Thursday, December 30, 2010

Uncle Tom's Children

I happen to read the article from different perspectives, white and black, regarding Governor Patterson commuting the sentence of John White, which is stirring up a controversy in difference of opinions as is always the case.  What is difference between a black man protecting their home and white man protecting his?


Every once in a while, I like to go back and read a book that I’ve already read in the past. The other day, I picked out of my collection an old book called “Uncle Tom’s Children” by Richard Wright. The first sentence he wrote in the book, “My first lesson in how to live as a Negro came when I was quite small.” That first sentence in the book struck me as sort of odd. I was like why would a black man make a statement like that? However, when I thought about it, it made a lot of sense.

Then it dawned on me. He had to learn how to survive in order to live in a world where black men were endangered species trapped in second-class citizenship because of the racist attitudes of most that did not want to see him get ahead in life or recognize him as a man. In order to survive he had to shift between two different personas and play by those in power set of rules or it could cost him his life.

Wright’s story mirrored that of many black men living in the South and a few other states during that time period. Most of the rules were aimed at stripping black men of their manhood and filled with constant humiliation. A black man had to play one role for those in power and another role which was his true self for his friends and family. Wright sacrificed who he was as an individual—a man and human being in order to feed and provide a roof over their head. Staying alive played a definite major part in his decision. His life and being able to live it to a ripe old age was of the utmost importance to him, but the main deciding factor in why he chose to play the game by their set of rules—he was powerless to do otherwise.

Richard Wright’s story took place during an era when there was no such thing as Civil Rights for minorities. Blacks had no rights! Black men in the past were lynched at the drop of a hat for trivial so-called offenses and many of those so-called offenses were created falsehoods because of their thirst for black men’s blood. In addition, it was their lust for watching strange fruit hanging from a tree for sadistic entertainment purposes. In my own family tree, there were three victims of lynching.

The newspaper article regarding the lynching of one of my ancestors who was a preacher is in a book called “100 Years of Lynching” by Ralph Ginzberg that focuses on lynching of black men in the past. I have a picture of my ancestor and several newspaper clippings regarding the incident and trial. The culprits who committed this act were brought to trial, but the only punishment they received was a verbal reprimand. They did not spend one day in jail. The justice system back then considered that reprimand—justice served.

I thought about the outcome in Oscar Grant's trial when I read the article about John White. How many more years do those in power want black men to play Uncle Tom's Children? 

30 comments:

MzMoe said...

Granny, Governor Paterson did right. He should have pardon White because he did what most men would have done. Those boys had no business going to that man's house threatening him and his family.

Bernard Goetz got off for shooting black youths on the subway with an illegal gun. Mehserle got off with a slap on the hand and he killed Oscar in cold blooded murder in front of witnesses.

I'm familiar with that book and all of Richard Wright's work, however, it's been a long time since I read it. He was a very powerful writer. I think I appreciate him more now than I did when I was younger.

Hathor said...

Granny,
Even little girls have that moment, although it may not mean the same if you were a boy.

I think every black child had that moment of innocence lost, at a time when they are trying out their independence. No is a word that will extend farther than to keep them from hurting themselves or to know right from wrong; it extends in the world of hostility and survival, where parents can't protect.

Redeye said...

Redeye singing Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

Thanks for writing this, it is so true. The world needs to see how black men are treated in America, or should I say mistreated. I believe one of the reason President Obama is having such a hard time is because white men in his own party can't get past the color of his skin and would rather lose than stand with a black man.

I love the Richard Wright analogy. Peace and blessings to all. We shall oversome someday.

Redeye said...

I would like permission to cross post on my blog.

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

Granny:Thanks for telling the truth about the lives of every Black Man in this country.
When a Black Man understands the assualt he faces everyday,only then will he begin to understand his total condition.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

MzMoe:

I agree with you. What they did brought back too many memories of how whites used to take the liberty of doing showing no regard or respect for blacks as human beings.

Hathor my sister:

Although, in this topic I used the black man as an example because of the White case, black women too experienced the same identical thing. If you haven't read a book called "Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America" by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter, I recommend that you get it and read it.

Redeye:

You have my permission. I do not mind sharing.

BigMac:

I totally agree with you. A few people had been asking me to tell what it was like back during that time period, because young people need to know. So, I saw this as an opportunity to do so because of a certain incidents that have been popping up left and right.

Redeye said...

Thanks and done.

Redeye said...

I hope you don't mind, but I added hyper links for clarification. Again, thanks for sharing. Knowlege is power.

Black Diaspora said...

Granny, my experience down south is a bit different from Wright's.

Although I learned how to survive, as did he, I don't remember learning the means (the lessons as he puts it) to do so, nor was I taught, by parents or others with whom I interacted.

Looking back, it was as though the "survival instinct" came osmotically--came as a natural part of my DNA, included in my mother's milk.

Frankly, whites were never discussed in our black world. They existed as outliers, along the periphery of black existence, not as real people, but as a cautionary tale, to be avoided if possible, as one would avoid a wild animal on the loose.

In his book, Native Son, Wright hoped, through his character Bigger Thomas, to show the white world what happens when you deny a people (in this case a black people) their humanity.

He hoped that whites would see the error of their ways, and come to their senses.

Well, they didn't.

Once having life mainly on the pages of Wright's book, our world is now populated with Bigger Thomases.

One last thing: A book changes over time, because we change.

I have never read the same book twice, although I have read the same book many times.

Kathy said...

Granny, thank you for posting about John White. I am thrilled that Gov. Patterson commuted the sentence, I really don't believe John White should have ever gone to prison. Seems to me that the whole point of sending him to prison was to send the message you raise here, not to be able to protect your family.
The family of the boy who died do not ever seem to consider the role that their son and his friends played in what happened, and only seek revenge, not justice. They are a sorry bunch of people. And nothing can restore John White's family or life.

Kathy said...

One last thing: A book changes over time, because we change.

I have never read the same book twice, although I have read the same book many times.
____________
Black Diaspora, thank you!

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Diaspora:

The story of my own ancestors is so complex, I guess that's the right word to use, and I wish I could share what happened, but well...you know I'm writing a book (Smile). However, I will say this the three that were lynched were not accused of a crime or anything.

And yes, there were blacks whose experiences were different...much different. There were, also, many that no one dared to mess with too, white or black. Even in my own family tree their experiences were vastly different.

Hey Kathy:

I missed you. Good to see you.

"The family of the boy who died do not ever seem to consider the role that their son and his friends played in what happened, and only seek revenge, not justice."

That's is the main part that disturbs me. Had the situation been reversed and the other way around they wouldn't feel that way and would be declaring that White's son had it coming.

Francis L. Holland said...

Granny, I heard that my paternal grand-father and his family had to flee South Carlina because my grandfather had become a wanted man. His crime: He purchased a new black Ford truck and so he had a truck better than those of the white people. So, the whites told he he had better not be in South Carolina at nightfall.

I personally realized at some point in my life that I had a compulsive smile on my face that I couldn't erase. When I was around white people and Black people, I smiled all the time, often inappropriately. I only found this out because people mimicked this smile back to me and I felt deeply embarrassed. I had learned that smiling all the time was a survival skill, and also that I shouldn't let my face express any other emotion I might be experiencing.

I also remember trying to wear "preppy" white-people-typical clothes I had learned that if I dressed like white people then they would accept me more readily (hopefully, some of the time).

I remember that an acquaintance pointed out that I was wearing Khaki-color pants and a white Oxford shirt. He asked me if I trying to be taken for a white person. Once again, I felt so deeply embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't talk about it with anyone.

At least my college professor mother adopted an Afro and African dashikis that she made for herself, and she never changed this style from 1969 until she passed away in 1997.

I had never hear of the Richard Wright book you mentioned above, but I'm going to see if I can buy it on Kindle/Amazon or have it shipped to me in Brazil.

I remember advising a Black candidate running in a mostly white ward to dress her kids like white kids for the family photo. I lost that argument, but I believe my advice was correct, even if it ties us in emotional knots that we don't even know we have.

Francis L. Holland said...

Regarding Mr. White, I don't think a white man with Black kids on his lawn would be treated the same way. White America says, 'Sure you have a right to protect yourself and your family, if you're a white person. But, if you're a Black person defending himself from white people, you should let the kids lynch your family member and then let the criminal courts slap the white people's hands or refuse to charge the white kids because the results of their behavior was "an accident".

Mr. White did what he had to do; if he had gotten his gun and then called the police, he probably would have been shot dead if he was holding the gun when the police arrived.

After all, he was using the gun to threaten or deter white people, the teenagers on his lawn and porch.

We all have a Constitutional right to own a gun, but we Blacks have no right be SEEN with a gun or to use guns to defend ourselves from white people, regardless of the circumstances. That's an unwritten rule passed down since slavery. The fact that this case required the intervention of a sitting Governor of a state to get Mr. White out of prison just shows the extent to which the above rule is true.

Redeye said...

Response from my inbox;

Here is a book that shows the continuation of the same attitudes just with a modern view. It is the new way to make a black man a slave.
The book is called the "New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander. This book points out how America changed from the old ways of racism to now use the prison system which is fueled by the drug industry.

Blinders Off said...

Great Post Granny...this is why we need you to continue blogging :)

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Frances:

"His crime: He purchased a new black Ford truck and so he had a truck better than those of the white people. So, the whites told he he had better not be in South Carolina at nightfall."

Your paternal grandfather's reason for fleeing was the reason many black men had to leave. My ancestor, the preacher, was lynched because big business wanted his land. It had oil and gas on it.

Richard Wright wrote several books and I recommend all of them. He was a powerful black writer who pointed out racism's raw ugliness and what it was like living as a black man or woman in America. Uncle Tom's Children is a collection of short stories. One of of his well-known books was "Native Son."

"We all have a Constitutional right to own a gun, but we Blacks have no right be SEEN with a gun or to use guns to defend ourselves from white people, regardless of the circumstances. That's an unwritten rule passed down since slavery. The fact that this case required the intervention of a sitting Governor of a state to get Mr. White out of prison just shows the extent to which the above rule is true."

Exactly! Frances, when you order Richard Wright's book, order that book "100 Years of Lynching" by Ralph Ginzberg. There are many true newspaper articles in it that point out that same thing, that blacks have no rights to defend themselves against whites.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Redeye, I recommended that book for people to read last year in a topic I wrote. I was lucky and got the book at a discount and during a time when every bookstore in America, International, and even the publisher had sold out. That book was sold out in one month. And many of the things she talked about, I had been telling people way before the book came out.

Anonymous said...

Granny, well it's a good thing Whites have come a long way. There are no more lynchings...that's progress in America. In post-racial America, the past is just a memory.

Blacks and Whites are closer to being equal as human beings than ever in the history of our country. You should be grateful.

Anonymous said...

BTW Granny, when is YOUR book coming out?

Do you have an editor and a publisher?

How many times are you willing to rewrite your book?

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Anonymous 4:40:

"There are no more lynchings...that's progress in America."

Oh, I wouldn't say that. Scroll down and read the topic "Strange Fruit In 2010?" Nor would I call America this just yet either: "post-racial America" BTW, I'll be grateful when ALL Americans recognize and demonstrate with a sincere heart that we're equal, not just a few.(Smile)

Anonymous 4:43:

How many times are you willing to rewrite your book?

I'm willing to write it over and over until it is perfect taking my time with patience. Trust me, it won't be wrote in haste, and I'll use more painstaking efforts to write it than I do this blog.

RiPPa said...

Granny,

In the south back in the days, black men could not call the police. Often, they were in fact the lynch mob. However, things are different now. John White had enough time to call the cops but he didn't.

This is why I'm not buying the perception that of him being a hero who protected his family. He chose to LEAVE HIS HOME (those kids were not at his door), and confront those kids at his driveway with a pistol (which was illegal) with his son in tow with a shotgun.

By his own admission in court, the kid was shot on accident. He did not shoot him as an act of self defense -- the kids were not armed, and I don't know of racial epithets to kill anyone.

A man has a right to protect his home, yes. But, the law will always say, "shoot a man in your yard, you better drag him onto your porch." In other words, self defense don't work as it didn't in this case.

Governor Patterson was wrong.

RiPPa said...

Oh yeah... those kids were never on his porch. I wish people would stop making up scenarios. White met them at the end of his driveway on the street. Between the time the kids called his son and the shooting, he had ample time to call the cops if he felt him and his family were in danger. In New York City, it is a mandatory sentence of 3yrs on handgun possession, he only did five months.

Anonymous said...

Rippa, "Governor Patterson was wrong."

Hey, aren't your arms growing weary? How much water are you willing to carry for whites?

Kathy said...

Rippa, I disagree with you for a lot of reasons. But I want to ask what you think about the mother who served drinks to minors, the gang of kids were all drunk and underage, the mother never served time, did she? Or how about the kid who created the online hoax, did that kid get in any trouble? Is it ok for the father of the deceased to scream about John White's son getting killed? Aside from all that,is it ok to claim that because the deceased mother had some Puerto Rican heritage, that it means that he wasn't prejudiced or biased? The reverse racism claims by the family made me sick, it' b.s. from where I sit. If you want to say that a man is guilty who worked his whole life to get his son a better education, who didn't ask for any of this to happen, who was never in trouble before, who claims that it was an accident, yes, because the kid hit his hand, the kid, to me, was a PUNK who caused his own death.

Anonymous said...

Granny, "Oh, I wouldn't say that. Scroll down and read the topic "Strange Fruit In 2010?" Nor would I call America this just yet either: "post-racial America" BTW, I'll be grateful when ALL Americans recognize and demonstrate with a sincere heart that we're equal, not just a few.(Smile)"

Oh, come on. That young man probably hung himself. Why are you so quick to blame the white man? stop letting your racism get the better of you.

Changeseeker said...

Beautifully said, Granny. Next week, after I finish a series on role models I'm doing at the moment, I'm going to do a post of links. This piece will be one of those featured. Thanks for writing it.

Kathy said...

Granny, I notice that you deleted my comment....

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Kathy:

I haven't deleted any comments. There are no deleted comments, and all of your comments are still showing.

Kathy said...

Granny, Ok, I must have thought I made a comment that didn't get through, sorry:)