today in black history

July 17, 2024

The Port Chicago incident occurred in 1944 when Black Navy ammunition handlers were killed in a violent explosion at the California base.

America’s Skeletons in Full View

POSTED: August 13, 2017, 7:00 am

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It seems to me no coincidence that the violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville Virginia and the nuclear threat from North Korea has intersected. America’s skeletons can no longer be contained in the closet of humanity. Our past, which has always been present, has now developed a resistant strain that makes it nearly impossible to treat or eradicate. There is no antidote to our shameful history. No matter how much we pretend to have escaped the gravitational pull of racism and globalism, it keeps grabbing us and bringing us back in its orbit.

Charlottesville is the legacy of the deal cut in Philadelphia in 1776 that peddled lies to demonize blackness, exploit black bodies to enrich white landowners, create a narrative of false supremacy to enlist poor whites as an economic buffer, and build an economic power on the backs of Africans with no intent to ever recognize their humanity. The slobbering, ignorant and evilness of those torch-carrying, confederate flag-waving, Nazi loving white supremacists in Charlottesville is the regurgitation of the lies they have been fed all their lives that “their country” has been infected with undeserving and subhuman Blacks. Those screaming racists are the offspring of the white men who slurred “niggraaas” and the white women who looked the other way when the Black caretakers of their white or mixed-race children were being raped by their husbands. These bigots, mostly men, are the children or their offspring who attended lynchings as if they were Sunday picnics. What we witnessed was not an aberration, it was America.

Our nuclear fear is simply the nightmare we inherited from our nation’s immoral act of dropping two atomic bombs on innocent civilians in Japan. We are the only nation in the history of mankind to have unleashed nuclear hell upon human beings. Now, we arrogantly dictate who can possess a nuclear arsenal, as if our destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gives us a special license to determine the nuclear fitness of nations. We let the beast out of the bottle, and now demons we have spawned are tormenting us. Those of us who grew up in the 1960s have lived our entire lives under the specter of nuclear annihilation. The only difference today is the omnipresence of the threat.

We are being undone by the truth. The paint is peeling on the canvas, and behind that beautiful mosaic we love to display, is something sinister and soul wrenching, and evil and demonic, and disturbing in its hatefulness. Suddenly, everything around us seems to have gone from a colorized palette to a gray and brooding shadow. On the soil of Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s founders is being paid back for his own failings; his contribution to preserving white supremacy while feigning discomfort over the maintenance and continuance of the peculiar institution he claimed to so despise. There is some venom rooted in Jefferson’s shortcomings that was being spewed in the hateful rhetoric in Charlottesville. There is some arrogance in Kim Jong-un’s infantile behavior that is rooted in Harry Truman’s ease at accepting the deaths of innocent children under the mushroom cloud.

“We are being undone by the truth. The paint is peeling on the canvas, and behind that beautiful mosaic we love to display, is something sinister and soul wrenching, and evil and demonic, and disturbing in its hatefulness”

America, with its past in tow, is like a child who thinks he can escape his shadow. Turn left, turn right, step forward, turn around – it’s there. We try so hard in this nation to exorcise racism but it’s in our bloodstream. It’s who we are. It’s what we are. Racism is ingrained in our founding documents, in our governing institutions, our economic system, in our culture, and our social relations. We tame the beast at times and cage it long enough to allow some to pass safely, but sooner and later it cuts loose and inflicts more carnage. We act surprised when it shows up but there are always signs announcing its coming. There were signs before four little girls were murdered in Birmingham and before madmen drove a truck into a federal building in Oklahoma City. Just like the signs, some coded and some blatant, during the presidential election that should make us view Charlottesville and North Korea as simply the latest sour grapes off the American vineyard.

We are either on the verge of some remarkable metamorphosis or we are witnessing the sunset of America. For all the angst of seeing racists strutting in full public view, there is no denying the satisfaction I felt seeing Americans confront that bigotry. We have for so long been conditioned, sometimes well-intentioned and at other times with evil intent, to be nonreactive, peaceful in the face of evil. It’s only when we sense a threat to the preservation of the American caste – fascism, communism – that we drop all pretense and justify whatever force is necessary. Yet, when racism has made wives widows, and parents childless, and stripped the flesh off backs, and strung bodies from trees, and murdered hope, and suffocated the dreams of children, we are told to be measured in our response, patient in our demands, and tolerant in our disposition. Luckily, there were those in Charlottesville who defied that conditioning and took a stand for humanity.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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