I wrote this on November 16th but was hesitant to post it due to recent comments on this blog that reeked of racism and a general distaste for addressing white privilege. Upon revisiting it, I decided it is better published than sitting in our draft box.
Two articles on my reading list this morning brought me back to the Civil Rights Era in American History. First, Latoya Peterson at Racialicious did a great review of Condoleezza Rice’s new book Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. Peterson highlighted Rice’s lucid details of the salient threats of violence that ravaged Alabama at this time, while also questioning Rice’s foreign policy more recently.
Then, my attention was brought to Robbie Brown of the New York Times, who reported yesterday that Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler finally plead guilty to his “fatal shooting” of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old civil rights activist, in 1965. Fowler considers the shooting self-defense rather than murder. While I write a lot about race in US culture, both articles served as a reminder of how recent this struggle, this violent and contentious time, actually is in our history.
Unfortunately, I was also disappointed to hear that the 77-year-old Fowler will only be serving six months for his crime. Books like Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi and Mab Segrest’s Memoir of a Race Traitor have painted a picture of violence in the South in recent history, framing my understanding of the 1960s through 1990s. Even a short article, the aforementioned review of Rice’s book, for example, provides enough information about the imbalance of power between white folks and Black folks circa Civil Rights. Knowing this, it is unsettling and terrifying to think that this murder is reprimanded by a mere six months in prison, and forty-five years after the fact at that. But I am not alone in this opinion, as Brown reports, “The Perry County commissioner, Albert Turner Jr., told the Anniston newspaper that the agreement was ‘a slap in the face of the people of this county.'”
Thankfully, Brown closes the article on a more hopeful note:
But John Fleming, the Anniston Star reporter to whom Mr. Fowler confessed, said the plea had brought “an appropriate end” to the case for a region still grappling with its civil rights history. “One thing we’ve never experienced in the South is anything close to a truth and reconciliation commission,” he said. “What happened today was a moment of that experience.”
— Kate Wadkins