By A. PETER BAILEY
The only speaker whose performance I watched at the Republican National Convention was former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. I mainly wanted to see the spin she would deliver to her brothers and sisters from another mother.
I actually laughed when she said although her father couldn’t take her to the local movie theatre because of Birmingham’s sternly enforced Jim Crow laws, he did convince her that if she worked hard she could one day be president of the United States.
Her brothers and sisters from another mother applauded gleefully and enthusiastically. The more hip among the over 90 per cent White audience may have even shouted: “You go, girl!”
However, it was no laughing matter to me when Rice spoke glowingly of how America had faced up to the challenge of White supremacy/racism and that, along with her hard work, led to her success. The statement reminded me of an astute response made by Kathleen Cleaver when asked about her attitude towards a book on the Black Panthers. The book, said Cleaver, was full of “whole truths, half-truths, half-lies and whole lies”.
Rice’s position that America facing up to a challenge and her hard work are the main reasons for her climb up the ladder of success is a lie that she and others of her ilk have been propagating for quite some time.
In 1963, in Rice’s hometown, Birmingham, Alabama; several thousand Black youngsters, some of them just a couple of years older than the then nine-year-old Rice, were putting their lives on the line confronting Eugene “Bull” Connor’s fire hoses and snarling police dogs. The determined children were knocked down in the streets by water from the fire hoses and some were bitten by the police dogs. Yet they refused to back down.
The headquarters for the marches and demonstrations was the 16th Street Baptist Church. On Sunday, September 15, 1963, White terrorists bombed that church and killed 11-year-old Denice McNair, and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins. That was the 21st bomb exploded by White terrorists in eight years in what became known as “Bombingham”.
That same day other White terrorists shot and killed 13-year-old Virgil Lamar Ware and the police shot and killed 16-year-old Johnny Robinson, whom they claimed refused to stop throwing stones at cars driven by White people.
That’s a total of six Black children killed in a single day by cold-blooded defenders of White supremacy/racism. It was over 30 years later before anyone was punished for those vicious crimes. Meanwhile, the federal government insisted it had no power to intervene in such cases. Eventually, it was forced to do so as photos of the attacks were shown around the world.
The whole truth is that the courage and commitment of those children and many other Black people (and a few Whites) provided the opportunity for Rice and others like her to advance their career goals.
Contrary to the misinformation they often spread, White supporters of the terrorists and others who sat by in silence as the terrorists exploded their bombs, didn’t just wake up one morning and say “We have been doing wrong in allowing racism to flourish. Now we must do the right thing.”
As journalist/historian Lerone Bennett Jr. said of President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, the country was “forced into glory” by the persistence of the opponents of racial oppression and its Cold War propaganda needs.