Category Archives: Segregation

Hot Air On The Bus

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Bloomington’s very own far flung correspondent and English teacher deluxe, Elizabeth Sweeney, reminded our small part of the world yesterday that December 1st is the anniversary of Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refusing to give up her seat for a white person.

Parks

Parks Being Booked

Imagine that! It was a revolutionary act. People could have been killed for doing such things back in 1955.

We all know the story of Parks, the ensuing bus boycott, and the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy as civil rights leaders. But did you know that another great trailblazer did pretty much the same thing more than a decade before Parks’ seminal stand?

Jackie Robinson — yep, the baseball player who integrated the Major Leagues in 1947 — was arrested and charged in 1944 while he was a lieutenant in the US Army with the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion at Camp Hood, Texas. He got on a bus on a July day that year and took a seat near the front. The driver told him he was to go to the back of the bus. Robinson — a hardhead if there ever was one — told the driver to mind his own business. The two argued until the bus came to Robinson’s stop, at which point a bus company official had arrived, just in time to call Robinson a “nigger.”

Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson

The argument continued at full blast, drawing a crowd of onlookers. MPs arrived and asked Robinson to come in for questioning. Before they were able to leave, another MP dashed up and asked, loudly, if the first MPs had collared “the nigger lieutenant.”

At this point, Robinson, just as loudly, announced the he’d “break in two” the next guy who called him a nigger.

When the MPs and Robinson finally did arrive at headquarters to sort out the affair, investigators dropped more racial pejoratives. Their overall tone indicated to Robinson that he wasn’t about to get a fair shake so he simply walked out.

Well, the investigators found that kind of uppity-ness unbearable so they recommended Robinson be brought before a court martial. Robinson’s battalion commander refused to press charges so the Army immediately transferred him to another unit. His new commander happily wrote up the court martial, charging Robinson with, among other things, insubordination and being drunk. Funny thing was Robinson did not drink, but silly things like the truth have rarely concerned racists.

Robinson was confined to quarters until his trial which took place the next month before an all-white panel of judges. In the meantime, Robinson wrote a letter complaining of his treatment to the War Department and notified the NAACP and black newspapers about his predicament.

Fortunately for him, the Army at the time was slowly but surely becoming more cognizant of civil rights for its black members. In fact, the Army had outlawed segregation on its buses long before the original incident, making the driver’s accusation against Robinson a red herring. Still, there was enough vestigial racism in the military that the trumped up charges could be prosecuted. In any case, the judges acquitted him.

Court Martial Verdict

All’s well that ends well, sure, but being subjected to the court martial certainly was the very definition of harassment and persecution. The Army would be desegregated fully by presidential order in 1948. But, to be sure, the state of race relations around the nation would be a source of legal upheaval, murder, and rioting for decades to come.

Yes, things are better now. But a pessimist might point out that although the public usage of terms like nigger is frowned upon now, racists have devised clever codes to say, essentially, the same thing. Otherwise, why would anyone call the first dark-skinned President of the United States, as proud a practicing capitalist as can be found in 50 states, a socialist? And why would some wags to this day doubt that he is a “real American”?

We’ve come a long way. Yet we have a long way to go.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“As people do better, they start voting like Republicans — unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.” — Karl Rove

LAST TWO DAYS

You can vote this morning at The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St. from 8am-noon.

Tomorrow is Election Day. Vote at The Curry Building or your local polling place.

Oh, and do me a big favor — vote for Barack Obama, okay?

MONEY FOR RIGHTS

No matter who wins the presidential race tomorrow, the American Civil Liberties Union comes out ahead.

I’ve bet a C-note with the radical Chicago lawyer Jerry Boyle on the outcome. He’s certain Willard’s going to take the prize tomorrow and I’ve never wavered in my certainty that Barack Obama will be reelected. If Jerry’s guy wins, I cut a check to the ACLU. If Barack Obama wins — I mean, when Barack Obama wins — Jerry Boyle throws his wallet open.

Click For ACLU Online

Book it, if you think the ACLU is a danger to this holy land, you and I disagree profoundly about the meaning of freedom.

THE END OF AN ERA

Tomorrow will mark the end of national elections as we’ve known them since Dick Nixon foisted the Southern Strategy upon us in 1968.

That’s right, it’s been 44 years since Nixon and his gang of furry little mammals realized that the segregationist Democrats of the South and the blue-collar whites of the North could constitute a mighty, dependable bloc of voters for the GOP.

Nixon & His Southern Point Man, Strom Thurmond

Nixon was a clever man. He realized that the southern Democrats had no interest in being Democrats anymore. He also realized that even though many northern whites were nauseated by Bull Connor and his fire hoses and snarling dogs, they had zero interest in living next door to black families. More important, Nixon knew northern white daddy-os, by and large, were terrified by the prospect of their daughters sitting next to black teenaged boys in high school civics classes.

Sickening — From A Distance

Playing on these visceral racial fears, Nixon enticed millions of whites in this nation to vote for the man who, they were certain, would protect them from black people.

At the time, white people constituted nearly 80 percent of the electorate.

Since then, fear of a a black planet has been perhaps the single most important underpinning of Republican strategy in every national election. Willie Horton, anybody?

Even the hysterical aversion of certain pan-troglodytes within the GOP to the idea of a Barack Obama presidency in 2008 indicated that Nixon’s simple formula was falling apart. That year, it was not enough to simply point out that Obama was brown. No, the operative canard used against him was that he was a secret Muslim, an Ay-rab, a mole who’d give his terrorist brethren the high sign that they could now fly airplanes into every skyscraper in every big city in the United States.

…And He’s An Ayatollah!

Unfortunately for the antediluvian GOP, there are no longer enough southern segregationists and northern racists to swing an election. How many white families can you name that don’t include a brown member by marriage or birth?

Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with a brown niece or a black brother-in-law tends to change one’s outlook on things.

The terror is dissipating.

The numbers are working against that old guard Republicanism.

The US Census Bureau announced in May that minority babies accounted for more than half of all births in the United States in 2011.

That 80 percent is no more. Soon, it’ll be less than half.

If the Republican Party is to survive, it’ll not only drop the fear appeal but it’ll have to draw blacks and browns into its ranks. That’ll be a good thing.

YOU DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ VOTE

Meanwhile, the old GOP dogs are trying desperately to hold on.

Realizing the numbers are working against them, Republican strategists have been trying to quash the vote.

Take Florida, where the Republican-dominated state legislature last year reduced the number of early voting days by nearly half. Again, the GOP is being clever. They know that most early voters are Dems and minorities.

It must frustrate the GOP that many Floridians are lining up for six to eight hours at a time to cast their ballots.

Miami Voters On Saturday

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.


Monday, November 5th, 2012

VOTE ◗ The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St.; 8am-Noon

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Adam Karfeld on viola; 5pm

CLASS ◗ Sweet Claire Gourmet BakeryBread for the Holidays, Learn to make rosca de reyes, stollen, sweet breads, etc.; 6-8pm

VARIETY ◗ Cafe DjangoBloomington Short List, 10-minute acts, Hosted by Taylor McNeeley; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallDoctoral Recital: Miji Chae on violin; 7pm

BOOKS ◗ Boxcar BooksCyberpunk Apocalypse Comix Reading, Presented by Nate McDonough & Dabiel McCloskey; 7-9pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “I Can’t Sleep“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallPiano Student Recital: Students of Lee Phillips; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Justin Bartlett on piano; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopDJ Jeremy Brightbill; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallStudent Recital: Kevyn Bailey & Sammy Johnson on clarinets; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdWhite Denim; 9pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits through December 1st:

  • “Essentially Human,” By William Fillmore
  • “Two Sides to Every Story,” By Barry Barnes
  • “Horizons in Pencil and Wax,” By Carol Myers

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits through November 16th:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf
  • Small Is Big

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits through December 20th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners
  • Gender Expressions

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibits:

  • The War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library“; through December 15th
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’m a real rebel with a cause.” — Nina Simone

REBELS

Independence Day.

We consider ourselves free in this holy land, and I suppose we are when compared to the rest of the world.

But there is no freedom without bondage. The old baseball manager Earl Weaver once said you can’t be a true rebel unless you’ve lived under the yoke of one kind of imposed order or another.

We profess to have loathed the tyranny of the British Empire when in reality the yoke we bore back in the 18th Century was that of King George III’s mental illness. It can be argued we really had no profound disagreement with the British and regarding the concept of freedom.

We wrote “… that all men are created equal.”

Yes, men. They’re all that counted when our Articles of Confederation, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution were written. White Men. White men who owned land.

White Men

The British themselves were slowly but surely coming around to the idea that male landowners ought to be able to govern themselves. We were just in a little bit more of a hurry about it all.

That was an amazing concept for the times. If we think it’s rather quaint — what about women and blacks and homosexuals and everybody else who isn’t Anglo, pale-skinned, and carrying X and Y chromosomes in their cells? — we have to remember that we’ve come a long way.

“It is possible,” Molly Ivins wrote, “to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

We’re still struggling. But, again, there is no freedom without bondage.

I’M FREE

… and freedom tastes of reality.

DREAMING

People talk about The American Dream as if there is such a thing; that is, one shared aspiration among our 300-plus million citizens and the countless others around the world who want to get in on our good thing.

I’ve met enough disparate people to know there are almost as many American Dreams as there are Americans.

Still, the mythmakers may be right. There is one overriding American Dream that supersedes all those other, idiosyncratic dreams.

For all the people who laugh at Donald Trump — his hair, his bombast, his “Hey Ma, look at me!” persona — virtually every one of them wants to be him.

American

That’s the true American Dream. To be rich. To be so rich you can tell the world to fk off.

To be so  rich you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

To be so rich that when the cable goes out you can bully the customer service rep on the phone and get someone out to fix it even on Christmas Day.

To be so rich you don’t even have to vote.

To be so rich beautiful young women or men (whichever you prefer) will be willing to see you naked despite the ravages of time on your body.

I saw a black guy once on the Fourth of July all decked out in red, white, and blue, his car festooned with American flag decals and the insignias of the unit he served in Vietnam with.

I was tempted to ask him why he was so demonstrably in love with this country. After all, he was old enough to remember when it was illegal in many states for him to have sex with a white woman. Illegal!

He was old enough to have seen Lyndon Johnson sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and ’65, laws that essentially recognized him as a human being — something this holy land had not done without reservation since its inception.

How in the world could a man who’d experienced so much insult, both institutionally and from his individual countrymen, be loyal to the state that made all that insult possible?

What is it that he sees in the United States of America? What would make him put his life on the line to prop up a corrupt little nation in Southeast Asia — one he’d probably rarely heard of before he was shipped out there — just because American politicians told him he ought to?

Why was he willing to dress up in that land’s colors?

We were at a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky at the time. He jumped in his car and drove away before I could talk myself into querying him. Too  bad.

And even if I had asked him all those questions, would he have answered truthfully? Would he toss around catchwords like freedom, independence, and liberty?

Maybe, just maybe, he loves America because he dreams that here he can become a rich man.

My dream? Only that we dream of something more.

YOU DREAMER, YOU

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

◗ Downtown Bloomington and around Courthouse Square — 4th of July Parade; 10am

◗ Courthouse Lawn — Independence Day concert, Bloomington Community Band; 11:30am

The BishopAmerica, Fk Yeah: A Night of America, For America; 4pm — patriotic films, “Red Dawn”; 8pm — “Rocky IV”; 10pm — “Team America: World Police”; midnight

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“To me, if a heterosexual has the right to do it, then I have the right to do it.” — Harvey Fierstein

RIGHTS

Personal to Barack Obama: Well done sir!

It’s about time a president came out in support of gay rights.

The President Comes Out

Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage was a watershed event in LGBTQIA history. It’s like Hubert Humphrey simultaneously electrifying and appalling the 1948 Democratic National Convention with his “bright sunshine” civil rights speech.

Oh hell, here’s the meaty paragraph of Humphrey’s thunderous call for equality for the nation’s blacks:

“To those who say, my friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years too late! To those who say this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”

Humphrey Comes Out

Humphrey’s passionate speech is credited with pushing enough fence sitters over to the civil rights side of the argument that had been raging within the party. After black soldiers fought and died for the US in World War II, the call began to go up for equality on the homefront. Black activists, northern urban bosses, and liberals beat the drum for civil rights. Most southern Dems at the time were racist white men to whom the ideas of integration and voting rights for blacks were as horrifying as, well, the idea of two men or two women marrying are today to most Republicans.

Political insiders thought the Dems would never accept a civil rights platform in ’48 but after Humphrey’s heartfelt, courageous plea, the party did.

Humphrey took a huge chance, going up to the dais and arguing the case for dark skinned Americans. He gambled with his political career. He gambled as well with the future of the Democratic Party. The southerners soon thereafter began to drift away from the Dems. Strom Thurmond got so huffy that he cranked up his own party, the short lived Dixiecrats, dedicated to segregation, Jim Crow laws, and those euphemistic “states’ rights.” The “Solid South” eventually  took up permanent residence within the GOP.

Obama’s statement the other day isn’t as dramatic as Humphrey’s was. Still, it’s in the ballpark. A politician — a being traditionally loath to alienating even a sliver of the electorate — steps up and says To hell with it all: I have to say what needs to be said.

Of course, the argument can be made that Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage will alienate no one — those who are sickened by the idea of gay marriage likely wouldn’t have voted for him anyway. And the endorsement now probably will energize his base.

My take is Obama always was in favor of gay marriage all along but was hesitant to say so for fear of teeing off the black Christian community. His advisers probably told him those folks weren’t going to vote for the GOP ticket no matter what he said.

A STAND AGAINST MURDEROUS HATE

So it’s a fortuitous coincidence that I’m in the middle of re-reading Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods.” In it, he describes his attempt to hike the 2000-mile-plus Appalachian Trail.

When he hits the Pennsylvania leg of his journey he mentions a terribly tragic tale of murder on that part of the trail.

I did a little research and now will flesh out the story of Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight. In 1988, the two young women were hiking the AT. They happened to be a couple. A 29-year-old man who essentially lived on the trail encountered them and, apparently suspicious, tailed them. It seems he saw the two exchanging words and gestures that proved they were lesbians. He didn’t care much for the notion; he also carried a .22-caliber rifle.

He Carried A Rifle

Claudia and Rebecca were spooked by the guy but eventually lost sight of him as they hiked. By late afternoon, they’d found a nice clearing in which to set up their camp for the night. They looked around and determined that they were alone. With nightfall approaching, they also figured any other hikers would be setting up camp as well so they believed they had enough privacy to engage in a bit of au naturel lovemaking.

Now, this was a scene that might inspire poets and painters. Certainly Sappho made a name for herself describing such encounters. Who among us, after all, hasn’t fantasized partaking of a “refreshment” (h/t to Mark Twain) in such an edenic setting?

Sappho

What with the gentle breeze, the setting sun, the chirp of birds, the buzz of bees (hopefully far off), and the soft blanket of clover underneath them, Claudia and Rebecca were surely in a state of near-ecstasy when eight shots rang out.

One shot hit Claudia in the arm, another in the face. Three more shots peppered her head and neck. A shot also hit Rebecca in the head; a second entered her back and exploded her liver. One of the shots missed. The two tried to flee but Rebecca’s injuries were far too severe for her to get far. She directed Claudia to go for the police while she lay in the forest. Claudia did everything she could to stanch her partner’s bleeding before she left.

Unnatural Penetration

Claudia stumbled through the woods for four miles and finally reached a road. She tried to flag down a ride but, partially dressed and covered in blood, she apparently freaked out the occupants of the first car that came along and it sped past her. A second car stopped and raced her to the nearest town. The cops dashed off to where Claudia said her mate was waiting. Claudia was taken to the hospital.

While in the hospital, Claudia learned Rebecca had been found dead. The cops also found a knit cap, 25 bullets, and the rifle in a spot 82 feet from where the two women had been making love. The items belonged to a man named Stephen Carr.

Carr was found a week and a half later hiding out in a Mennonite community. He told police he’d come north from Florida, which he left because he was sickened by the sight of men kissing in public there. At his trial, Carr claimed the sight of the two women making love turned him mad with rage. He also claimed to have been raped as a child as well as in prison before the shooting. Carr’s attorney eventually agreed to enter a guilty plea on his behalf in exchange for life without parole.

Brenner wrote a book, “Eight Bullets: One Woman’s Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence.” She went on to become an activist against gay-bashing.

One more thing: Claudia and Rebecca had driven to Pennsylvania for their leisurely hike. They’d parked their car in a lot at Dead Woman Hollow.

The growing acceptance of LGBTQIA people, punctuated by Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, certainly won’t stop lunatics like Stephen Carr from hating queers. But at least they know now that the person in the White House isn’t on their side.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Sunday, May  13, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th

Trinity Episcopal ChurchArt exhibit, “Creation,” collaborative mosaic tile project; through May 31st

Monroe County Public LibraryArt exhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

Buskirk-Chumley TheaterCardinal Stage Company presents “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”;  2 & 7pm

IU CinemaFilm, “The Kid with a Bike”; 6:30pm

Bear’s PlaceRyder Film Series, “Keyhole”; 7pm — “444 The Last Day on Earth”; 7:45pm

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