June 11, 1998
Bob Bowen, Editor
A DOWN FRONT SPECIAL
WARNING! What follows is just about as ugly as I would ever want to be. Without being overly smug or self-righteous, I really do take pride in my sense of fairness, of justice...for and among all people. In the midst of all that, however, my distinct bias (among this planet's multi-billion inhabitants) is Black Americans. That's what I was when I was born, that's what I am now; and if I were to [though I don't believe in the notion]"come back," I would want to be Black...all over again! I don't think I make a big deal out of this sense of fairness but it is an integral part of who and what I happen to be. I do believe in civil, principled behavior for and among everyone. Contradiction though it may well be, I not so humbly extend the following:
BURYING BROTHER BYRD: WHERE ARE THE REAL GANGSTERS WHEN YOU REALLY NEED THEM?
...I also have a real, impossible-to-dodge part of me that not only gets peeved and pissed, angry and outraged, but goes to the outer limit of just plain and ugly human thought and associated behavior. So to learn that one James Byrd, Jr., a Black man has been beaten, chained to the back of a Jasper, Texas truck and and dragged for a long enough distance for his head and other body parts to be separated from his torso is (to put it ever so mildly) a little bit too much. And rounding off the sordid details is the news that the identified perpetrators are known members of what is routinely called a white supremacist group. This puts everything in place. In place for what? Well, from my perspective, in place to resolve like with like.
I want to be clearly understood on this point. I am talking about more than an eye for an eye. That, oh shocked reader, would be justice. What I am calling for here is SVV: Stiff Viagra Vengeance...without explanation, apology or guilt. It has been said over the ages that there is no honor among thieves. Well, there is no shame among klansmen or white supremacists. They are the abject scum of this country's more blatant racists. And America has tolerated them and their absolute madness for entirely too long. It is both amazing and ridiculous that there is a fact-gathering Klan Watch and yet not a full fledged Klan Bomb Squad. As I write this DOWN FRONT! and eventually as you read the same, there are klansmen and their associated ilk who are drinking beer or piss (I suspect they hardly care much about the difference) in abject celebration of James Byrd's beating, death and dismemberment. They are of such a warped mentality that the blatant abuse or misuse of Black people is really no big deal. There is historical precedence for what happened in Jasper. The word describing it has gone out of favor, but not the practice itself. During more honest times, the word "lynching" was used. As noted in an earlier DOWN FRONT!, a Black man from Virginia was recently burned and then beheaded. (By the way, one of the white men accused of that crime came to court in a wheel chair and was considered to be much too sick to be tried. He was rearrested just this week after being spotted playing golf!) We're talking about 1998 not 1798 or 1898.
So here we are again revisiting the remnants of the Dred Scott Syndrome which denies any inherent rights to Blacks. And it follows that if one doesn't have the right to live in safety, death is as close as a klansman's rope or knife or...pickup truck. There's no breach of racist logic here. To them, I dare say, it always has and always will make sense. "Kill the you know what's!"
BUT I am not going to continue to flail against the obvious forces and individuals of hatred who find themselves liberally spread throughout America. Identifying and pointing the finger at "them" is relatively easy to do. What strikes me as so much more critical and yet so sadly deficient is the automatic, limp response(s) of the Black American community. We will write (yes, and that includes DOWN FRONT!) preach, pray, shout, send letters of protest, curse, bark, hold all night vigils, shake fists, stomp feet, pull hair, march or parade while singing freedom songs and protest songs...all of that and more than there is space to itemize here. BUT we will not, I say again WE WILL NOT take any semblance of retaliatory action. The spirit of revolution will be loud - in terms of decibels - and yet dormant. And as much as I am bothered by saying it, a fate all too similar to that of James Byrd will befall another Black man for the exact same reason. And the reason is not simply the evil presence of those bad news bears who comprise klan membership. Those dogs will always be around. It is not quite that simple. White men of klan and similar mentality will continue their pattern because they know that if anything, they will only have to answer to other white men for whatever they do. The Black response/reaction will be (is!) comparatively tame.
This is not to say that there won't be what we have come to label "justice." To be sure the wheels of American jurisprudence will indeed grind away from this point up to and through a media circus trial. "The System" will do its systematic thing. To be sure "justice" is what those men will get; but that is not what these same men (and their thousands of cohorts) need. In non-customary DOWN FRONT! terms, what they need is to have their asses whipped...by Black men. More specifically, three (I say again three) members of the same well known organization (the historically white KKK) should be dragged out from any of their easy-to-find meeting places, chained and dragged three times the distance the James Byrd was dragged.
Have you noticed how the expression "send a message" is worked and reworked these days? Well, here is a precise instance in which action by Black men would convey Black anger (to say nothing about courage) that even an idiot would understand. Again, as suggested some time ago in this very publication, men always know when they are treating other men fairly; and they know when they are destroying one another. And - as much as they lie about it to the contrary - men understand and accept the male reality that aggressive and destructive behavior warrants/deserves aggressive and destructive behavior. It is that cruel; it is that simple. One could label it the rule of the jungle, male immaturity, the built-in tragic flaw, the resolution of the inherently uncivilized, ad infinitum. The label hardly matters. Only the action does. Callous? Perhaps; but here callousness supports tragic reality.
As for the putative gangsters in our midst, when the deal get too close, too real, nothing happens. It was like the Los Angeles Muslims who were instructed to "Go out there and sell some ("Muhammad Speaks") papers" at the onset of the 1965 L.A. Fracas. Only now it's "Let's go out there and make us a b-a-a-a-d compact disk" But if there is to be any bloodletting, it will be for self-focused (i.e., Black on or against Black) crap like drug deals gone sour, wife or girlfriend disloyalty, questionably desirable Nike sneakers or Hilfiger duds, the right colors in the wrong part of town and other ethnic high priority items like that. In other words, if white men of the klan learn anything about the entire incident, that lesson or those lessons won't come from Black people. Blacks will simply, stoically and once again reveal our deep sorrow, hurt, disappointment and...eternal patience. But we will not confront head on. We will kick no white Aryan Nation/Brotherhood asses. Not a one. And the newly touted bad dudes of the 'hood will turn on their creative (top-of the-charts) juices and sing/talk real b-a-a-a-d about having ever ready long jimmys, conquering 40 ouncers along with bitches and ho's from the Westside...whilst in the American South, through the good offices of none so unlikely a soul as golden haired boy Dennis Rodman, another Black community weeps and moans at another Black funeral.
Sadly, it won't be just James Byrd who will be lowered into the earth and covered. He will, most unfortunately, be joined by an all too feeble, all too forgiving Black spirit. The real problem here is not simply that another coffin has been prematurely filled; but that entirely too many of us (Black men) continue to rest in peace while standing up...when we most certainly ought to be doing something else.