FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Cold Hard Truth

by J.L. CHESTNUT, Jr.

It is difficult to converse with people who oppose what they call quotas, reverse discrimination and preferential treatment. Such people usually say they are not opposed to anti-discrimination laws but they downplay the ugly fact that much of the racist past remains with us. They also are ambivalent about most claims that arise from black America.

For example, I have debated against college educated people, black and white, who argue heatedly that reparations are undesirable and unnecessary for ruling out the racist abominations that have haunted America since 1619. They say they do not believe the racial present is anywhere near as bad as the racial past or that mainstream white people still perceive a darker skin color as materially different than their own and derive comfort from that difference.

There’s a comfort level for white people when they deal with black people. Generally, this comfort level is born of illusion, inspires its own notions of white supremacy and then rationalizes it as necessary and proper. The late New York Senator Daniel Moyniham once said that whites have castrated blacks for so long that the blacks now do it to themselves. That castration occurs in many different forms.

I watched one example of this social castration first hand and up close in the nation’s capitol during the heated federal courtroom arguments and disagreements in the black farmers’ case. I was fascinated and disgusted by the openly patronizing, racist attitude of many white government functionaries toward my poor black farmer clients and worse the acquiescence in all this degrading racist nonsense by black government functionaries.

On the other hand, I have witnessed even blacks who try to be Republican and white sometimes yield to a deeply instinctive human impulse and fight back. They might pick the wrong targets, but they sometimes lash out in unexpected bitterness and hatred. I was startled by one example in another federal courthouse, this time in Montgomery. We had completed the arraignment of Jamil Abdullah Alamin alias H. Rap Brown and I stopped in the hallway to answer questions from Alvin Benn, a reporter. A black man dressed in Muslim garb stood to the side and listened intently.

Jamil was already under sentence of life without parole for murder in Georgia and that sentence was on appeal. I merely repeated to Benn what I had said in court, i.e. the government brought Jamil back to Montgomery only because officials view him as a dangerous black radical and wanted to tack a few more years on to his sentence in case he won his appeal in Georgia. The charge in Alabama of shooting at federal officers in Lowndes County, Alabama was hardly worth the trip from Georgia. Naturally, the government denied my claim and said Jamil was being tried in Alabama because, “If you shoot at one of ours, you will be prosecuted!”

After Benn left, the Muslim brother and several other blacks angrily called the government vile names and another Muslim brother said in an agitated voice said, “You see, these damn government people view all people of color differently and as the enemy. Today is the first time in history that the government has tried to add some years on to some one already serving life without parole. They would only do that to a person of color. This white government has always hated black people. It is government for, by and of white people! ” A dignified but very pregnant black woman said amen and called the black prosecutor assigned to the case, “a college educated Tom, a black misfit who sold his damn soul for a second class government job.”

Among other negatives, racism distorts our belief system, and to varying degrees we are all held hostage by racism. A fundamental difference between blacks and whites is that most blacks would effectively address the problem of racism while many whites deny there is much of a problem. I hear white people in Selma self-righteously blame one of my attorney colleagues and activist Rose Sanders for racially segregated schools and damn near everything else that is wrong in this town. For the record, local schools were created segregated in the 1860s and remained so until I filed suit to integrate them more than a hundred years later in the 1970s.

Along the same fraudulent lines, I reject the racist pretension that we blacks have a greater propensity for crime than whites; that poverty has little or nothing to do with criminals or criminality; that subsistence welfare payments are routinely abused to produce welfare kings and queens; that race and class are necessary to preserve the nation and that blacks who don’t bow to white manipulation are dangerous and even un-American. There is not a scintilla of evidence that proves any of that nonsense.

As long as Americans place a value on skin color, regardless of how ridiculous, white supremacy will reign if only in secret. Indeed, white supremacy has reigned all these centuries because it is American to the core, and it is inseparable from American history. As I look around today in 2006, it is almost as if the civil rights movement was a mistake. Many who battled at Ground Zero in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia in the 1960s have now lived to witness the really reactionary mood of the country today and the government’s unceasing efforts to undo much, if not all, we achieved with great sacrifice in race relations and civil rights.

The march backwards really began with George Wallace, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

J.L. CHESTNUT, Jr. is a civil rights attorney in Selma, Alabama. He is the founder of Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders which is the largest black law firm in Alabama. Born in Selma and, after graduating from Howard University Law School, he began practicing law in Selma in 1958. He started as the only black lawyer in the town and has been challenging the establishment since then. His law firm now owns two radio stations in Selma and Mr. Chestnut hosts a radio talk show three days a week touted as the most popular radio show in south and central Alabama. He is the author of “Black in Selma” with Julia Cass (1989 Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and writes a weekly column called the “Hard Cold Truth”. He can be reached at tmarshall@csspca.com.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail