FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Measure of Progress?

by BILL GLAHN

I was almost one year old when an all-white jury in Mississippi acquitted Roy Bryant and John William Milam of the murder of Emmett Till after deliberating for 67 minutes. I was eight when Bob Dylan wrote a song about it. I was probably about 15 before I knew the history behind it. I was 17 when the first official release of Dylan’s song came out on Broadside Ballads, Vol. 6. I’m almost 59 now and Dylan’s “The Murder (Ballad/Death – it has appeared under varying titles over the years) of Emmett Till” is getting more airplay than it has in decades. Not radio airplay, but rather the modern day equivalent – social media, where songs can be posted and played on demand.

As a young boy, I was familiar with Norman Rockwell’s cover paintings for Saturday Evening Post. Everyone in America was. Rockwell painted a feel-good image of America – white America. And he did it on 323 different issues. Rockwell wasn’t prohibited from including black folks in his paintings, but it was The Post’s editorial policy that black folks could only be pictured in a service capacity. This wasn’t viewed as “racist” in those days and even liberal white folks were comfortable with the arrangement. In 1963, a year after Dylan’s early live performances of “Emmett Till,” Norman Rockwell painted his last Saturday Evening Post cover.

rockwell

In January 1964, freed from the shackles of Saturday Evening Post policy, Rockwell painted “The Problem We All Live With,” which appeared as a centerfold in Look magazine. In stark contrast to his Post covers, “Problem” depicted a very different picture of America, one where Federal Marshals escorted a 6-year old black girl to school with “NIGGER” and “KKK” scrolled on a wall in the background. And with the use of the word “all” in the title, Rockwell correctly identified racism as, not just a problem to concern black folks, but one that should concern all folks. A year later, a preliminary sketch of Rockwell’s “Southern Justice: A Murder In Mississippi” depicting three slain Civil Rights workers, would make the pages of Look. The ugly face of racism and its consequences were now thrust in front of an entire nation by America’s feel-good daddy of the art world. That’s a measure of progress.

A couple days ago, an almost all-white jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the murder of another black teenager, Trayvon Martin. They deliberated for 16 hours. As everyone not buried under a rock knows, it sparked protests around the country and accusations of racial injustice in the court system. Denials came from all quarters, both liberals and conservatives alike. “We’ve come a long way. And isn’t George Zimmerman the brown-skinned son of a Peruvian mother?” Well, yes he is. He was also acting in a service capacity – a neighborhood watch volunteer guarding white folks’ “stuff” from hooded black teenagers. So, if you buy into the Saturday Evening Post’s version of where people of color should position themselves, it’s a perfectly understandable verdict. If 67 minutes of deliberation versus 16 hours of deliberation is our measure of progress… Well, then we should all be concerned.

Bill Glahn is a fork lift jockey from Missouri.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail