By: Harold Michael Harvey
I’ve often wondered how the individuals behind the face of angry white America really look. I’ve wondered ever since I attended the 15 April 2009 Tax Day Protest in downtown Atlanta. I have written else where about that angry white mob I found myself in across from the steps of the state capitol (The Three Reasons I Hate Being In A Crowd of Angry White People, The Harvey Journal, 16 April 2009). I wasn’t sure, but I had a hunch it was similar to the faces in the two other crowds of angry white people I had encountered in my short existence on the planet.
When President Barack Obama called a joint session of Congress to discuss his health care reform legislation the other day, it became painfully and shamefully clear just what the angry face of white America looked like.
It is predominately male, southern and bigoted. Just like the group that trespassed on my grandfather’s farm in 1955 and the group that stood outside the Lanier Jr. High School for Boys shouting insults at me back in 1965. I’ve cited these two incidents several times but I’m not sure my readers get the point. The point is not so much that these events occurred. They occurred on a regular basis back then. The object lesson here is, both of these groups thought they were right in their actions.
The mob following a pack of bloodhounds out hunting for a black man in the mid 1950s felt justified in their search and in the swift lynching that was sure to follow had they found him.
The young boys standing outside a public high school yelling “two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate” were absolutely sure they held the moral responsibility to defeat the “communist inspired” move towards the elimination of segregation in the South. Their arrogance led them to defy school authority and menacingly intimidate any black person who dared to cross their protest line that September morning 44 years ago last week.
Time, however, has a way of avenging all. We now know, which is to say that any white person of reasonable intelligence now knows (black people knew all along), that both groups of angry white males were wrong. We also know that what they feared and what roused them to anger cannot stop the turning tide of time. For what angers southern bigots and what they fear is a social order of shared responsibility after centuries of unlimited power and authority.
Male, southern and bigoted, just like Joe Wilson the Columbia, South Carolina congressman who represents the Second District in the United States House of Representatives. He has power. He can debate the issue in committee and on the floor of the House. He has a vote. Yet he resorts to heckling!
What manner of American is this who would sit on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and interrupt an important speech by the president of the United States of America with shouts of “you lie?”
Male, southern and bigoted. Just like the three dozen or more people who gathered outside the congressman’s office in Columbia, South Carolina recently who praised Wilson’s rudeness as an act of heroism. Not only does he owe the president an apology, but he owes an apology to the American people who tuned in to listen to an important policy address on health care reform, only to be distracted by a heckler disguised as a congressman.
Male, southern and bigoted. Just like William Browning, the 55 year old South Carolina man quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “I hope he [Joe Wilson] sticks to his guns. If they reprimand him, so be it.”
Such arrogance displayed by Joe Wilson and William Browning is appalling. The utter disrespect for Barack Obama oozes out of their pores by the pound.
How does one come to hate a person whose policies are different? There is but one simple answer. It is time to stop playing games and call a spade a spade. It’s racism pure and simple. Southern bigoted males have a very low tolerance for Obama’s skin in the game. It doesn’t matter southern bigoted males have rolled out a few black faces at their rallies. The majority of black people see through this ruse and are not taken in by the slight of hand of a band who proclaim an interest in restoring the “American way,” like patriots of old who dodged the race question in their day by counting darker citizens as chattel and worth, according to the federalist of that day, a mere three-fifth of the measure of a white man.
Grow up southerners. You are pouting like little boys pout on the playground. Like those little boys pouted on the steps of Lanier Jr. High School for Boys in ‘65 .
Watching this band of anti-government protesters march in the District of Columbia on 12 September 2009, I saw the same agitated and snarling faces I saw in the mob back in ‘55 and the mob of ‘65. You could contrast these angry faces with the determined, yet peaceable expressions on the faces of the men and women who attempted to marched across the Edmund Pettits Bridge on Bloody Sunday. When one considers this dichotomy of history, one realizes that the arch of justice stills bends towards the metaphysical progeny of Selma.
Alas, we knew this day was coming. We have known since the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. We have known since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. We have known since Martin told the nation about a dream that he had had.
Get over it! America is big enough for all of us to live in peace, harmony and prosperity.
Let’s say for the sake of argument the cause of angry white Americans is right and Health Care Reform will place a huge burden on grandchildren of conservative fiscal minded Americans. The corollary is also true. To do nothing will continue to place a tremendous burden on the families of that other America who are also a part of the grand melting pot that makes us unique in the universal set of world democracies.
Thus the reasonable discourse should be: How do we provide adequate health care for all American citizens without providing future generations with a tax bill that is insurmountable?
Anything else makes great sound bites for the six o’clock news and fodder to increase the great divide between conservatives and progressives, between Christians and the ungodly, between whites, blacks, browns, reds, yellows and the many shades in the box of crayons, that did not exist when the mob hunted for a black man on my grandfather’s farm back in ‘55.
© September 13, 2009