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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail