The stock line for monuments Lost Causers has been “you’re erasing history.” As you can see above, that’s just what happened next door in Mississippi.
A civil rights historical marker in Mississippi has been vandalized, obliterating information about black teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and lynched in 1955.
The slaying galvanized the civil rights movement when Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show how her 14-year-old son had been brutalized while he was visiting the Mississippi Delta.
Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the marker, said Monday that someone scratched the marker with a blunt tool in May. During the past week, a tour group discovered vinyl panels had been peeled off the back of the metal marker in Money, Mississippi. The panels contained photos and words about Till.
“Who knows what motivates people to do this?” Hammons said, noting that traffic signs are common targets for vandals and shooters in rural areas. “Vandals have been around since the beginning of time.”
I know what motivates people to do such a thing: racism. Given the marker’s relative proximity to New Orleans, it could also be misdirected payback for the removal of the white supremacy monuments here. If that sounds like a stretch, they’re still sitting hillbilly shiva across from the former Jefferson Davis monument. They’re only here on the weekends but they’re still at it.
This is not the first time the Till marker has been vandalized but it’s the most sinister. Bullet holes can be written off as the work of drunken peckerwoods. This cannot. It took time, effort, and planning. It’s the work of sober peckerwoods with malicious intent.
The electoral college victory of president* Trump has ushered in an era of intolerance as well as the new gilded age I’ve written about before. It’s fitting: Jim Crow swept the South *during* the Gilded Age. Trump’s rhetoric about political correctness has given racists and xenophobic bigots a green light to do what they do best; hate.
Trump is too dim and self-absorbed to feel any regrets over the malign forces he has unleashed. Shallow thy name is Donald. I’d like to point out that D.W. Griffith *did* feel some regrets over the turmoil caused by The Birth of a Nation. It led to a second epic, Intolerance. It was too diffuse and arty to have the same impact but it showed that Griffith was human and capable of minimal growth. The Insult Comedian is not. But you knew that already.
Back to the notion of “erasing history.” I’m against it, but continue to believe that who or what we honor says a lot about who we are as a people. The Lee and Davis monuments were erected to honor white supremacy and a war that was waged to preserve human bondage. The Emmett Till marker was put up to honor a young man whose lynching helped inspire the Civil Rights movement.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: intent is everything. The Civil Rights movement is worthy of public celebration, white supremacy is not. It’s not the erasure of history to celebrate the positive whilst castigating the negative. I do not want anyone to forget slavery, segregation, and racial violence. I just don’t want them celebrated in the public green.