place, and if you can’t remember, the Ku Klux Klan will be happy to remind you. As I reflect on Emmett, I remember South Carolina representative Joe Wilson shouting, “You lie!” at the President’s speech on health care, and the reporter Neil Munro heckling the President during a press conference about homeland security. Obama handles these moments with grace, but I feel outrage for him, because this isn’t an issue of politics, but of white supremacy.  Obama is proud and unyielding. These men apologized for their behavior, but the damage was done and they knew it.  What is most appalling is that they are willing to disrespect the highest office in our country, a national security issue, because they can’t resist disrespecting a black man.  And now Trayvon Martin is dead because someone who felt the same entitlement couldn’t get his hands on Obama, who acknowledged after Martin’s murder that Trayvon could have been his son.  The neighborhood that Zimmerman was “watching” was America, and Martin, in Zimmerman’s view, didn’t belong, didn’t respect his authority, didn’t know his place.

Mississippi 1991.   Rodney King is beaten by seven police officers after a car chase.  While the incident took place in Los Angeles, the ruthlessness of the officers and the crime against him recall the Mississippi Emmett faced thirty-six years before. And like the corpse of Emmett Till, revealed for all the world to see, the assault on Rodney King was videotaped by George Holliday, a man watching from the balcony of his apartment. King, like Till, was also violated a second time, by the legal system.  Three of the police officers in that trial were acquitted, and a jury was unable to agree on a verdict for the fourth. While the federal government later pursued the case, King was denied real justice, and riots ensued in L.A. after the verdict was read. Rodney King is dead, and his death by accidental drowning, as we await the trail of George Zimmerman, feels like the premonition of a greater tragedy that awaits us.  I am frightened about the Zimmerman trial; this country cannot stand another unjust verdict.

Mississipi 2012.  George Zimmerman shoots Trayvon Martin as part of his “neighborhood watch” in Sanford, Florida; he claims that when he approached Martin and questioned him, Martin tried to attack him, and that he ended up using his gun in self-defense.  The words he puts in Martin’s mouth to justify his actions towards the victim are reminiscent of Bryant and Milam’s claims that as they were beating Till, he was shouting back at them, calling them bastards, telling them that he was their equal, and that he had white girlfriends.  As Zimmerman has already lied to the public, it is hard to know what to believe.

In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Zimmerman says that he has no regrets about getting out of the car the evening of Martin’s death, against the advice of the police. He then says the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the “will of God.” To some, Trayvon should never have been in the neighorhood in the first place. It is Zimmerman who is the real victim, a folk hero. A judge revoked Zimmerman’s bail because he and his wife lied about how much money they had at the time of the bail hearing, not admitting to the $135,000 they had collected in donations on their website.   Zimmerman’s lying didn’t surprise me, but the money he raised did. In the documentary Emmett Till: The Untold Story, Dan Wakefield of the The Nation recalls:

“There were little jars for people to drop money in, in stores, in the drugstore, dry cleaners and commercial places in the town of Sumner for the defense of the two men accused of (Till’s) murder, and I must say it was a strange, eerie feeling, a very uncomfortable feeling, to see these little jars of money being collected to defend two men who it seemed (everyone) understood were the murderers.”

The crimes against Emmett will remain an ultimate horror story in our collective conscience because of a mother’s courageous choice. We thank you, Mamie Till -Mobley. When the sheriff tried to rush to bury your son’s remains – knowing that if anybody saw the ripped-up mask that was once your baby’s face there would be global outrage – you had the burial stopped (literally as he was being lowered into the ground) and his body sent to you in Chicago.  Then you were told by the funeral director that legally he wasn’t able to open the casket.  And you said, “Do you have a hammer?” When he replied yes, you told him, “If you can’t open the box, I can. And I’m going in that box.” In the end, he opened it for you and you stood there and saw what could have been your private horror. But you told them you wanted an open casket for the funeral, and when they offered to prepare the body, you said, “No, let the people see what I’ve seen.” And you stood up for your son, again and again, and for the promise of justice in our country which was never fulfilled for you or your child. You believed all men are created equal, when you walked into that courtroom, the long walk that ended in the acquittal of the men who murdered your beautiful boy who was a breech birth, who was good at art and science, who was a good speller, and who wore his daddy’s ring. And you made that walk again into the courtroom, even after the death threats, the mail that said you’d never leave the courtroom alive, you stood up for your son.

Emmett, your death was not in vain. Because of what happened to you, the world stopped on its axis for a moment, and black and white people in America and all over the world mourned and shared a mother’s grief.  And whether what happened in the store that day was a misunderstanding, or a prank, or teenage insouciance, it was an act of resistance.  I believe you were fiercely independent, theatrical and bold, and that those men saw something in you that refused to cast your eyes down, to bow.  Your act of resistance, like Rosa Parks’, was heroic, and so they smashed you, gouging your eyes from their sockets, because you dared look into theirs.

The day will soon come when we will be glued to our televisions, watching the trial of George Zimmerman, who might not be in jail at all if it had been up to some members of law enforcement in his state.  Trayvon Martin’s parents, like your mother, have been accused of fueling racial tensions, of making a big deal over nothing, as they fight for his memory and defend the innocence of their son. When the trial ends, will then see if anyone really mourns your death, Emmett, if we have truly learned from our past. I have a sneaking suspicion we haven’t learned a goddamn thing. I fear for our country if this man is acquitted.  And yet cynicism is an insult to your memory, and the memory of your mother, and so we wait for justice to be served.

Anticipating fresh heartbreak, somehow we get up and face another day. Mahalia sings: Sometimes I wonder how I got over.  There is a story in the morning paper: Two-year-old shot in gang crossfire, on the evening news, a young athlete shot down trying to defend her younger brother, mourned by her girlfriend.  We know that somewhere in this country, another black mother will bury her son or daughter today, a mother will make that long walk to her child’s casket.  Emmett Till lives and dies every day in this country, in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia.  And whether the finger that pulls the trigger is black or belongs to the State, another black body is destroyed, American potential is destroyed. We grieve collectively for a day or two, but we have a very short memory in this country. Ask George Zimmerman’s accountant.

 

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

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News

‘As a Father, He’s Done Nothing’: Herschel Walker Urged the Mother of His Child to Have a Second Abortion – NYT

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The mother of Herschel Walker‘s 10-year old son who reportedly had an abortion the former NFL star paid for, reveals he also urged her to have a second abortion when she again became pregnant. She refused, ended their relationship, and gave birth to a boy, The New York Times reports.

The woman, whose name is not being published for family and safety reasons, revealed this week the former NFL star now running for a U.S. Senate seat as a hard core anti-abortion Republican had urged her to have the first abortion, and paid for it when she did.

“As a father, he’s done nothing. He does exactly what the courts say, and that’s it,” she told The Times. “He has to be held responsible, just like the rest of us. And if you’re going to run for office, you need to own your life.”

READ MORE: ‘Nothing to Be Ashamed of’: Herschel Walker Says if He Paid for an Abortion He Would ‘Be Forgiven’

The Times reports “the woman said Mr. Walker had barely been involved in their now 10-year-old son’s life, offering little more than court-ordered child support and occasional gifts.”

Walker has publicly acknowledged his eldest son, Christian Walker, but months ago when The Daily Beast revealed he had a “secret son,” Walker’s campaign confirmed only the second child, but did not initially reveal that Walker had fathered an additional two children.

In their interviews, the woman “described the frustration of watching Republicans rally around Mr. Walker, dismiss her account and bathe him in prayer and praise, calling him a good man.”

“The fact that I had a choice” to have an abortion, and “now he’s in the public trying to say he wants to put a ban on abortion completely,” the woman said. “It appalled me.”

She also “said Mr. Walker hardly knew his 10-year-old son — she said he had ‘maybe only seen him three times’ — and had not spoken to her in years.”

Walker is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, a progressive pastor. Warnock has not directly commented on this latest Walker scandal, one of many Georgia voters will have to weigh when they vote. On Thursday he tweeted, “The people of Georgia have a clear choice to make about who they think is ready to represent them in the United States Senate.”

Also on Thursday, Walker repeatedly flatly denied the allegations. But he did say if he had paid for an abortion, it was “nothing to be ashamed of.”

READ MORE: ‘Train Wreck’: Herschel Walker Criticized for New Ad Claiming God Helped Him ‘Overcome’ His Mental Illness

The woman, who is not being named by the press, also spoke with The Daily Beast, which broke the original story earlier this week and revealed many of the details the Times reported Friday.

Meanwhile, once his strongest supporter, Christian Walker has now become his father’s harshest critic.

“I stayed silent as the atrocities committed against my mom were downplayed, I stayed silent when it came out that my father, Herschel Walker, had all these random kids across the country, none of whom he raised,” Christian Walker said in a video he posted this week, after The Daily Beast’s report was published. “And you know, my favorite issue to talk about is father absence – surprise – ’cause it affected me. That’s why I talk about it all the time, because it affected me.”

“Family Values people: He has four kids, four different women, wasn’t in the house raising one of them,” Christian Walker continued, lambasting his father. “He was out having sex with other women. Do you care about family values? I was silent lie after lie after lie. The  abortion card drops yesterday – it’s literally his handwriting in the card. They say they have receipts, whatever. He gets on Twitter, he lies about it. Okay, I’m done.”

He hasn’t tweeted since Wednesday, but Christian Walker’s last tweet reads: “Wear a condom, damn.”

READ MORE: Watch: Herschel Walker Says if Georgia Voters Don’t Elect Him They Won’t Even ‘Have a Chance to Be Redeemed’
 

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Dr. Oz Campaigned in Front of Hitler’s Car at a Fundraiser Hosted by Matt Gaetz’s In-Laws and Rick Scott’s NRSC: Report

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New Jersey celebrity doctor turned Pennsylvania Republican senatorial nominee, Dr. Oz, asked high-dollar donors for campaign cash Thursday night while standing in front of a car – emblazoned with a red swastika flag – that actually was used by Adolf Hitler. The fundraiser was hosted by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz‘s in-laws and Republican Senator Rick Scott‘s National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Ironically, it was all predicted by “The Simpsons.”

Calling it “quite a choice,” Jezebel reports, “Dr. Mehmet Oz attended a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser hosted by sex pest Matt Gaetz’s in-laws on Thursday night at the Lyon Air Museum and stood in front of one of Adolf Hitler’s cars, which made it into the background of attendees’ photos.”

“The museum is full of WWII memorabilia, and yes, it is just a museum,” the website explains. “Twitter user Larry Tenney shared a screenshot from Instagram stories showing Oz standing on a small podium next to a TV monitor showing the logo for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a hashtag #TheOzShow. Jezebel confirmed the image as coming from the account of Shane Mitchell, who attended the event.”

The NRSC is chaired by Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott, who has come under fire for somehow spending millions of dollars in donations, but not on Senate campaigns. Scott, the former Florida governor, was the head of a healthcare corporation that was forced to pay the largest health care fraud settlement in history.

READ MORE: ‘What I Saw Was Abuse’: Allegations of Dr. Oz’s Experiments Killing Hundreds of Animals Fact-Checked by Whistleblower

Oz is running against – and slightly behind – Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman.

Jezebel has much more in its report, including that the “chair of the event, Palmer Luckey, is Gaetz’s brother-in-law and the billionaire founder of Oculus VR.”

“Luckey is a Donald Trump supporter and, in 2017, he was photographed with Steve Bannon and white supremacist Chuck C. Johnson, with both Johnson and Luckey flashing a white power gesture. Luckey claimed on Twitter that the gesture being a hate symbol was ‘fake news’ and that people do it to ‘playfully mimic Trump.'”

READ MORE: Dr. Oz Trounced in Newsmax Interview as Host Demands Explanation for ‘Wegner’s’ and ‘Crudité’ Ad

“Potentially not unrelated to his politics, Luckey is also the head of a military technology company called Anduril that makes surveillance equipment used on the US border and is now making drones. The company has multiple contracts with the Department of Defense and Gaetz, meanwhile, sits on the House Armed Services Committee.”

“Mitchell’s Instagram stories also showed that cancel culture warrior and incel king Jordan Peterson appeared at the event by video.”

“Dr. Oz began the week with a story about him killing puppies,” observes The Forward’s Jake Wasserman, “and now is ending it standing in front of Hitler’s car. Truly a landmark in the history of U.S. Senate campaigns.”

Sawyer Hackett, a communications strategist and advisor to former HUD Secretary Julián Castro noted “The Simpson’s” and Fetterman seem to have predicted this all.

READ MORE: ‘Depraved’: Rick Scott’s NRSC Slammed Over Fundraiser Asking GOP Voters ‘Where Do You Want to Send Illegal Immigrants Next?’

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Biden Names and Shames ‘Socialist Republicans’ Who Voted Against His Infrastructure Bill but Are Begging Him for Funding

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President Joe Biden spoke about the September jobs report praised by leading economists Friday afternoon, and took a few moments to criticize the “socialist Republicans” who publicly voted against the critical infrastructure legislation that is an important part of his economic agenda, while privately begging him for funding for their districts.

“There’s a report, you guys can, as they say, as my grandkids say, ‘Google it,’ but a report that came out on CNN that says, ‘Republicans called Biden infrastructure program socialist.’ Then they asked for the money,” the President said mockingly.

“And it goes through all the Republicans, the most conservative Republicans, who called it ‘socialism,’ and how they’re asking for it. A guy named Paul Gosar,” President Biden said, referring to far-right wing white nationalist U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona.

“He’s written three separate letters to the administration, asking for projects in his district,” Biden said, appearing to read from the CNN report. “He says they enhance the quality of life and ease congestion, boost the economy.”

Biden. leaning into the microphone, told supporters, “Voted against it, says it’s all socialism.”

“Go down the list. Kentucky Representative Andy Barr.”

Mocking the GOP lawmaker he mimicked him saying, “The biggest socialist agenda.”

“Three different projects he wants, citing the importance of safety and growth in his district.”

“Rand Paul,” President Biden continued. “I go down the list. Look it up,” he said waving the pages of the report.

“Socialist,’ he said mockingly.

“I didn’t know there were that many socialist Republicans,” Biden deadpanned.

“Think about it. I’m serious,” the President urged. “Let’s get serious about taking care of ordinary people. Regular people like I grew up. Folks, look, you can’t make this stuff up. You got to say, I got to say, I was surprised to see so many socialists in the Republican caucus.”

Watch below or at this link.

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