Monday, July 28, 2008

Deep Thoughts From Robert Stacy Mccain

Self-described author, bon vivant and raconteur.

I am not justifying anything. I was trying to make two major points:

1. Till was not killed merely for "whistling at a white woman." That phrase has attached itself to Till's name, suggesting that he was killed as the result of some casual encounter on the street -- which is simply not true.

2. Till's killers were the husband and brother-in-law of the woman whom Till insulted. It wasn't the Klan. It wasn't a racist mob. It wasn't some evil redneck sheriff. This was a personal crime, rather than a public crime.

To repeat what I have said in earlier posts: Emmett Till was not killed at random for the crime of being black. He was not hanged on the public square for advocating nonviolent social change. He was kidnapped and murdered by two men who felt that he had personally wronged them.

The point here is not to provide a "justification" for this crime. Rather, the point is to say that the meaning of Till's death has been distorted by propagandists who wish to use Emmett Till as a symbol of civil rights. I am saying that the facts of the case simply do not support that interpretation. While the acquittal of Till's killers said something about the unfairness of the criminal justice system in Mississippi, Till's death itself did not exemplify the values which some have attributed to it.

Was Emmett Till wrongly murdered? Of course. But thousands of Americans are murdered every year. Being a victim of murder, however, does not qualify one for sainthood.

Till's mother said her son was a "sacrificial lamb." But this construction wrongly imputes innocence and religious purpose to the victim. Till was not innocent. He was not merely walking down the street one day, selected at random, and killed simply because he was black. Till in fact was killed in response to his own action, by two men whose interest in him was specific and personal. Emmett Till was not killed while sitting in at a Woolworth's lunch counter or marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge or engaged in any other act of civil disobedience. Emmett Till was not killed as the result of his quest for civil rights, unless you consider insulting women to be a civil right.

The horrific nature of Emmett Till's death -- kidnapped at gunpoint rom his relative's home in the dark of night, tortured and murdered -- is not at issue. What is at issue is whether Till was a hero or martyr. Given the circumstances, I find it impossible to consider him such, and question whether any other rational person could do so.