04 August 2009


in january of 1923, the black town of rosewood, florida, was attacked and burned to the ground. several of its residents were killed, and the rest fled. you can read the historical account here. the race riot was ignored by white authorities at the time, and never appeared in history books. even the black victims were silent, fearful in a culture which could revisit that horror upon them at any time. it wasn't until 74 years later, in 1997, that director John Singleton created the film Rosewood, depicting the events leading up to, and including, the massacre.

why make note of such a vicious attack now? aren't we past all that? haven't the civil rights movement, the voting rights act of 1965, and subsequent political and economic gains made by individual black citizens put all that to rest? well, no. while it's true that rampant lynchings are no longer the norm, while it's true that blacks vote in record numbers, while it's true that individual blacks have attained positions of influence and stature in business and politics, while it's true (and about damned time) that we have a black president .......... nevertheless it remains grimly true that all racial and ethnic minorities in this country, including blacks, are subjected to systematic, institutionalized prejudice, racial profiling, economic repression, bias at every level in the criminal justice system, violence, the degradation that comes from almost believing the negativity that is heaped upon you from birth, a hard way to go at every step. the list goes on and on.

so yes, it's important to bear witness to events like Rosewood -- because it did happen, and it could happen again. scoff if you must, but i've seen too much racism in my life to think otherwise. it hasn't been that long since Rosewood, just like it hasn't been that long since Hitler. the military likes to say that "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance." that applies to race relations too.

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