Tag Archives: KKK

The conscience of an American

Birmingham_fire_hoses_1963When I was 14, my friends and I were playing at Richard’s tenement apartment in the South Bronx, and Richard’s Mom asked quietly if I would leave and get my friends to go as well.

I must have looked puzzled when I said I would because Richard’s Mom said in a whisper, “You can come back later but don’t bring Stevie.”

Stevie was black.  He was one of my friends.

It was my first encounter with racism.

This is how an individual conscience awakens to bigotry.

In the neighborhood, among us kids, we were from lower middle class families, nobody had gone past High School, not the parents, nor the kids, we were a mixed lot of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Black and Puerto Rican boys mostly.

We played stickball, sewer to sewer, hand ball, swung from the hanging ladders off the fire ‘scapes at street level, ran up and down alleys, through basements and court yards.

We were friends with unnoticed differences, who talked trash, had fist fights, but got along.

Senator Patrick Moynihan might have considered us a species of his “melting pot” but we were hardly homogenous.  We celebrated our differences while remaining companionable.

There’s a lyric in the musical, South Pacific, that “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”  We neither did hate nor fear. Continue reading

Replace that Confederate statue!

“I may not get there with you,” Martin Luther King.

“I may not get there with you,” Martin Luther King.

In 1908, there was a statue erected of a confederate soldier, rifle drawn, standing vigil before the Loudoun County courthouse, as if an armed sentry demanding that any person approaching the court must first seek permission to proceed any further.

No one asks why this statue was not erected sooner than 40 years after the Civil War.

No one is curious why the citizens didn’t forge a statue of a Union and Confederate soldier standing side by side, at peace, weapons at rest, given that Loudoun County had civil war combatants on both sides of that divisive struggle.

It’s because this statue was never intended to bring us together.

Consider the historical context in Virginia after the Civil War.

In 1868, a Richmond editorial praised the KKK for “not permit[ting] the people of the South to become the victims of negro rule.”

Even the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting Black men the right to vote, did not prove an effective remedy.

Racial segregation appeared and persisted. A white dominated political system established itself throughout Virginia. From 1880 to 1930, mobs in Virginia executed seventy blacks.

In 1890, a local Hamilton contingent of blacks formed the Loudoun County Emancipation Association “to work for the betterment of the race – educationally, morally and materially.”

In 1896, the Supreme Court shored up segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson pronouncing that “separate” was just fine for Blacks.

In 1902, the hateful Klan was summoned back into service. Thomas Dixon, Jr., a fiction writer, favoring white supremacy, told the nation that the Klan was an heroic force. The Virginia Constitution was amended to limit the voting rights of Blacks, by requiring screened interviews in order to vote and imposing a poll tax. The number of black voters in Virginia declined from 147,000 in 1902 to less than 10,000 by 1904. Continue reading

Erin Go Bragh! (Ireland Forever!)

John P. Flannery kissing the Blarney Stone

John P. Flannery kissing the Blarney Stone

Some have jokingly said it was unnecessarily redundant, even dangerous, that I felt it necessary to kiss the Blarney stone, a block of bluestone found at the heights, in the parapet of the Blarney Castle, enchanted by the goddess Cliodhna, for its fabled gift of gab and flattery.

You tip the kind strong rain-garbed guard who holds you from falling as you lean backward.

We were told one soldier did fall, long before, perhaps after a pint, slipping between the walls, sliding to the ground, landing on his head, speeding him on his way to his final heavenly reward.

It was a somewhat rainy day when I underwent this transformation, bending backward, without fear of contracting anything even remotely dangerous to my health – as we are all related who kiss this grand stone, just like every member of a Catholic congregation may drink safely from the same Holy Communion cup

It’s more apt for a lawyer, however, to kiss this Irish stone as, according to the legend, it was this stone that Cliodhna first commended to the builder of the Castle so that he could plead his case in court successfully. Continue reading