A young boy hustled along his short cut to get his papers delivered on time. Almost blind to his surroundings, he jogged with his head down. His feet were on automatic pilot. As he entered the last clearing on the trail he looked up to see the partially clad, dead body of a black man still hanging from a tree. Aghast and shocked by the sight he didn't actually stop very long. At first a gag reflex was triggered, and then he lunged towards some near by bushes to free his stomach from his early breakfast. He would never forget the horrific scene and the smell of death in that place. The year was 1939 and pre-teen boy's innocence was shattered. What an introduction to the adult world!
The young man was my father, Harry R. Jackson, Sr. This week I was proud of the US Senators who stood up and made a bold declaration that their silence about lynching was a sin. 78 men and women repented of the Senate's failure to be a voice of protection for those who died at the hands of frenzied scoff laws who acted as judge, jury, and executioners of thousands of their fellow Americans. The Senate's resolution about lynching made me proud to be an American. Despite my thanksgiving of heart, I couldn't help thinking about the senators who did not sign the bill. I am not sure of their true reasons for not signing the resolution. I can only image that they were either ignorant, insensitive, or afraid of the political repercussions in their home districts. What a tragedy if any or all of these reasons kept one or more Senators from signing the resolution.
Let me explain my reasoning to you. A few weeks ago I stood on capital hill to support the appointment of Janice Rogers Brown to the DC Appellate Court. Over 130 black pastors joined me in supporting Brown and declaring the need for the law of the land to be applied without preference or partiality. I stood against the critical voices of other blacks because I believe in America and American justice. In my mind activist judges should not create laws; judges should simply enforce the law. Every Republican Senator stood with us and Janice Rodgers Brown was appointed.
It just does not add up to me that some of the same men who fiercely push for impartial application of the law could draw back form saying that lynching is wrong. Specifically, the inability of both senators from Mississippi to sign the resolution seemed petty in light of the huge number of blacks who were mocked, maimed, and murdered in their fair state.
I couldn't help but think that the actions like the refusal to sign a bill of apology for an obvious wrong are why so many blacks are still wary of the Republican Party. In fact Many Blacks don't know which party to trust. During the 1948 election, segregation seeking whites started a States Rights party which pulled away from the Democratic Party. This divisive group offered Strom Thurman as their first Presidential candidate. After a crushing defeat, these State's Rights leaders took their segregation doctrines and hatred into the Republican Party in the South.
The Republican Party has a real opportunity to win the support of a new generation of black voters because of its family friendly orientation and its value's base. Unfortunately, the party must do a better job of purging a racially biased segment from its ranks.
In conclusion let me state clearly that every person who was lynched deserved justice American style. They deserved more than racially based terrorism. Further, some of these murdered people were actually freedom fighters who dreamed of a better day in their beloved America. They deserve more than an apology from the Senate. They deserve a medal of honor. I am an African American who supported President Bush in '04 and believes that America needs a moral revolution. My mind went back to the movie Brave Heart in which Mel Gibson's character, William Wallace refused to give in and was "lynched". His cruel English torturers sadistically tortured him and sent his severed limbs to the four corners of their empire as a sign of their superiority. They sought to intimidate the Scottish people into submission. Instead, Wallace's death sparked a movement that could not be defeated. Civil rights martyrs will have the same affect as Wallace on the heart of America.
Let Freedom Ring!
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 23, 2005.]
Bishop Harry Jackson is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Maryland www.thehopeconnection.org. He is also chairman of High Impact Leadership Coalition www.himpactus.com, the nonprofit organization which drafted the Black Contract with America on Moral Values.