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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Racial Justice
Trayvon Martin Case Has Roots In America's Racist Past And Present
The Trayvon Martin case has roots in America's racist past and the nation false premise that we are currently in a "post-racial" era.
Trayvon Martin Case Has Roots In The Nation's Past
By Joe Harper
As, I write my biography, the Trayvon Martin case brings back old memories of living in the Mississippi Delta in the 1960's. While we children were too young to really understand, my parents lived in a state of fear—fear for their safety, and ours.
The Trayvon Martin story, as tragic as it is, is not new to the black experience of the old south. It represents in a new variation of an old theme. It is an old story that begs us not to forget that the evils of the past do not always die in the future
As children, my mother always told my brothers and sisters to be extremely cautious and watchful, to be wary of the people who drove around the country side looking for under age and teenage blacks for sexual gratification and for cheap labor.
I remember her telling all of us this when I was 5 years old, back in 1964. She told us if we ever afraid of a stranger who drove up to run for cover. My mother told us to stay in a pack for protection and to never walk alone on the road. According to her, there had been incidents where kids were randomly snatched, beaten and molested while walking alone on gravel road. In some cases, they were never seen again.
My then 10 year old sister was walking down a gravel road one summer afternoon, heading to the well to get water for the rest of our family who were working the cotton field. As she walked along the road, a vehicle with a strange, shirtless white man drove up beside her and stopped. Looking at her with a broad sinister smile, he open the driver side door and asked her to come over to the car. She said what she saw next terrified her beyond words. The man in the car was completely naked and fondling himself. He told my he would give her a dollar to get in the car with him.
My sister, remembering what our mother had often told her, ran away and hid in the tall cotton. The man did not attempt to pursue her and he sped away. She never saw him again.
One summer evening, two of my brothers and I were walking along a blacktop road to a country store. We were between 11 and 13 years old. A man on a motor cycle roared past us as we walked long the black top road. We saw him coming and, since it was in the middle of the day, we did not think that there would be a problem. But this man passed us, turned around in the middle of the road, revved up his motor cycle engine, and charged back toward us at a high rate of speed, like a charging bull.
We all jumped into the ditch to keep from being ran over. He turned around and charged us with his motor cycle three times and then just drove off as if nothing had happened. It terrorized the out heck of us.
There was no rhyme or reason why he pursed us with the bike and I will never forget our asking each other why did he do this? What did we do to provoke his anger? Why did he want to run us over?
One Sunday evening, a white fellow stopped his car in front our house. We had never seen him before. Luckily, my father was home and he came out the house to see what this guy wanted. The man asked my father if he would consider letting him take one of my brothers with him. He told my father he would show us how to train race horses.
He said that it was good profession and we would gain more marketable skills than by staying in school and getting an education. My father told him to get away from our house, or he would help him leave.
While my father went back into the house to get some help, the guy drove off in a hurry. We never saw him again.
These are examples of the twisted mindset of disturbed people, who terrorized innocent children in own my family years ago.
The Trayvon Martin case serves as a catalyst, as I recall my own childhood experiences with racial hatred. The winds of time have slowly brought change to this country, but let not kid our selves. Recent events in Florida reinforce the fact that the strident winds of racial hatred and institutionalized injustice are still blowing, just as they did in Mississippi 50 years ago.
Joe Harper is a retired crop scientist and is the author of the forthcoming autobiography, Mississippi Memories: Life Of A Sharecropper's Son
available soon from Lulu Press on Lulu.com
joe.harper [at] hotmail.com