Thus, a decade after Germany murdered millions of people in concentration camps, and all the while the Soviet Union still was murdering millions of people in the Gulag, black Americans in the South were living the same type of horrifying circumstances.
Are we allowed to do the unthinkable and say the (painfully) obvious? Uh, actually, they were not?
Are we allowed to do so without immediately being accused of being racist, of defending Southern whites, and of being brainwashed simpletons and KKK sympathizers thinking that everything was hunky-dory for blacks in the old South?
From Ann Althouse — via Instapundit — we hear that the New York Times is again taking on the dark times of segregation. This, while we get "history" lessons from Oliver Stone on what a swell guy Stalin was, and how the Cold War was all America's fault…
What if the New York Times were told, what if you were told, that, generally speaking, the civil rights movement in the South of the 1950s and 1960s was met not by violence but by, if not respect, if not a lack of violence, certainly by a lack of generalized violence?!
And what if, alternatively, someone — a black leftist?! — were to cry out: "Thank God for Chief Bull Connor"?!
Wouldn't the New York Times, wouldn't you, wouldn't the black leftist, wouldn't leftists the world over, be offended? Shake your/their head? Guffaw? Shout racism? Scream bloody murder?
And yet, that may be closer to the truth than to the it-was-all-so-horrible-and-invariably-akin-to-Mississippi Burning narrative…
I was as surprised as anyone when, some two decades ago, I read Let the Trumpet Sound (A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr) by Stephen B. Oates, obviously a (rightly) positive, indeed heroic, biography of MLK with a (correctly) sympathetic picture of the civil rights movement. (Oates has written a myriad of books regarding champions of civil rights over more than a century in America — John Brown, Nat Turner, Clara Barton… — including my favorite biography of Abraham Lincoln, With Malice Toward None. And for the record, I've been working, with Dan Greenberg, on my own biography of Honest Abe.)
As it turns out, however — get ready for a shocker — MLK, blacks in general, the movement, and (in the final analysis) America itself were all lucky to get Chief Bull Connor (a Democrat) in Birmingham, Alabama — for what happened in Albany, Georgia, may have been more descriptive of the (white) Southern mentality and of how the movement was usually treated…
From Let the Trumpet Sound (A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr) by Stephen B. Oates:
[In 1962] King's movement, for all its fervor, [was going] nowhere. As fast as his nonviolent columns reached their targets, [Albany's] Chief Pritchett put them in paddy wagons and dispatched them to jails in other counties. Movement leaders could never muster enough recruits to fill all the jails at his disposal. Then, too, Pritchett treated the marchers with unruffled decorum; he had done his homework on King, studied his Gandhian speeches, and planned to overcome nonviolent protest with nonviolent law enforcement.
When demonstrators knelt in prayer, Pritchett bowed his head, then arrested them with a puckish smile. He never clubbed anybody, never called anybody names, and never let his men do so either. Consequently, reporters who covered the Albany campaign saw no brutality on the part of local police to photograph and report. …
Pritchett also placed King under round-the-clock police protection, which irritated him and sent him complaining to the chief. But Pritchett was taking no chances. If King was attacked or killed, "the fires would never cease." As the campaign progressed, King and Abernathy developed a grudging respect for him. Once King even canceled a demonstration so that Pritchett could spend the day with his wife. It was their wedding anniversary.
… King and Abernathy came to trial … and several associates, expecting them to be convicted and returned to jail, scheduled mass protest marches. But the city wanted to get rid of King and Abernathy and ax the movement once and for all. The court therefore suspended their sentences and ordered their release. They were free, thrown out of jail again.
By now, King had lost all control of the Albany Movement. … it was no use. The Albany Movement was over. … "We ran out of people before he [Pritchett] ran out of jails."
… [MLK] was steeped in anguish. So many of his own people seemed not to care about the struggle; so many whites were hostile or indifferent.Many readers, white or black, will scream bloody murder (and racism racism racism!) as they read this, but still, the conclusion is inescapable — over and over again, the civil rights movement went nowhere because many times, and in many places, demonstrators (white or black) were not harmed, because many times Southern whites (for reasons good or ill) did not overreact, and because authorities refrained from arresting members of the movement.
Needless to say, all of this is not to pretend, nor to imply, that everything was hunky-dory in the South, for blacks or for others, or that Southern whites were not hostile or indifferent to blacks and to their (very real) civil rights — they were — nor is it meant to pretend, or to imply, that all men, whatever the color of their skin, should not enjoy the same rights, civil, voting, or other — they should — nor is it meant to believe. But it is to deflate the left's self-serving narrative of Americans, or at least Southerners, as incorrigible Nazis, and of the South, or of America in general, as a nightmarish hellhole of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Members of the civil rights movement are invariably depicted as victims of such a nightmarish society, as are, say, the poor, women, Latinos, gays, etc, etc, as well as those who "fell afoul" of Senator McCarthy.
By contrast, what took place in the same years — the Soviet oppression of people (and peoples), the Soviet invasion of Eastern Europe and (attempted) takeover of China, and the communist assassination of millions and millions of citizens (all reasons, obviously, why McCarthyism arose in the first place) — is ignored or downplayed, or often accompanied by the words "Oh yes, terrible, terrible… But! But: we have to make an effort to understand the Soviets… Plus, you know, they had good intentions"!
Related: Is this sounding familiar? Obama's Predecessor of Sorts at the Helm of New York City
The Obama presidency has been like [New York's] David Dinkins mayoralty all over again, with utter incompetence being papered over with appeals to white guilt.Update: A Few Black People in the 1960s Not Being Martyrized by White America