Sunday, September 3, 2017

*Echoes Of History - Part 111: Contemporary Economic Terrorism

I must confess that I continue to feel the impact of reading The Blood of Emmett Till. This is a good thing, as it has made me much more aware of the long road involved in the journey to civil rights in the United States, a journey that was regularly punctuated, not just by physical violence but also by violence of the economic kind.

In 1955, these threats were potent weapons to stop Black people from registering to vote, something the racists of the time feared would lead to them exerting electoral power and attaining political office. Nipping such efforts in the bud was the default position of the time.

One of the most insidious mechanisms for this operated through the White Citizens' Councils, a less violent version, if you will, of the KKK, their goal being to silence leaders in the Black movement through economic pressure. A prominent doctor and entrepreneur, T.R.M. Morton, founder of Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) in 1951, was a crucial leader in the fight for civil rights as well as justice in the murder of Till. As a result of his activism, he faced a situation where banks would no longer extend credit to him, suppliers severed their relationship with him, etc., the goal being to financially hobble him into silence, a quest that failed badly.

Black store owners were also victims in this battle to stop the civil rights movement. They lost their customers as the White Citizens Councils made it known that anyone doing business with them would face their wrath, including job loss. Tremendous economic cudgels were wielded, but many still resisted, despite the peril.

When you juxtapose the depth of character required for someone to risk life. limb and livelihood in the pursuit of justice and equality for all with the supremacists' claim to superiority because of the mere color of their skin, the sheer emptiness of their claims is laid bare. People who hide behind sheets, march in angry groups and preach hatred are hardly what most of us would label as people of character.

Sadly, economic weapons are still being today. Consider the situation of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons who rose to fame (notoriety if you are of a certain bent) by refusing to stand for the American national anthem, opting to instead kneel, motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the U.S.

Kaepernick opted out of his contract at the end of 2016 season to become a free agent. Despite the fact that there are 32 NFL teams, not one has even offered him a tryout. This fact recently occasioned a protest outside of NFL headquarters.

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Scott Stinson puts to the lie the non-racist reasons cited for not giving Kapernik a new football opportunity:
The idea that all the NFL rosters are filled out with quarterbacks who are better than Kaepernick at the skills required is simply nonsense. Over his five seasons of mostly full-time work, the 29-year-old has a career rating of 88.9. That is 17th ALL TIME. Sorry for yelling. Kaepernick’s career rating is better than those of Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Troy Aikman. Also, John Elway and Warren Moon. And Dan Fouts. Phil Simms, Joe Theismann. I’ll stop now. Jim Kelly and Johnny Unitas. OK, now.
The past cannot be changed, and the future has not yet been written. Confronting the racism of both past and contemporary society is something the Americans have a great deal of difficulty doing, and to be sure, it is no easy task. Only now is Canada coming to grips with our abuse of Indigenous peoples, and the road to reconciliation will undoubtedly be a long one. Until Americans are willing to walk the same path, things will only continue to deteriorate for all.

* If you are interested, Echoes of History, Part One, can be accessed here, and Part 11, here.


  1. The Till story is instructive, Lorne. At the same time, Thurgood Marshall was leading the NAACP's legal battle against Jim Crow. His, too, is a fascinating story.

    1. There are many civil rights stories that Americans either have not heard or do not want to hear, Owen.