Thursday, February 23, 2017

We need to attach the names to the angry white faces in old civil rights photos

This morning I read a candid and angry argument about these old photos from the civil rights era raising a question I’ve been asking for years:

Why––with all the technology at our disposal and all the amateur archive hunters out there looking for their ancestors and the speed and mass digitization of imagery and the vast databases of names and places–– why can’t we assemble an annotated archive with the names of the shrieking spitting violent whites attacking black students trying to attend school, and the smiling laughing smug proud white folks in the lynch mob photos that were sent by the thousands as postcards to advertise “proper racial hygiene”?

We hunt for every piece of our history with a fanatical interest but we bury this history.

This denial allows white racists to say “I’m the least racist person you will ever meet.” And “My people have never been racist.” And “Racism didn’t exist before Obama became president.”

Of course delusion is stubborn. And rubbing white people’s faces in their racist heritage may have unexpected results. Challenging a delusion can result in violence. It may compound an irrational racist mindset.

But unchallenged delusion becomes dominant. It infects everyone.

Is redemption possible in this? Some, I would guess. But not a majority, if today’s bigoted revival is any measure.

Still, there must be some among those angry white supremacists who have recanted their hate. We need those voices and names too. Not denying it or sugarcoating it but repudiating it.

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