Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hate & Peace??

Two Saturdays ago, on my way to a meeting, I stopped by a store to buy children’s books. I was on the lookout for African stories but the closest I could get was Wilma Rudolph (unlimited) and A wreath for Emmett Till (a sonnet). I also had some five others which were purely English children stories. On the Sunday, I got to read some of the books myself to see the suitability of the content for my kids. The story of Emmett Till was particularly a compelling story of colour-hatred (racism). Emmett Till was a friendly, extroverted African-American boy who grew up during a time when racism and segregation were legal parts of the culture of the US.

Excerpts from book:
“Who was Emmett Till?
In the summer of 1955, 14 yr-old Emmett visited relatives in the South. On August 24, in the town of Money, Mississippi, Emmett went into a country store, where, by some accounts, he whistled at a white woman. On August 28, the woman’s husband and brother-in-law took Emmett from his uncle’s house. Emmett’s body was found three days later. The murderers had tied a heavy metal cotton gin fan to his neck with barbed wire and thrown him into the Tallahatchie River. He had been shot in the head. His face and body had been beaten and were bloated from the river water.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, held an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show what had been done to her son. She insisted her son should lie in an open casket so the world could see how savagely ha had been murdered. His naked body was horribly mangled, his nose severed, his head cleaved nearly in two, one eye gorged out. Thousands of people flood in line for viewing. Graphic photos appeared in newspapers and magazines, galvanizing anger across the nation.

An all-white male jury heard the trial of the alleged murderers in a segregated courthouse in Mississippi. Inspite of the terrors of the times and the danger he could have been placing himself in, Emmett’s uncle identified the white men who had pulled Emmett out of his house. After deliberating for just over an hour, the jurors came back with a verdict of “not guilty”. The trial and verdict drew the world’s attention.

People around the country- both black and white – who previously had felt separated from southern racism were shocked by Emmett Till’s death and outraged by the injustice of his killers’ trial. The lynching of the boy Emmett Till helped spark the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Months after the trial, one of former defendants told a reporter how they had killed Emmett. Years later, the two men tried for Emmett’s murder said that three other were involved.”

The book challenged everyone to continue speaking against modern-day injustices, to speak truth as they see it. Then I asked myself “has this colour-hatred really stopped?” Are they not shrouded in foreign policies and local laws?” How about same colour hatred? This one is still very much prevalent in African communities which accounts for why such communities are still largely tumultuous and impoverished.

The truth of the matter is that many of the offsprings of colonial masters would have none of the emancipation bill. They wished the status quo had remained and we still see this very much around us though unspoken....many white folks still treat black folks with contempt and outright degradation. It behoves everyone – both black and white – to teach their younger generations of the history (as it was) and the consequences. It may have become history to not be revisited but for recent similar events which are still happening. Consider the case of Trayvon Martin who was shot in the chest at close range by George Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States. Martin was an unarmed (note) 17-year-old African American. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old multi-racial Hispanic American, was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily staying and where the shooting took place. Zimmerman told the Police that Martin had attacked him and that he had shot Martin in self-defense. Questions are being asked whether Trayvon Martin is this generation Emmett Till.

Then we wonder why there is no peace in the world. There are so many peace treaties being signed here and there (yet the wars never end). So many congress meetings and dinners being held for the sake of world peace. We pray endlessly for peace but it continues to elude us. Some of us who pray for peace will not even speak up against injustice in our homes, offices or neighbourhoods. We do not want to risk being vocal and be exposed to the attendant consequences – losing friends, scorned, ex-communicated, and labelled. We are satisfied that the harm is not ‘directly’ to our immediate family. But haven’t we heard of the story of the woman who kept mute because harm was not directly to her family until it happened to her son? She cried herself hoax and became a voice against injustice. We do not need to have injustice done to us before we speak up against it. We may be able to live with some unjust laws but it doesn’t mean we should still not point them out as unjust and seek redress where possible. We need to realize that peace will not be present when her twin sister love (and justice) is absent. Let’s stop wishing peace to be (which all our prayers seem to amount to as they are not accompanied with actions of love and justice), let’s fulfil her pre-requisite and as surely as the day follows the night, peace will show up. Until then....peace out.

The book is not appropriate for my 5 yr-old so I will keep it in my library till she is older and can understand some of the intricacies of our world as it is and hence the content of the book and beauty of poems (a sonnet is a fourteen-line rhyming poem).

Quotable quotes
Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to glories of love.” ~ Dr. Martins Luther king, Jr.
“If you must hate, if hatred is the leaven of your life, which alone can give flavour, then hate what should be hated: falsehood, violence, selfishness.” ~ Ludwig Boerne


  1. "The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less" - Eldridge Cleaver

  2. Mary, yes Emmet's story is a most harrowing one. You are right, wishing peace is futile, let us speak out about injustice as it happens.

    1. When justice is served, peace will reign....consequently

  3. Thought provoking as always Mary. Thank you for not keeping quiet.