PBS, Channel 11 in central Iowa, just had a great show on about the start of the “Freedom Riders” movement in 1961. I understand they will be having more episodes, something about 1964 and the “Freedom Summer”.
The episode tonight centered around CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and the bus rides into Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi. Blacks and whites pushing for integration used nonviolent protests to bring America’s racism out into the open.
No one missed getting skewered in the process. Martin Luther King Jr. even took it on the chin. JFK and his administration looked like fools early on. White churches at the beginning were noticeably absent. Even the Freedom Riders themselves were criticized from blacks who lived in the south and had to live with the results of the “joyriding” temporary visitors.
The riders were some brave souls. Who knows what all they faced, but just the portion I saw gave me the utmost respect for them. The Governors and Mayors would withhold police protection for 15 or 30 minutes at the beginning of an attack, allowing the Klan to do its worst. Then they would arrive just a little too late to catch the perpetrators.
Kennedy would sit back, frozen with indecision, not wanting to alienate southern white voters. He and Bobby didn’t want any part of it. The media provided very weak coverage, as riders were beaten, burned and thrown into Parchman Prison by the hundreds.
The riders just kept coming and coming
The group I belonged to for quite awhile, the John Birch Society, got tarred for being racist (unfairly I had thought at first) during this period. Their excuse was that they were just respecting ‘states rights’. How can you respect states rights, when half the population of those states are being denied their rights? They made the distinction between public transportation and private lunch counters and other nonsense like that to explain why they sat out the debate. The real answer of course, is that they were full of shit. A good segment of the south was being denied the right to vote, not to mention just simply being treated like dirt, with separate this and separate that. JBS was on the wrong side of history and have paid for it ever since. They are supposed to be about freedom, they should have been at the vanguard of the civil rights movement.
Our country is still paying for the racism inherent in it’s birth. Most of our vaunted ‘founding fathers’ were on the wrong side of history. As was our Constitution. Giving a wink and a nod as they did to forcing human beings to go through the hell of slavery. It culminated of course in the Civil War, where one hell of a lot of good people died, because 2 % of the people wanted to benefit from owning other people. The poor always seem to be the ones getting slaughtered.
Much like corporate America today, they trick us into doing really asinine things, so 2 % of the population can benefit. Only back then it was under the lie that the southern white male must go off to die to “preserve southern values!” Which was crap of course. It was just a way for rich people to send poor people off to die for them. Kind of like we do today.
The other thing that drives me crazy about this, is that the majority never figures out how they are being used. First it was black slaves, then it was the Chinese, then the Irish, then the Italian, then the illegal Mexican. America’s upper-class always has to have a class of people they can pay substandard wages to. God forbid they should ever have to pay a living wage. Walmart is a prime example. They make money hand over fist and their employees have to go on food stamps. And, corporations will always have willing politicians to help them out. I figured it out, why can’t you?
[This says it pretty well.]
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”
— Frederick Douglass
[Frederick Baily] (1818-1895), escaped slave, Abolitionist, author, editor of the North Star and later the New National Era