The difference is? We don’t like to talk about our dirty secrets.
It’s important we do; we can lie to other people, but not to ourselves.
Saturday, a group of your fellow humans got together in Slocum, Texas, to commemorate a 20th century race war in southern Anderson and northern Houston counties. White people went on a rampage killing black people. The year was 1910.
The commemorative group was not welcomed. Residents of Slocum put out Confederate flags, but the gathering went on. A historian, or two, an author who studied the event, even a film producer considering a project. But no mainstream media. A week ago the local paper announced Saturday’s placement of an historical marker.
The Saturday gathering commemorated The Slocum Massacre.
Most folks have never heard of the event. In fact, if you go looking for it on Wikipedia, it doesn’t even have its own entry.
That’s how America’s dirty secrets work: America doesn’t like to talk about its ugly side.
Still, at the bottom of the Wikipedia city entry for Slocum, Texas, you’ll find this:
In late July 1910, between 14 and 25  people were murdered by a large mob. Although the exact number of residents slaughtered is not known, estimates are that more likely some 200 people were killed. (Source Needed) The victims were all African-American; the mob of 200 to 300 people  was all white. Before the massacre, the majority of Slocum’s several hundred residents were black; afterward, many black residents of Slocum fled the town, losing real estate, homes, and other assets that they had to leave behind.
Several events may have sparked the attacks. After a black person was lynched nearby, rumors spread among whites that blacks were planning revenge. Also, a scuffle broke out over a business disagreement between a white and black resident, and many accounts say a man named James Spurger instigated events by claiming he was threatened by blacks.
Once the attacks began, Anderson County Sheriff W. H. Black reported, “Men were going about killing Negroes as fast as they could find them, and, so far as I was able to ascertain, without any real cause”. All known victims were unarmed and most were shot in the back; no whites were injured.
Spurger, Reagon McKenzie, S.F. Jennings, and at least 13 other white men were arrested for the attacks, but none were ever tried. The victims’ land and possessions were also seized.
I’m guessing the local residents this weekend put out Confederate flags because some are occupying land the white mob participants allocated to themselves in the wake of the murderous rampage.
One person, who attended the event, noted: “If we ever repealed the Civil Rights Act, segregation would be back in place in much of the South in 24-hours – if that….”
I’d argue the point, but I can’t. There are businesses even now that I won’t trade with because of the “old boys” who are part of the continued festering.
Which gets us to why today is a holiday: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the leading advocates of real equality.
Along with that comes the hard truth that most Americans don’t like to be reminded of: Namely that although the Civil War decided the issue of slavery, it failed to end inequality in people’s hearts. Reconstruction only worked a bit and only on the outside.
You’ll still see Dr. King’s work attacked as plagiarism. That somehow warrants its own Wikipedia page while the Slocum Massacre does not. This kind of thing gets noticed, although that’s not my main point.
Forty-five years after the supposed end of the Civil War, hundreds of blacks in America were hunted down and variously lynched, murdered, or burned alive at the stake.
At this weekend’s event in Slocum, word spread of a newly found mass grave from the period being recently located.
The landowner involved is reported to have been asked if the mass grave held a rumored 15 victims? The reported answer was “15? Hell, there must be 50 of ‘em…”
When asked if forensics specialists could open the grave? Reports went this way: “No, this is MY property. And ya’ll don’t come on MY property without permission.”
Old wounds don’t heal that way.
Author E.R. Bills has collected the ascertainable facts of the case in his book 1910 Slocum Massacre, The: An Act of Genocide in East Texas (True Crime). If I may quote from the book for a moment:
“According to an NAACP study entitled “Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918” (published in April of 1919), 335 lynchings were reported in Texas in that time period, and 78 percent of the victims were black.”
Of course that’s only the lynching part. That doesn’t include the untallied deaths by gunfire, beatings, knifings, not the burned out homes, or lynchings in the woods that were never found, nor any of the rest of mob violence.
Now it’s one thing to be critical of a black president on grounds of his too liberal stance on immigration and failure to enforce America’s borders. Or picking a war with Syria, or failing America at Benghazi, or making another pass at gun control.
Yet President Obama is held up, in much of the South as an example: But Barrack Obama doesn’t represent all black people any more than Jimmy Carter represents all white people.
My point this morning is this: The Popular Delusion in America persists that the Civil War is over.
The evidence argues that the Civil War did not end with a “peace.” Only an armistice; just like the Korean War ended – a cease-fire but not a durable and lasting peace. No deep reconciliation.
Most of the year we enjoy our digs here in the East Texas Outback. However our labeling of this place as the “outback” is very honest, indeed. You may wish to read on the massacres in Australia’s frontier wars – events that killed hundreds of aboriginals there.
Roots of such tragedies run deep. They’re still alive today.
Every time a racist email is forwarded, a stereotype invoked, a slang word repeated, jokes based on race, or equality denied, the real Reconstruction – the one of the human heart – is pushed back another year.
Around here, all souls weigh the same. We don’t generally talk about core beliefs much, here in what’s left of America. Our interests run more to economics and being able to “keep on keeping on…”
But that, dear reader, is why today is a Holiday.
Write when you break-even,