Are the Racists Still Living Among Us?

Today marks the 50 anniversary of the bombing of the Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church which killed 4 black girls. One of the bombers, Robert Chambliss, was taken into custody the same year, although not convicted for his role in the bombing until 1977. His two accomplices were arrested decades later in 2000 and 2001. Thus, altogether, these murderers ran free for many, many years. 

This brings up the question: How many perpetrators of racially aggravated murder are still at large? How many [now elderly] people who participated in lynchings of blacks still wake up each morning outside of a prison cell? The last ‘official’ lynching was Emmett Till in 1955. Two of his murderers were found not guilty by an all-white court in Mississippi and they lived on many years thereafter. Five of those involved were alive in 2009, CBS reported. Are the jurors still alive, too? And those in the courtroom who cheered the decision?

What about those people we saw on our 14″ black and white [irony] TV sets in the mid 60’s in the South who jeered at, punched and spit at the Civil Rights demonstrators at the lunch counters and on the streets? What about those white students who stood behind the various segregationist southern governors and cheered as he blocked entrance to the all-white schools? They ought to be alive, too.

Were they ever ashamed that their faces are now forever etched on historical news tapes of that time? Did they tell their grandchildren that they did those things? Did their grandkids ever ‘spot’ them when sitting in their classroom during U.S. history class in high school?

One further question. Were those grandchildren taught the same racial prejudice?  Was prejudice in their genes? Was it passed on to each new generation? Is that one of the reasons why racial problems still exist in this land? Will it ever end?


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
scent of magnolia
sweet and fresh
then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is a fruit
for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange
and bitter crop

“Strange Fruit”, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol in 1939 and sung by Billie Holliday


13 thoughts on “Are the Racists Still Living Among Us?

  1. Hello Professor,
    I remember well that day and the shock many felt of four young girls so cowardly killed because those in control did not want reality to be fact in the world they were living in.

    The Sheriff who was the controlling force in the area was nothing more a Klansmen himself.

    When the Freedom Buses were to arrive, he told the “Good O’l Boys they had 15 minutes of free looking the other way with a guantee no one would be arrested. This was still after the bombing.

    They would be Tea Party members today. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    1. Engineer, I clearly remember that day and many more subsequent to that. I was 21 and terribly ignorant of racism, the klan and Jim Crow. Or that massive hatred in mankind right here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

      Even though I had been devastated by the assassination of JFK, I was dumbfound that an entire swath of people could hate so intensely. A single assassin was predictable, but not entire townsfolk frothing at the mouth over skin color! I clearly ‘came of age’ in my early 20’s.

      I’ve been fighting racism and intolerance ever since. It is at times overwhelming. And here we are 5 decades later and still fighting for the rights of our own fellow citizens.

      Will it ever end or is distrust of The Other deeply ensconced into our human DNA?

  2. Speaking of the presence of racism, Twitter lit up with racist remarks after the new Miss America was crowned. Many felt that the percentage of melanin in one’s skin ought to be a factor of judgement.

  3. “….5 decades later and still fighting….” Five decades are nothing. Refer to
    PL’s timeline

    It’s the same with the anti-war stand, isn’t it. A black President refusing the advice of his top foreign policy advisors and deciding to “bomb bomb” Syrians of whom 70% support Assad with all those unfortunate collateral
    casualties. You know, the infirm, the children, sad isn’t it, but it’s a crime
    against humanity to kill children, but it’s just collateral damage to this black
    President. Is there any difference between the four black children in
    the Birmingham bombing and Syrian children dead on hospital floors from
    U.S. cruise missiles launched on the orders of a single black President?

    1. The problem with your argument, UtF, is that this president did NOT BOMB Syria. You speak as if he DID. In my judgement it was a clever and forceful BLUFF and Assad and Putin fell for it! Now, today, the UN gets word that sarin was used and condemn Assad and his regime calling their evidence “overwhelming and indisputable.”

      Now it’s the UN’s ballgame.

      Clever stuff from this ‘naive’ president who the Right love to ridicule for his inexperience- sort of like you.

  4. Liberals part over this, M_R. Most see no “bluff” here, but blunder after blunder. And yesterday his blundering continued with his tirade against
    the GOP, as people were dead, dying, or bleeding at the Naval Yard. It was as insensitive as Bush flying over NO and looking out the window.

    1. Oh yeah,but from this part of the word, we see the 11th level Jovian Chess strategy…Why are you so knee jerk reactionary to the the blow dried, face lifted peroxide blond bo toxed cycle of American Prime Time News? Two weeks ago, Assad claimed he had no chemical weapons and was not responsible for the Damascus Sarin Gas attack. The G-20 happened,,, the American media speculated over the dance steps between Putin and Obama….he put on a pretty good show…but admit it, no matter what Stepanopoulas speculates, you have no idea as to what really occurred, do you? Are we perhaps engaging in a bit of black- tracking here?

  5. Of course I have many issues and problems with the direction America is heading and Obama’s leadership, but, I try to take into account the dysfunctional system we are saddled with. Can you even imagine a country under President Cranky Pants McCain? I believe that racism is rearing it’s reactionary head as the shrinking conservative ignorant base begins to panic. It’s partially because of the use and abuse of social media and the sensationalist media that racism has such a strong presence and voice. I believe most Americans have changed significantly in the last 40 years. I believe most Americans support and do not care one way or the other about issues like gay marriage.
    The song, Strange Fruit is perhaps the most powerful and moving social protest song ever recorded. Interestingly, it was written by Abel Meerpol, a Jewish High School teacher from the Bronx in the late 30’s. The power of the piece and Holliday’s interpretation haven’t diminished or tarnished with age. It is still so fresh.

  6. The comparison is the INSENSITIVITY exemplified by Bush flying over
    NO and Obama giving a political speech at the time carnage was underway.
    No mater how you want to “spin” it, it’s factual and follows many of the
    liberal voice and print commentators, Even this morning on Morning Joe
    Mika, Mike, and Donny Deutsch made the same point, i.e., his political
    speech should have been postponed until Tuesday.

  7. Paraphrasing MD’s comment about Obama having to work with a
    “dysfunctional system, while that is true today, it was not 2009-2011.
    The Democrats controlled law making with both Houses of Congress
    and the Presidency. That is 730 days. FDR needed 100 days, and LBJ

    1. …I often wonder if you are living in the past, my friend? This isn’t the 1940’s and today’s Republicans aren’t in any way similar to FDR’s Republicans. These guys are more like anarchists, plain and simple. It isn’t that they don’t like some things about government; it is that they don’t like government at all.

  8. There you go, again, spinning…Of course, I don’t live in the past;
    I believe in accepting reality and pragmatism..2009-11 was not
    the GOP of today, that didn’t happen until Jan., 2011. Again, my point is that the Dems had significant majorities in both Houses
    from Jan, 2009 to Jan, 2011. It is possible to be liberal or progressive yet accept the facts.

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