One of my first recollections of racist terror was when I was reading renowned author Mildred D. Taylor’s book, “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” for a class in elementary school. It was a required reading at most schools during this time. We went on to watch the movie too. The book began with the telling of a black family in Mississippi in 1933.
The movie begins with the main character, Cassie Slogan, narrating the story of how her family attained the land. She says, “We lived on our own land, bought by Grandpa, long before we, children, were born. It was once part of the Granger plantation and Mr.Granger, he kept trying to buy it back from us, but that land meant too much to the Slogan’s to ever to sell.” Cassie tells us that her mother was a teacher at the negro school they all went too. She goes on to share that her father was out working on the railroads just to make money to support their family and keep the land. She says that he comes home with his friends when there is trouble. 11-year-old Cassie tells us, “We knew what whites could do to us out of not caring or out of hate.” Then, she introduces us to Mr.Jameson, a white lawyer who supports the family throughout the story in different endeavors. Mr. Jameson often shares that there are others like him that would stand up against the racism that black people encountered by a certain family named, the Wallaces. The Wallaces owned a local store that black people in the community shopped at. Cassie’s mom began to boycott the store and lost her job as a teacher. When the Slogan’s and other black people in the community stood up to them, the Wallaces turned to violence. In one instance, shooting at Cassie’s older brother Stacy, Mr. Morrison and “Papa.” The book gets even more graphic in detail as a normal dialogue between characters entails lynchings, burnings, and shootings.
Does this sound familiar to you? I start this blog with this childhood novel because of its prominence as a required read for most adolescents, but also because of its relevance to our time. You should also understand a child’s view of whats happening because whether you choose to believe it or not, they are affected. When I was about 5-years younger than Cassie, there was a slew of black church burnings in West Tennessee. From 1995-1996, eight African American churches in Tennessee were burned under suspicious circumstances. These churches were among the more than 59 arsons of African American churches in the South between January 1995 and June 1996. As you know, black churches in the south were often grounds for civil rights rallies, etc.
After reading about the countless church burnings, my dad Emerson Hockett, a local minority contractor took it upon himself to “build on God’s foundation” as the Jackson Sun would report. Being a minority in the contracting field, he told the Jackson Sun reporters, “We can’t get the funds we need. You’ve got to constantly prove yourself. But, I had it up in my mind that I was the type person I didn’t want it handed to me.” My daddy told the reporters that Clark Shaw and Noah Jones of the Old Country Store (A well known historical landmark also known as Casey Jones Village in Jackson, TN) told him to insert God into it. They told him, “If you want to be successful, do God’s work, do something for God and you can be successful.” They happened to be caucasian men who gave my dad jobs for years to come. They produced love, not violence. Perhaps, they were the Mr.Jameson’s in my dad’s life.
Read the rest of the article: Jackson Sun Article: Emerson Hockett
As I recollect the view point’s as a child, I remember going to one of the sites where my dad was rebuilding a burned down church. Our president at the time, Bill Clinton had even come to acknowledge the race relations in regards to the church burnings. He spoke to church members outside the Salem Baptist Church in rural Tennessee in 1996. It was a surreal experience that my adult-self has now been able to process. It is hard out here for minorities. We need all of the Mr.Jameson’s to speak up. Until you all acknowledge the dissension and disgrace, we can’t move forward. My children will be writing this same blog in the year 2040 recollecting what they saw their African American parents go through.
They say that we are taught biases and hate. Perhaps, you may understand based on my childhood perspective – told by my adult self. I don’t want to have to explain things to my children, but I know I will have too. My parents explained it to me. Despite going to a majority black high school, an all white church, dancing on an all white dance team and more, the degree in which I experienced racism was a little less but still highly prevalent. Take yourself out of your own experience and imagine me, a little girl running through the debris of a construction site where a church has just been burned in the name of racist terror. Do you want that for your child? Do you want to have to explain it?
Moreover, whether you are raising your child to not be racist, you will still have to explain it. You still need to cover the premise of how to survive the biases and negativity that is elicited through actions of hate. Perhaps your moment is now to exonerate all that are affected by racism and repudiate it. It isn’t just a black versus white issue anymore. Everyone is affected. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did say, “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!””
For the past few days, I’ve been trying to process what just occurred in Charlotteville. There was no shame in the flustered faces that chose to come forward in the name of white nationalism. The subtle act of committing crimes as statements, like the burning of churches while no one was around is now something these Nazi leaders or white nationalist are willing to do openly. They feel validated in their efforts. In retrospect to the church burnings turned investigations, I can’t help but wonder would I have rather seen those churches actually be burnt by hosts of individuals chanting racial slurs with torches and weapons in hand or just deal with the aftermath through a federal investigation. The resolve is to call it for what it is. Racism. Don’t be silent. It’s out in the open. They showed their faces. They’ve expressed their bold insights. There were no sheets to cover their faces or no thief in the night acts of vandalism. Where will you stand? Will you be Mr.Jameson? Or will you sit silently while the Wallaces continue to wreak havoc the community?
Watch the movie: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Read the book: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry