When I heard about Breonna Taylor’s murderers evading justice with a minor charge of endangering white people, I was reading about 23-year-old Claude Neal: “…perhaps the single worst act of torture and execution in twentieth-century America occurred in the panhandle town of Marianna, Florida, a farm settlement halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee.”
When I was standing in line to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, I was reading about Ida Mae voting the first time in her life at a Chicago fire station in 1940 after migrating north. She and millions of other black migrants from Jim Crow South voted for President Roosevelt.
When I witnessed thousands of white people march safely, some with assault rifles, impervious and invulnerable, screaming into the faces of police, I was reading this: “Contrary to modern-day assumptions, for much of the history of the United States—from the Draft Riots of the 1860s to the violence over desegregation a century later—riots were often carried out by disaffected whites against groups perceived as threats to their survival. Thus riots would become to the North what lynchings were to the South, each a display of uncontained rage by put-upon people directed toward the scapegoats of their condition. Nearly every big northern city experienced one or more during the twentieth century.”
When I got my hard and digital copies of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land, I was reading about how in 1996 Ida Mae voted for “…a young constitutional lawyer and community activist from Hyde Park ran for the Illinois State Senate seat in District 13…” and hoping like hell she made it to see him as president—then bawling like a baby in the wee hours of the morning the other night when I read the afterword.
When I heard that Rand Paul held up an anti-lynching bill, I was reading this: “Between 1882 and 1930, vigilantes in Florida lynched 266 black people, more than any other state, so many, in fact, that, after white men killed a black man with a hatchet one day, a newspaper could smugly and correctly report, ‘It is safe to predict that nothing would be done about it.'”
When I was reading about Sheriff Willis McCall and the legion of police and government officials throughout the north and south allowing white people to regularly brutalize and murder black people without repercussions, I was thinking of how AG Barr and most of the other Republicans repeatedly continue to deny systemic racism in 2020. I was thinking of how Barr and the Trump administration executed ten men in 2020 including Brandon Bernard and how they believe they have the authority to execute people ‘by hanging’. I was thinking of this when Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot three BLM-Civil Rights protestors then got praised with six-digit crowdfunding by Christians and Republicans in congress and across the country. I was thinking about this when seeing video after video of police brutality this past year and every year before that. I was thinking about this when prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle dismiss DEFUND THE POLICE. I was thinking about this when I see white people lauded as new millionaires for their thriving marijuana business while black people sit in jail for their dime bags. I think about this each and every time a white person opens their mouth against Kamala Harris and the squad. I think about this when I hear Google fired Timnit Gebru because of her criticisms on dangerous algorithmic biases in tech. I think about this every time Trump and Republicans open their mouths. I think about this every time Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito write, overturn or uphold their horrible rulings—I think about this every time Sonia Sotomayor calls them on it. I think about this when I see that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ quote ‘To be president, Obama had to be scholarly, intelligent, president of Harvard law review, the product of some of our greatest educational institutions, and capable of talking to two different worlds. Donald Trump had to be rich and white. That’s the difference.’ And on and on and on ad nauseam infinitum.
Wilkerson breathes life into her subjects bringing them and the world around them alive with fear and hope. From the brutal to the beautiful, she relives the most heart wrenching moments of their lives through the history of the migration. This was a profound read and should be required reading in grade school. Caste is in the queue.