Remember Harry and Harriette Moore
On Saturday July 13, the NAACP will open its 104th annual national convention in Orlando, Florida. Thousands of delegates will gather, elected by their local branches to attend regional workshops, learn more about issues such as criminal justice and voting rights, and cast ballots in plenary session on resolutions that will help guide the work of the association into the future. Those who wrote the organization's obituary in the 1990s should know that the NAACP is stronger than it's been in decades, with forward looking leadership at the national level and in the state conferences.
Mississippi has a history of the worst kind of white supremacist violence. Between 1882 and 1927, there were 517 people lynched in the State of Mississippi—almost one person a month. It was the highest number for any state during that period. The state was also the birthplace in 1954 of the white Citizens Councils that fought the freedom movement and defended Jim Crow segregation. It was home to one of the most violent Klan factions during the 1960s, the Mississippi White Knights led by Sam Bowers. And a state government agency, the Sovereignty Commission, spied on civil rights activists and anyone who thought black people should have voting rights, it aided and abetted Klan killers, and it left a searing mark on the lives of millions.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is replete with beautiful mountain vistas, a clean subway system and keen scholarly discussion, if the Institute for Historical Review’s (IHR) Mark Weber is to be believed. The country is also the victim of the harmful depredations of a “Zionist-controlled Hollywood,” according to Weber. He and more than 40 other non-Iranians gathered with their Hollywood-hating Iranian peers for a four-day February conference in Tehran. Speakers from the United States, Europe and the Middle East claimed that Hollywood did everything from pollute their cultural environment to promote war with Iran. If you thought Americans were all skinny, that was a false impression caused by Hollywood. And if you looked around and thought about sex, well that too was the fault of Hollywood.
More than 1,000 people rallied in Memphis on Saturday, March 30 to protest the Ku Klux Klan, according to news reports of the event. Many came from across the country, mobilized by a call from a local coalition, the Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality. More came from the communities of Memphis, anxious to take a stand, or give their children a lesson in living history. Anti-racists were kept away from an on-going Klan rally by several fences. And the Klan was well-protected by police, who bussed them into a downtown zone, and then bussed them out of town after their rally. Anger at the police for protecting the Klan, nevertheless, did not turn into violence and mar the anti-racist rally—thus turning the event into a significant victory.
The putative Klan rally in Memphis was actually a Klan-Nazi rally, as uniformed members of the National Socialist Movement and the Aryan Nations were part of the 60+ white nationalists who took part. The Loyal White Knights, based in neighboring North Carolina, organized this rally and Klansmen from the North Mississippi White Knights, the Georgia-based Keystone Klan and others also participated. Earlier threats that 5,000 Kluxers would march on Memphis turned into an empty propaganda stunt, as expected. The police effectively cordoned the white-ists off, separating them from potential supporters. And though Klansmen and neo-Nazis alike railed from their bullhorn, no one outside their immediate rally could hear them.
The cause of the Klan-Nazi spectacle was the City of Memphis’ decision to change the names of three parks bearing the names of Confederate and Klan heroes—most particularly the Nathan Bedford Forrest Park bordered by Madison Avenue and N. Dunlop Street in the center of town. Before the Civil War, Forrest owned several plantations and had a business in Memphis as a slave trader. During the war, he became a Confederate cavalry officer. But it was Forrest’s role as a national leader, or Imperial Wizard, of the Ku Klux Klan after the war that drew the attention of the white nationalists. Given the large size of the anti-racist demonstration and the small size of the Klan-Nazi gathering, the Memphis city council would make a big mistake if it was to reconsider changing the name of the local park.
There are still plenty of other Confederate memorials remaining, including a state park honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest in Benton County, Tennessee. And then there are those statues erected in nearly every county seat in the old Confederate South. Nominally erected to commemorate the honor and martyrdom of Confederate Army soldiers, they remain a lasting monument of the inability to remember that the Confederacy’s first principle, written into its Constitution, was white supremacy.
The Ida B. Wells Coalition put out a call before their rally: “For years, the Klan and other racist movements have used the symbols of the Confederacy to unite its movement, especially at the gravesite of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Klan co-founder and its first Grand Wizard. Now, a new movement, the neo-Confederacy, is seeking to restore the Klan’s bloody legacy and that of the Old South. We cannot allow that to happen, we must build a new anti-racist/anti-colonialist movement to defeat all forms of fascism and white supremacy.”
IREHR agrees with the Coalition, particularly on the need for a new anti-racist movement. And we will be glad to add the Tea Party movement to the list of racists to be opposed.
In the vast Potomac Ballroom of the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held March 14-16, started as a well-choreographed effort to present a softer, more diverse, conservative movement. Beyond the main hall, however, the carefully crafted façade melted away. In the many conference rooms that the Tea Party dominated, events featured blatant racism, homophobia, sexism, and Islamophobia. Despite the efforts of organizers to sweep it all under the rug, this year’s CPAC showed a conservative movement riddled with white nationalists, and others long a pillar of the farthest edge of the far right. The conservative sense of white dispossession at the core of this new conservative movement, bore little resemblance to the high and mighty elites of the Reagan and Bush years.