Saturday, March 10, 2007

"History is what we choose to remember"

This morning NPR featured a bit of American history that's been conveniently forgotten or rewritten.
I collected census data for other southern states. Tennessee. Georgia. North Carolina. Kentucky. Texas. Each time I found some counties that were either all white or populated by so few blacks as to be virtually all white. This was not what I had expected.

It was pure coincidence that, on one of the days that I was going over the census data in my office at Cox Newspapers in Washington, a woman from the Atlanta bureau was visiting. As we chatted I told her about the odd distribution of blacks in some southern states. She launched into a story about her brother, who is a cook. He had been recently hired as a chef in a restaurant in Forsyth County just outside of Atlanta. On the day she visited him there, she said the Klan was holding a rally on the courthouse lawn. She explained how all the blacks had been run out of the county around the turn of the century and had been kept out ever since. I went back to my census tables and found Forsyth County. In 1990, there were twelve blacks living in a county of over 40,000 people.



The seven-paragraph story was to the point.

"Negroes began leaving this mining town early this afternoon, following the warning issued by white residents to be out of town by 7 o'clock tonight."

I mounted another reel and found another story:

"MISSOURI MOB'S WORK, Kills Three Negroes, Burns Their Homes and Drives Every Negro Out of Pierce City."

"For nearly 15 hours, ending at noon today this town of 3,000 people has been in the hands of a mob of armed whites, determined to drive every negro from its precincts."

I had found America's racial cleansings.

Obviously, the U.S. has a history of crimes against humanity including a law on the books called the Indian Removal Act, but maybe Elliot Jaspin is differentiating between "racial cleansing" and "ethnic cleansing."

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and Wikipedia: "Ethnic cleansing as a crime under international law."
There is no formal legal definition of ethnic cleansing.[8] However, ethnic cleansing in the broad sense - the forcible deportation of a population - is defined as a crime against humanity under the statutes of both International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).[9] The gross human-rights violations integral to stricter definitions of ethnic cleansing are treated as separate crimes falling under the definitions for genocide or crimes against humanity of the statutes.[10]
My point is we're never going to get those shiny rings, are we?

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