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A Memory of Greensboro
And the magic words that never come.
I recently provoked my friends on Facebook with the Batman vs Superman question. Who would win in a fight between the Proud Boys (and their friends) and BLM and their friends? It turned out to be more of a Marvel Universe vs DC Universe question that race geeks, like comic geeks take way too seriously. All the fun went out of the jest when one of these friends posted the following grievous memory.
The Greensboro massacre is the term for an event which took place on November 3, 1979, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Four members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) and a protester were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party (ANP) during a Death to the Klan march, organized by the CWP. The event had been preceded by inflammatory rhetoric from both sides. The CWP had originally come to Greensboro to support workers' rights activism among mostly black textile industry workers in the area. The march was a part of that larger effort. The Greensboro city police department had an informant within the KKK and ANP group who notified them that the Klan was prepared for armed violence.
No. It’s not funny. It reminded me about how deeply people are embedded in their racial world views and how little many of them can do about the shape of its psychological Kafka trap. I think of them as powerless to change the climate, and only capable of bringing their own thunderclaps of personal violence into the picture. In that regard, racial violence no matter what the cause or intent can only dig a deeper hole in certain places, especially places like Greensboro, NC.
I was in Greensboro for a conference when their Truth & Reconciliation committee was being formed, or had been formed. I happened to meet several big shots at the time including the dude who owned the newspaper, the dude who invented blogging, and the biggest left blogger in the world, Duncan Black aka Atrios, who was a class A prick. You don't have to imagine how absolutely colorstruck this town was - a lovely place but with a history that had stitched people in place for decades and generations.
I remember when my brother left LA to go live in Memphis. He said, all of the black people shuffle their feet and stare down at the sidewalk when white people walk by. He noticed it all the time - this was back around 86. At any rate, there's this deep trance of passive-aggressive behavior that bares its ferocity after a few drinks. It was mind-bendingly embarrassing to witness it in the bar after the first day’s seminars.
Since I was a speaker at the conference (the picture of me used to be my top Google hit) and am generally immune to other people's racial bullshit, I got into with with both sides. (And there are good people on both sides). I was charmed by one of the neighborhoods and a friend I met who would make a lovely neighbor - loved his family too, and for a time I actually considered making a move to be a big fish in that small pond. BUT, the colorstruck mentality was profound. There was only one good sized employer in the town with an IT staff that could possibly accommodate me. I had lived in Georgia before and there is a great deal to love about the South. I mulled it.
There was a Walgreens or Woolworth there which was the site of a sit in during the 60s. They basically made it into a shrine. A couple times I was walking through that neighborhood, you could literally hear people's voices changing getting loud and talking shit about what happened 50 years ago, and of course this massacre was on everyone's mind, bringing up reasons for this that and the other.
The college there was an HBCU and the people had that polite, even genteel overbearing paternalism that is emblematic of Southern charm. It was very pleasant to be someone who could play on both sides - but I recall speaking to a black reporter one of the few on that paper, and I just could not wish away the claustrophobia that enveloped the place. The only way out of talking about their ancient enmity was to turn the subject to South Carolina or baseball.
The sad truth, as I see it, is that certain parts of the country simply do not possess the economic means to outflank their cultural inertia. Everybody in their deepest heart of hearts wants to be free of the baggage, but they cannot afford it. I see how it drives affluent whites to desperate acts of selflessness and denial. I see how it drives affluent blacks to whinging tirades and pearl-clutching. I see how it leaves poor blacks in the same trench of self-pity, self-hatred and distrust. I don't see poor whites much at all because I'm staying at a nice hotel. I see how it anchors civility on the same tentpoles of racial struggle, mumbling and grumbling, fake smiles and covert duplicity. It makes people behave like children.
In the South, these are the coffee stains and coffee breath in every mouth. I turned my back and flew back to Southern California. It was so good to have real sushi in my mouth and LA English in my ears again, like for sure.
In the [fake] news there are tales of a [fake] debate and the punchline is that President Trump did not rise to Biden’s bait. I refuse to watch such pitiful demonstrations of Trump beating his wife and all of the racial extrapolations spewing. I recognize the childish behavior and the post-modern twist of white selfless denial and prickliness that pretends to suffer the moral burden of awaiting the magic words that banish the ghosts of white supremacy. There’s a lawyer out of Georgia named Lin Woods who has something to say about Biden’s pandering over the matter of Saint Rittenhouse, but that’s the way it goes.
Funny I remember when the Right was similarly cringing to get then Attorney General Eric Holder to say ‘radical Islam’. Remember that?
Remind me to download a copy of this video, before it goes down the memory hole.