Birthday Post: Bloody Sunday 50 Years Later

Selma MarchOn this day fifty years ago, the first Selma to Montgomery march took place. It became known as “Bloody Sunday” after the marchers were attacked by state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It is one of the iconic moments of the Civil Rights Movement. It reminds me of something I read yesterday by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Gangsters of Ferguson. In it, he wrote, “The residents of Ferguson do not have a police problem. They have a gang problem.” And that’s exactly right. But don’t expect to hear anyone say that on the nightly news.

But I’m sure you already have heard people on the television news saying roughly the same thing about the troopers and the “county posse” who committed those unconscionable acts of violence fifty years ago. By that time, the Civil Rights Movement was highly advanced, so it got covered and it outraged a lot of people. Two years earlier, I wonder. And I further wonder how today’s media would cover it. Over the last forty years, I’ve seen such a trend in this country toward accepting anything done by someone with a badge.

Future Congressman John Lewis Beaten in SelmaThere was to be no one from the Republican Congressional leadership attending the Selma fiftieth anniversary this weekend. But apparently, at the last minute, even the Republicans realized that it wouldn’t fly — that the questions would continue to be asked. So they send the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. I’ve noted this before about various attempts by the Republicans to woo minority groups. What is the point of doing anything when it is clear that you only go kicking and screaming?

With McCarthy coming, that puts the entire Republican contingent at 24. There are expected to be over a hundred members of Congress at the event. Let’s have some fun with our old friend arithmetic. That means there will be at most 24% Republicans at the event. And they represent 56% of the Congress. That means that 8% of their caucus is going and at least 32% of the Democratic caucus is going. That seems about right: a four-to-one ratio.

Edmund Pettus BridgeBut I’m glad so few Republicans are going to the event. I hate to see hypocrisy. Every time I hear some Republicans going on about Lincoln and how terrible slavery was, all I can think is, “You would have been a slavery supporter if you had lived back then.” Conservatism is a relative thing. It isn’t that modern conservatives are just smart and they would have been liberals if they had lived in the 19th century. No. It is an attitude. They are against the powerless. And that’s also true of Bloody Sunday. They would have been the ones saying, “Well, they were ordered to disperse; they got what they deserved.” So they are right to stay away now. The less hypocrisy, the better.

As for the march itself, all I can say is that those people had a lot more courage than I do. But maybe I can be forgiven. The thing about great social movements and unions is that they give us courage. The power elite since that time have gotten much better at defining dissent as unthinkable. But as we see in Ferguson, the same problems exists. And the same people are there to claim that it is nothing. African Americans would be fine if they were just “twice as good”; women would triumph if they only “leaned in”; and workers would be rewarded if they just worked like dogs without a peep. But it isn’t true. And it seems to be a constant struggle just to stand still.

But just imagine where we would be if they hadn’t succeeded fifty years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.