"This is about justice."
February 19, 2015 1:58 PM   Subscribe

East Texas town fights attempts to commemorate the 1910 Slocum Massacre. Fort Worth writer E.R. Bills' book on the Slocum Massacre adds momentum to the decades-long push by survivors to have it acknowledged and memorialized.

Dissident Voice entry on the Slocum Massacre, which includes more detail.

Should Texas Remember or Forget the Slocum Massacre?

Related:
Longview Race Riot of 1919

Beaumont Riot of 1943
posted by emjaybee (31 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bills and Hollie-Jawaid’s first big break came in 2011 when then-State Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth sponsored a resolution, which the Texas Legislature approved, acknowledging the atrocity.

“Racial tensions ran high in Slocum,” Veasey said at the time. “It was an unfortunate occurrence that went unnoticed in Texas history for many years.”

A week after the resolution passed, the Anderson County Commissioners Court raised the Confederate flag over their courthouse for the first time since 2001, citing a recently proclaimed countywide Confederate History and Heritage Month.

posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


God I hate people sometimes.
posted by notsnot at 2:17 PM on February 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wow, if you wrote people like Jimmy Odom and Greg Chapin into a fictional story set in 2015, people would complain that they're heavy-handed, unrealistic caricatures.

The quote from Bills' at the start of the story is spot on: Set your watch back few decades when dealing with the people in that town. Christ.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jimmy Ray Odem/Odom sounds like a racist, lying sack of shit. From the Weekly:
Odom told Fort Worth Weekly he has been unfairly depicted by Bills and Hollie-Jawaid. The marker application, he said, was full of mistakes and lacked clarity. It was then-commission chair Norris White who decided last October to postpone consideration of the application, Odom said.

“They thought we would [rubber] stamp this, but we have to make sure the application is adequate for the marker,” he said. “It was not clear as to what they actually wanted. If you asked what they wanted you couldn't find it in the application. Did they want it just recognized? It wasn't clear to us. You don’t guesswork a history marker.”
And from TPR:
“There was no race riot to start with. It was just personal things between the blacks and the whites. It didn't fall in the line that just because you’re black I’m against you and all that. They just want a marker that shows something happened there and they killed blacks and got away with it.”
Greg Chapin sounds like a pretty nasty piece of work, too.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:21 PM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: You don’t guesswork a history marker.
posted by nevercalm at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2015


Sounds like how Oklahoma tried to bury the past on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2015


You go to Germany and there are memorials and big ways to face and acknowledge the Holocaust. Then you come to America, built on the genocide of one race and the enslavement of another, and it's just silence and cowardice. Disturbing is what it is.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:58 PM on February 19, 2015 [25 favorites]


But but but we've fixed racism! Black president! It couldn't have been a race riot some 90 years ago!

Good to know that some brave Texans are standing up against the entrenched shit-kickers and pig-fuckers of rural white power. Reconciliation takes truth, even if it is the truth that your pappy who ran the ice cream social and donated to the church also fucking murdered people because they were black. (Personal reasons my ass — by some holy coincidence it just happened that every asshole who needed killing in town was black?)
posted by klangklangston at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


You go to Germany and there are memorials and big ways to face and acknowledge the Holocaust. Then you come to America, built on the genocide of one race and the enslavement of another, and it's just silence and cowardice. Disturbing is what it is.

I think maybe America is afraid that if they confronted their racist history head-on there might just be another civil war because half or more of the country will just be like be "Hell Yeah racism!". So instead everyone just tip-toes around trying not to light any fuse.
posted by srboisvert at 3:18 PM on February 19, 2015 [12 favorites]


Wow, if you wrote people like Jimmy Odom and Greg Chapin into a fictional story set in 2015, people would complain that they're heavy-handed, unrealistic caricatures.

Unless you've spent a lot of time in certain parts of the south. I'm not saying it's like that everywhere, but there are certainly still pockets of it.

I've been thinking about this a lot just because of how much Chris Kyle has been in the media and has been fodder for public discussion. There are, of course, people who think he's a hero, and then there are those who see him as gleefully exterminating Iraqis, Muslims, etc. That, of course, is racist, and the people who criticize that racism seem surprised that it (still) exists.

I'm in that latter camp, by the way -- minus the surprise -- and I don't think he's a hero for doing what he did. But when people express even a little bit of surprise at his attitude towards and view of those he targeted (let's just go ahead and broaden the category to brown people), I'm like, really? This surprises you? Do you not see it everywhere around you? Do you think it can only exist in the South? Of COURSE he sees the world as white (him/us) vs. other (them). That is where we grew up. That is how he grew up. He stayed there, in a culture that does not readily correct that attitude, and in fact rewards it and the machismo that comes with it. Why and how would his attitude towards race ever change?

I say "that is where we grew up" because that is where I grew up too. He was a year behind me in high school. My parents still live in that town. The town has grown exponentially over the past decade or so. When I graduated from high school, population was 4,400. It just hit 20,000. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a different place now. It's also a much more racially diverse place (by comparison, I mean; not saying it's actually diverse in any real way). And that scares the shit out of people who have been there for a long time. Those are the people I still know. The fact that there are now black faces in the new-ish Walmart is a really big deal, and it's something they talk about. Slocum is about two hours away from there, and is quite a bit smaller, but I don't think there's much of a cultural difference between the two places. One's just more suburban (though only recently).

What's changed since civil rights movement and the supposed burial of Jim Crow isn't people's attitudes -- it's that they know now that it's not always acceptable to share those thoughts and opinions. It stays more beneath the surface now, but it is in no way gone. They talk about the black people in the Walmart when they get home. It is an issue for them. It is something that makes them consider leaving. And I hate to think this about the people I know there, but a lot of them might still take that tamped-down hatred and turn it into a searing look like the Slocum cowboys gave Ms. Hollie-Jawaid -- or much worse.

I know we've made progress in this country, but holy hell we are nowhere near having solved the problem, and we aren't even that far away from how things must have felt in Slocum in 1910. To be honest, that kind of sub rosa racism seems every bit as dangerous to me, if not more so, than the in-your-face variety from earlier in the 20th century. It's harder to avoid what you can't see.

I don't know how to fix any of that, and I hope I don't sound like I'm excusing any of it. This shit is why I continue to make the difficult choice of living 2,000 miles away from my family. I love them, my family, but I just can't live there, because any time I'm there I can't *not* feel that underlying tension and hatred.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:39 PM on February 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


It seems odd to me that modern-day white supremacists would care enough to go to the effort to block a plaque in a town of 250 people about something that happened 100 years ago. But the truth of lynchings and massacres like this really is threatening to modern white supremacy. It's harder to buy the lie that African Americans are poor because they are lazy if you know that their wealth was seized by whites using violence in places throughout the United States. It's harder to buy the lie that African Americans live in dangerous inner-city neighborhoods because they like living that way if you know that they were chased out of many places under threat of violence and kept out of many others using legal and illegal methods, many of which are still used today.

Now, whether the Slocum elected officials are aware of this and consciously trying to cover it up, or just acting from a general bias toward white supremacy, I don't know. But the truth has power, and bravo to Bills and Hollie-Jawaid for fighting to make it known.
posted by burden at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2015 [9 favorites]


There are, of course, people who think he's a hero, and then there are those who see him as gleefully exterminating Iraqis, Muslims, etc. That, of course, is racist,

As I understand it Kyle bragged about killing looters during Katrina so you don't have to broaden the categories. He's already done it for you because you know he's talking about Americans, specifically black Americans.
posted by rdr at 3:48 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


You go to Germany and there are memorials and big ways to face and acknowledge the Holocaust. Then you come to America, built on the genocide of one race and the enslavement of another, and it's just silence and cowardice. Disturbing is what it is.

History is written by the winners. The Nazis got their asses kicked and thrown out of power. American Racists are still in power in many jurisdictions, some as large as Texas.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:38 PM on February 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


I know some folks from Longview Texas with that bullshit sub rosa racism going on. They are distant family by marriage and when visiting Colorado the first time I met them, they slowly started dog whistling about blacks and Mexicans and complaining about Obama without any specifics. It was interesting how much they could communicate without coming out and saying it.

I didn't let them crawl all the way out of the woodwork before and doing that thing where you shut someone down with a flurry of opinions without directly calling them out and they changed the subject to family layabouts. It's always uncomfortable to have someone try to "suss out" your prejudices and usually the subtle racist types are easily flustered because their beliefs are so tenuous and they realize they are increasingly unacceptable.
posted by aydeejones at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2015


Great, another to add to the list of white mobs attacking Black communites. AKA "How the USA took care of Black communities and Black political involvement prior to redlining":
- New Orleans & Memphis (1866)
- Opeousas, Camilla, (1868)
- Laurens & Eutaw (1870)
- Meridian (1871)
- Colfax (1873)
- Vicksburg (1874) (very hard to find a singular source of information)
- Yazoo City (1875)
- South Carolina was a bad place to be in 1876
- Thibodaux (1887) (initiated by a district judge!)
-
Phoenix & Wilmington (it is probably more appropriate to describe that one as the largest incidence of mass treason since the Civil War) (1898)
- Atlanta (1906)
- Springfield (1908)
- Slolcum (1910)
- East St. Louis, Chester, & Houston (1917)
- Philadelphia (1918)
- The Red Summer (1919) - more than three dozen cities
- Ocoee (1920)
- Tulsa (1921)
- Rosewood (1923)
- Beaumont (1943)
- Detroit (1943)
- West Elsdon, Chicago (1946)
- Fernwood Park, Chicago (1946)

It is often difficult to find details on many of these riots and massacres due to the mixture of historic suppression of the facts combined with the fact there were so damn many. This is outside the systematic oppression perpetuated by white supremacist groups throughout history or the continuous Reconstruction Era violence that occurred prior to the Jim Crow laws. Or the mobs that formed around lynching parties that often attacked whatever Black person they could get their hands on in addition to their originally intended victims.

Those are just the riots targeting Black communities post-Civil War. Other races haven't been exempt. Note the largest mass lynching in the US happened to 18 Chinese immigrants during a white-on-Chinese-American riot in 1871. And yet when the media says "race riot" they mean "Ferguson".
posted by schroedinger at 6:12 PM on February 19, 2015 [17 favorites]


schroedinger, what got me about this story is that the victims' descendants are asking for so little. A plaque, a marker. That's all. When by all rights they are owed back both those properties and restitution too, which I doubt they will ever see.
posted by emjaybee at 6:32 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


To acknowledge that the plaque can exist acknowledges that they could be owed properties and restitution.
posted by wotsac at 7:24 PM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


We should not be a nation of placards.
posted by clavdivs at 8:02 PM on February 19, 2015


I appreciate the details about the Slocum massacre provided in the second link, though I was a little puzzled by the author's seeming...chip on his shoulder?...that Rosewood is better known. I agree that Slocum deserves to be just as well known. Rosewood was also a covered-up, obscured, and largely forgotten massacre until 1994, when survivors sued the state of Florida for reparations.

All of the racist massacres that schroedinger linked to, and all the ones that we don't even know about yet -- they all deserve to be known and their weight felt. They all need spotlights shined on them. How do we push for support for academic research, journalism, for book publishers to put out books, for more momentum?

In the case of Rosewood, Mike D'Orso wrote this thoughtful piece for the Virginian-Pilot about his decision to write "Like Judgement Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood," being part of the "media feeding frenzy" around the story, and his mixed feelings about the film (which was not based on his book).
posted by desuetude at 8:21 AM on February 20, 2015


From the article:
As the book recounts, the exact cause of the mass killing of unarmed black men, women, and children over three days has never been clear.
While the exact cause(s) might never be known, I can't help but think that there's a bit of a hint a few paragraphs later when he mentions that one of the people killed in the massacre included a freed slave who had amassed 700 acres of farmland and his son who developed it into one of the largest farms in the area. Recall also that the Tulsa race riot basically razed a neighborhood known as the "Black Wall Street". And that the community of Rosewood had a bunch of businesses and even a local baseball team. These weren't slums and shantytowns that were being burned to the ground. These were the beginnings of a prosperity that was clearly intolerable to the neighboring racists.

Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the point that the lack of wealth among African-Americans isn't just some accident of history or evidence of fundamental character flaws. There were deliberate campaigns to prevent blacks from acquiring wealth (like red-lining) as well as these massacres that took away whatever wealth they did manage to acquire.
posted by mhum at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, though the tragedy of the '68 Detroit riots was that it started with poor black people attacking the middle class black businesses in their neighborhood after the raid of a blind pig there. The initial fuckup from the cops was to not step in because hey, blacks on blacks who cares? (Then when they did step in, they made it a race riot by specifically murdering black people, including abducting and torturing them.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2015


Klang, you mean the 1967 Detroit riots.
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's the shitty thing about race riots. These days "race riots" is shorthand for underprivileged POC communities--usually Black communities--lashing out in frustration and anger. But those riots did not appear in number until mid-century. Up until then race riots were pretty much defined by white people smashing POC communities apart (with a few not-Irish whites against the Irish for good measure), generally motivated by wealth accumulated within the POC communities and fear that "they" were stealing "our" jobs . So while these days you hear people cluck-clucking their tongues about those terrible blacks destroying their own neighborhoods, they don't understand that the rage and oppression those riots are borne from come straight from a century-long campaign of brutal violence and destruction of what wealth Black communities were actually able to accumulate.

I would be surprised if many Americans even knew about these White race riots, outside of perhaps hearing about an especially large lynching party here or there.
posted by schroedinger at 7:37 PM on February 20, 2015


These weren't slums and shantytowns that were being burned to the ground. These were the beginnings of a prosperity that was clearly intolerable to the neighboring racists.

I just want to emphasize this. If you go through the stories of the list I made above the same themes arises again and again:

- The murder of Black politicians and community leaders
- The indiscriminate destruction of Black businesses and homes
- Subsequent emigration of Black residents from the community, followed by white residents taking what they left behind (and was still intact after the riots).
- The total lack of punishment for the perpetrators. The only time I read about any punishments was in white-on-white riots.
posted by schroedinger at 7:42 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Klang, you mean the 1967 Detroit riots."

Yer right, yeesh. Musta fuzed them in my brain with the '68 MLK riots that happened everywhere but Detroit.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 PM on February 20, 2015


"The initial fuckup from the cops was to not step in because hey, blacks on blacks who cares..."

Is this when and just after the blind pig was raided or say 12-18 hours after.
Also, the use of military equipment used and Romney telling LBJ " fuq that, you declare a state of insurrection"
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 PM on February 20, 2015


Right after, as far as I understand it. I thought by 12/18 hours later the DPD had come to bust heads but had too much mob to handle.
posted by klangklangston at 3:06 AM on February 21, 2015


"They expected a few revelers inside, but instead found a party of 82 black people celebrating the return of two local GIs from the Vietnam War. The police decided to detain everyone present."
From wiki page
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 AM on February 21, 2015


Yeah, and then they left as people started smashing up businesses and looting.
posted by klangklangston at 12:39 PM on February 21, 2015


Yup.
posted by clavdivs at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2015


I posit looting then smashing as they are not mutually exclusive.
posted by clavdivs at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


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