|Byron De La Beckwith, Trump voter?|
In 1954, in Brown v. Bd. of Education, the United States Supreme Court decided "separate but equal" is unconstitutional. Schools in the South would have to integrate. Medgar Evars, a Black civil rights worker in Mississippi, worked diligently to bring this about. He worked to overturn racial segregation at the University of Mississippi, and he labored for the voting rights and civil rights of Blacks in the South more generally. By 1963 the Civil Rights movement was in full swing and Freedom Riders from the North were in Mississippi and other Southern states to support the efforts of people like Medgar Evers. It was two years before the events of Bloody Sunday in Selma.
The bridge made famous by Martin Luther King's march in Selma was named in honor of Edmund Pettus (1821-1907). Pettus was a Confederate general from Alabama during the Civil War. In 1877 (at the tail end of Reconstruction) Pettus became the Grand Dragon of the Alabama Klu Klux Clan. In 1897 he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama as a Democrat. It's when the South was ruled by racist White Democrats. They held sway all the way to the Civil Rights movement, at which point they became Republicans.
Byron De La Beckwith, a traveling White salesman from Greenwood Mississippi labored in the tradition of Edmund Pettus. He was active in the White Citizen's Council, an off-shoot of the Klu Klux Clan, formed specifically to oppose integration of busing, schools, and all public facilities. Frustrated, De La Beckwith thought something more should be done. On June 12, 1963, he assassinated Medgar Evers outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi.
Here's Bob Dylan's version of events. He casts De La Beckwith as an anonymous assassin, the "poor White man" who remains at the caboose of the train--a social loser. Angry and frustrated and confused, and used.
Only A Pawn In Their Game - Bob Dylan by vicky7xthomas
Byron De La Beckwith, I suppose would have been a Trump voter today. He was a poor Southern White man troubled by the fact that the established pecking order was being disrupted by uppity Blacks who wanted to go to school with White Southern daughters, attend the University of Mississippi, and ride at the front of the bus with Whites. The disruption of this Southern culture was forced by Northern elites on the Supreme Court. They brought a new era to the South: an era that challenged the White monopoly on voting, holding elected offices, schooling, and obtaining secure jobs with the police, public works, and the civil service departments of Southern state governments.
Today poor Whites are feeling the pinch all over the country.
It used to be we Whites could graduate High School and get a good paying job sufficient to support a family. Perhaps in manufacturing, perhaps in construction, perhaps in government service, perhaps in service and distribution networks. Co-workers everywhere were White. It was collegial. We Whites were secure in the knowledge that ours was the strongest economy in the world. We were the Big Dog left standing after World War II. It was the American Century. We took it for granted it would be the American millennia. Our kids could graduate High School and get a secure job in town. They would be better off than we. We were blind to the fact that minorities were kept out, that women were kept down. We saluted the flag at school, at the ball game, in Church. The year progressed from Columbus Day, to Easter, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving (and the Pilgrims), Halloween, Christmas. Along the way we had baseball and football. We were can-do proud Americans; proud of our European, White, Christian country.
Today Whites are not so proud. And we don't talk so loud... except, of course, that we do. Before we step much below the top 10% of the income and wealth ladder, we White's are under pressure in this country. Many of those manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. Construction jobs are filled by Latin Americans. We Whites have to share Universities and civil services jobs with Blacks, Latinos, Asians. Our Universities are no longer free. When we Whites graduate high school, those good paying jobs in the local factory that will support a family cannot be found. And we Whites have to compete with Blacks, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, East Indians, and Muslims for the jobs that there are. Elite public Universities are expensive and we are not admitted unless we have a 4.0 grade point average. And we whites are pushed aside by affirmative action. And to make things worse, the Universities are reaching out to lots and lots of foreign students and their out-of-country tuitions. Our President is Black, born of a Black Kenyan father.
Our national narrative is changing. Japanese internment was a disgrace. California is the Gold Mountain of Chinese lore. Immigrants are no longer Northern European White, but Latino, Asian, Muslim. Whites in California are a minority. "Columbus Day" is "Indigenous People's Day;" Easter is a non-event; Christmas is "Happy Holidays." Gays can get married. Women run the show from birth control, to abortions, and now to the board rooms of corporations. They even run for President. They may soon be a majority on the Supreme Court. We look around and we wonder whether we live in a White, Christian country anymore?
And it causes insecurity and fear. It gives rise to ugly emotions. All these non-White, non-European intruders are throwing us off our game. Those job stealers overseas make us uneasy. And as we look about and wonder what's happened, we see big banks and collapsing financial sectors and the lesser depression. We don't understand it, but there seem to be many bad actors about. Wealthy people pulling strings. We see the world in chaos. Terrorists. Not only is China stealing our jobs, they are talking like they want to challenge our Supremacy. We fear there may not be an American millennia.
And Donald Trump may not make sense. And we don't believe this "we'll build the wall even higher" business. And no, nobody's going to round up and throw out 12 million from among us. But, by God, Trump speaks our language. It's the language of frustration, the language of fear, the language of the weak. In our insecurity we look from the cracks to the tracks. And the hoof beats pound in our brain. And we hear the language of Donald Trump. It's the language of Byron De La Beckwith.
[Thanks to Jim Schutze who inspired this post]
You can follow me on Twitter @Roland Nikles.