Dept. of Alternative Facts: History

history (n): the narrative of events, usually written by the victor and those in power, easily skewed to a specific view point on the events, especially when working with a set of alternative facts

Black Lives Matter rallies, marches, kneel-ins, 8-minutes-on-the-ground-ins, and protests have sprouted up nation-wide and world-wide over the past month. While we might envision these as happening in big cities, where we conceptualize large populations of African American folks live, many have popped up in suburban and rural communities too. There might be only a handful of actual African American people in those communities. And, the majority of the people marching and gathering to listen to testimonials are not African American, but sympathetic, to supportive, to curious.

We live in a rural community. Yes, there are a few African Americans whom we mostly see on the high school sports teams. Yes, we are having BLM marches. It has been interesting to watch how these play out in the public space and news coverage.

The largest town in our little county of 15,000 people had a BLM a few weeks ago. It was organized by couple of African American high school students. About 75 people showed up to walk with them from the main intersection (one of 3 stop-lights in town) to the town park and back. On the way, they passed by numerous groups of vehicles and white people sporting Confederate Battle Flags, white power fists, and signs “All Lives Matter”. Apparently, those folks believed that they needed to protect the town from looters and “busloads” of people who were rumored to be coming from coming from Washington, D.C. No buses showed up. No one broke from the march for any violet action.

The local paper covered the event. A few days later, the weekend supplement carried a 2/3 front page advertisement, “Black Lives Matter”, with the names of many African Americans who have died in policing events.

The next weekend the supplement carried a 2/3 front page advertisement “All Lives Matter to Jesus” with Mark 12:31 quoted (KJV translation of the 17the century), admonishing us to love one another. No names were listed. Guess Jesus loves too many to bother printing them.

In between these weekend, a former resident of this area wrote a Letter to the Editor, scolding the youth of spending too much time on social media, not marching in support of other people who have died, telling them that they do not know history, and ending on an encouraging note of applying themselves to learning, respecting family and neighbors, and working to make society better.

I could not let all this pass without a shot over the bow (or maybe a torpedo into the hull):

Letter to the Editor

Ms. …, in her July 8, 2020 Letter to the Editor encourages the youth who participated in the Black Lives Matter march in Moorefield to learn American history, including that of African Americans, to better inform their protests.  I agree that one should have information when making a statement.  I also agree with her other suggestions of going beyond marches, to engage with ones community in a helping and respectful manner.

Ms. … mentions a number of specific issues which she would like the youth to address.  Having grown up in California, worked in health care for five years in New York City, and ten years in Alexandria, VA, I have had numerous opportunities to interact with people of color, as well has calling some family and friends.

Regarding abortion, I have on several occasions been told by African Americans that this is another way white people are trying to eliminate black people.  I can not say that I have evidence of this, but I do know that the women who brought the case of Roe v Wade, were educated, white women who had found their education and careers inconvenienced by unplanned pregnancies, for which they could not get a safe abortion in the USA.  They found a poor, white woman, “Jane Roe”, to be their legal test case.  Might this be an example of powerful white people using those with little clout in society, white or black?

Regarding the Constitution, numerous African American friend do not have to go far to get to Article 1, Section 2, to find the counting of population for Representative districts to exclude “Indians not taxed, three fifth of all other Persons”.  Yes, the 14th Amendment, Section 2, corrected that to one person one count, oh, except it would exclude women, and gosh “criminals”.  So, when we incarcerate African Americans, we no longer have to count them.  Hmmmm.

Now as to the Emancipation Proclamation, my African American friends will remind me that this only applied to states that had rebelled and joined the Confederacy.  Northern state slaves were not freed by Lincoln’s executive order.  Guess we needed them to continue working in the Union textile mills and munitions factors to win the war.

I am looking forward to reading, Booker T. Washington’s biography, “Up From Freedom”, which my brother is currently reading.  I am reading Fredrick’s Douglas’s bio, “My Bondage and  My Freedom”, in the 1855 edition.  I came across an enlightening section the other night.  Allow me to quote from chapter 5:

“…The poor girl, on arriving at our house, presented a pitiable appearance.  She had left in haste, and without permission of Mr. Plummer.  She had traveled twelve miles, bare-footed, bare-necked.  Her neck and shoulders were covered with scars, newly made; and, not content with marring her neck and shoulders, with the cowhide, the cowardly brute had dealt her a blow on the head with a hickory club, which cut a horrible gash, and left her face literally covered with blood. In this condition, the poor young woman came down, to implore protection at the hands of my old master.  I expected to see him boil over with rage at the revolting deed, and to hear him fill the air with curses upon the brutal Plummer; but I was disappointed.  He sternly told her, in an angry tone, he “believed she deserved every bit of it”, and, if she did not go home instantly, he would himself take the remaining skin from her neck and back.  Thus was the poor girl compelled to return, without redress, and perhaps to receive an additional flogging for daring to appeal to old master against the overseer.

“Old master seemed furious at the thought of being troubled by such complaints.  I did not, at that time, understand the philosophy of this treatment of my cousin.  It was stern, unnatural, violent.  Had the man no bowels of compassion?  Was he dead to all sense of humanity?  No.  I think I now understand it.  This treatment is a part of the system, rather than part of the man.  Were slaveholder to listen to the complaints of this sort against the overseers, the luxury of owning large numbers of slaves, would be impossible….”

Change overseers to rouge police, masters to political leaders, and the BLM folks’ frustration does not appear to have changed much in the past 165 years.

As to local, West Virginia history in treatment of black people, look to the Hawks Nest electrical generation project in the 1930.  A tunnel was cut through the mountain to divert the New River channel through electrical generators.  The stone of this mountain was filled with silica, which the development company wanted to also mine for the mineral content.  They brought in hundreds of African American workers to do the mining.  They knew of the health risks of breathing silica, but did not provide the miners ventilation or breathing protections.  Estimates of between 400 and 800 African American miners on the project died within a few years from lung silicosis.  Not much difference from working a black slave to his death before he became a burden on the plantation.

Yes, young folks, learn history.  It is not pretty.  That is coming from a middle aged, middle class, master degree educated, white guy, who has been registered Republican for the past 40 years.  I have benefited greatly from all the privileges that come with each of those characteristics.

I would have been peacefully walking with the BLM protest in Moorefield, but that afternoon I happened to be at Howard University in Washington, D.C. helping a a family friend, a young man, of African American decent, with the next step of his college experience.  Knowing history is good.  Voicing opposition to the wrongs of the world is good.  But, these will only progress society when we have relationships and support each other.

As the paid advertisement in the 7/11/20 Weekender quotes Mark 12:31, let us love our neighbors.  Then, go back to the paid advertisement in the 7/4/20 Weekender, and read all of the names bordering the BLM add.  Research their histories. And, ask “Where was the love?”

About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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12 Responses to Dept. of Alternative Facts: History

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    That’s a big torpedo, Oscar.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I’ll see what response I get when it comes out in the local paper, which is a weekly. Thus, it may take a week or two to see if anyone writes back (mostly I get silence from the right-side of the readership, which I could take as them rolling their eyes, or dumbfounded).

  2. As always, you don’t mince words, and make us sit up and think. I’m glad there was a BLM march in your area, and sad but not surprised that some people still don’t get it. Only this morning, Hamlin and I watched James Baldwin’s debate against William F. Buckley at Cambridge University in Britain. Magnificently painful in its humanity and searingly brilliant. I haven’t seen this in decades and had completely forgotten it. This speech should be as well-known as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.” Knowing you, you’ve probably seen it more recently than I.

    • Lavinia Ross says:

      I did a little digging based on your response. There is also a book that came out last October, “The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America” by Nicholas Buccola.

      There are many, many things about the human animal and how it operates in its various societies at different points in history I do not understand. Man’s inhumanity to man is overwhelming, and the atrocities keep repeating themselves. When I was in Girl Scouts, so long ago, I remember one late summer camp out where we were all in one tent after dark, with flashlights, telling ghost and other frightening stories. One girl starts to tell her story. We quickly realize she is living the story, and it follows her, wherever she goes. She was from Alabama. When she was 6 years old, her parents sent her trick-or-treating or Halloween night by herself. She was raped by a gang of what she described as teenage boys. The people in her town blamed her for it, she must have brought the problem on herself. A 6 year old! Even at that young age I knew this was wrong. The boys were never prosecuted. She said she had “scars” from it. I can imagine the brutality and physical trauma. She told us all that her family eventually ended up moving north to get away from the stigma and shame. She was in my class for a while, and then she was gone. I think they moved on, yet again. Such an innocent sweet-natured person, that girl I remember. Life moves quickly at that young age, and there was no Internet way back when. I lost contact. But not a Halloween night goes by I don’t think about her. I remember her name, but find no trace, and I wonder if she was ever able to find peace. I wonder what kind of lives her assailants are living.

      • hermitsdoor says:

        Our ability to justify our behavior is frightening. I’m sure that if the rapists even remember the event, they have it all reasons out that it was the girls fault… Remind you of any Supreme Court Justice of recent?

      • I am just seeing this very thoughtful reply, Lavinia. Thank you!
        I, too, read up on the Buccola book. I’m interested in it.
        Your story about the young girl and the scars she suffered from the rape is painful for me to read, so it must have been more painful for you to know about and incredibly traumatic for this child.
        And your last sentence (I wonder what kind of lives her assailants are living) goes back to Baldwin’s statement about how brutalizing others dehumanizes the attacker — they may think they’re living good lives, wherever they are, which makes it even worse for them.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Lavinia Ross left a comment about a book by the same two debaters. Might be based on these debates you watched. I do not know James Baldwin, but I am familiar with William F. Buckley. While I often do not agree with his conclusions, I do respect his thought process and ability to articulate his position. The point is not to get everyone to think the same way, but to get us to think, gather information, analyze it, and hold some conscious belief (rather than merely emotional belief).

  3. Good old days, not so good.

  4. Brother Dave says:

    I always enjoy your insightful and challenging posts Hermit. Perhaps the Hatfields and McCoys were too humble to place their names on the 7/11/20 advertisement. If people had loved their neighbors then “Black Lives Matter” wouldn’t need to be said.

    Here is a more sober reflection from Alabama’s Charles Morgan the day after the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church bombing.

    “Who did it? The ‘who’ is every little individual who talks about the ‘n****rs’ and spread the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter… It is all the Christians and all their ministers who spoke too late in anguished cries against violence. It is the coward in each of us who clucks admonitions… We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry and stand indicted before our young… What’s it like living in Birmingham? No one ever really has and no one will until the city becomes part of the United States. Birmingham is not a dying city. It is dead.”

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Just read Fredrick Douglas’ narration of how, when a slave in St. Michaels, MD region, he started a Sabbath school, in which he used reading the Bible to other slaves as a means of teaching them to spell and read. He points out the hypocrisy of the Christian masters and overseers who would rather that the slaves would spend Sabbath drinking, wrestling, or having sex rather than learning to read the Bible. The former kept them in their place (in the fields, etc.), whereas the later lead them to all sorts of mischief, such as learning, thinking, and desiring to be the own masters. Quick, we need to get the NFL up and running on Sundays least we have more people interest in voting!

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