Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Myths, not Greek ones

I have long said that there is one thing the South does better than most is reconstruct the truths or facts to fit their version of the same.  One of us might say that defines the South the ability to lie while talking better than most.

There is a current exhibit at the Frist that has just become a Museum so in turn that means it has a permanent collection, of what I am not sure, but they have an exhibit now with photos taken by the local rag, The Tennessean, regarding the desegregation of Nashville in the 1960s.  And they have just honored the first children who integrated the public schools here 50 years ago.   Irony that those smalll feet took big steps and today the same schools are at risk of being closed or at least merged with equally small and failing schools as a way to save money.  History is a good as the story teller and is as preserved by those willing to fund them.   And in the South all of that is controlled by White Men   White men are in every story ever told.

I have read the book Making the Unequal Metropolis about the schools and this past year the eponymous marking of Brown vs the Board of Education, the death of  Linda Brown this past month and in turn the 50th year marking Martin Luther King's assassination means that the reckoning regarding Civil Rights has come full circle and that circle means we are back to to the beginning but which beginning.

There was a point prior to the move to desegregate when despite it all there was as a strong vital Black community. There were thriving Black Universities, neighborhoods and businesses but with that there were dilapidated schools, libraries and other institutions that were negligent when it came to parity.   A few things have changed, the libraries and access to public institutions are equitable but the schools are still junk buckets.  But that is consistent and the access to the decent ones is based on merit but that playing field is full of holes.

Society across the board is a pecking system and we are more than aware of it as the rise of the #MeToo/TimesUp movement has brought to lite.  Then we have Black Lives Matter and the issues that it addresses regarding how specifically Black men are perceived by law enforcement. The loathing of Immigrants and the targeting of Muslims as a particular group whose religion is seen as dangerous.  And the issues regarding equal pay and discrepancies regarding how those are compensated in many fields.   There is the fight for 15 and the current state size walkouts by Teachers over wages and benefits and funding for education that transcends an awakening.

We have pecking orders inside our own cohorts and women are no less guilty of this when it comes to everything from Motherhood to the workplace. Watch a Real Housewife show to see how that plays out.   We list and define and divide everything by using the most extrinsic of factors from skin color to job title to where one lives.  We are a nasty group us humans we are only animals and we are struggling to be the fittest who survive.

I read the article below today and I felt it accurately describes the truth about Nashville then and now.  Oddly the reality is that it is easier to deny the truth than make a law.  The laws that were set into place are ones that the right wings flaunt as reasons to deny Government overreach and in turn elect a crazy man as President rather than acknowledge their own racism and rage about those who are not like you.  So you place blame and accuse the Government of repression while amassing guns, taking opioids and defending the wealthy as they are the ones you believe will rescue you from your own self loathing.

Mythology has a long history from the creation of Gods to the legends of heroes and of nations. They are stories that provide a backdrop, a perspective and of course the ability in which to align oneself, find identity and bonding.  That is what we are seeing across the Globe with the concept of the Nativist that has emerged to somehow defend or define who has this shared history and deserve to bestow upon those they deem worthy.   I find that fascinating as the entire world is composed of raiders and this is a place made up of mutts.  The reality is to find the oldest DNA in existence and in turn link that to every member of every citizen across the world, and that would be one hell of a CSI episode.

As I compose this I am watching the tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King and the issues that began over 50 years earlier still go on today.  I wonder what would be the situation of this issue had he not been assassinated?  That would be difficult to know as when we rely upon people to do the right thing they elect to do the right for themselves and anyone who is benefit or is duly punished is often a result of that action depending upon the scale and scope of that choice.    And as CBS finished that story about the activities in Memphis it was followed by the story of the Clark shooting in Sacramento.  Two lives, guns and deaths it was the choice of who had said guns and bullets and how they elected to use them.   Ah the myths created to defend said action led men to act upon them.

And with this I live a couple hour drive north of Memphis.  And while I spend most of my days trying to understand and reconcile my issues that surround poverty and the affects of racism, Memphis is no better than it was that day when Dr. King spoke about the wages of jobs which also included those prophetic words that marked his last speech.     Ah yes the myths of lives and deaths and history intertwine on a daily basis. How we recall them and how embedded they are into the culture creates the culture which choose to embrace or reject as it fits their needs. 

Nashville and the Myth of Peaceful Integration

The truth is messier, and more frightening, than the story we tell ourselves
Betsy Phillips The Nashville Scene
Apr 3, 2018 9 AM

The Frist Art Museum has a new exhibit of pictures from The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner of the Civil Rights Era in Nashville. Because of my day job, I’ve gotten to see some of the pictures the Frist is displaying, some of which never ran in the papers.

That got me thinking of the ways in which the local media shaped Nashville’s perception and therefore our memory of the integration era.

In my research on the bombings from that era, I came across what I think is the moment when the story The Tennessean told Nashville began to diverge from the whole truth — August 28, 1957.

This was right as the first black school children to go to formerly all-white public schools were registering for the first grade. Segregationists had been exerting enormous pressure on the families — both black and white — of first graders who would attend those integrated schools.

The Tennessean did report that black families had received threats that their children would be beaten or have acid tossed on them (which makes the throwing of bottles on the first day of school doubly terrifying).

But John Kasper, the leader of the racist segregationists, made a more explicit threat. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal ran two stories about it, one on August 28 and the other on August 29.

Kasper told a crowd of his supporters in Nashville, “We’re going to talk to the niggers and tell them if they want to avoid the shotgun, dynamite and rope they had better get out of the white schools.”

That’s a pretty clear death threat, given with the support of a large, angry crowd.

Neither The Tennessean nor the Banner ran that quote. And without that quote, the tribulations of the black families seem like they’re caused by individuals working independently, not because of a concerted effort directed by Kasper and put into motion by his followers.

It also left the black families who would integrate our schools without a vital piece of information they might have wanted to know.

But I still can’t blame The Tennessean completely. It was kind of a relief to see that someone in a position to do something recognized that we were sitting on a powder keg, metaphorically, and tried to do something to keep folks calm.

As I’ve said before, integration wasn’t peaceful here, we just got very lucky no one was killed. The pictures at the Frist make that clear.

If you care about Nashville’s history — the truth of it — it’s worth going and looking at those photos and, in some cases, wondering why you’ve never seen them before.

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