For us, against them — no

Published 3:35 am Sunday, December 13, 2009

During the most recent election (and the others to which I’ve been privy as editor of this paper in the last two years) folks have had the habit of getting on one of two radio stations and letting the other side have it.

Don’t misunderstand. All parties have a right to say what they want to say. That’s not the point in this. Most of the days, both stations are entertaining.

That is, unless you take either one too seriously; then the talk on the radio stations become annoying.

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Here in Selma, a couple of groups have developed this “if you are with me, then you support me all the way; you are like a robot and must speak what I want to hear. If I hear differently, then I will cut you off as comrade and friend.”

Nobody around here can keep up with the alliances drawn and dropped. Chiefly, the two groups boil down to a black one and a white one.

At times, both groups make sense. They might be wrongheaded in some views, but their arguments are sustainable.

On the other hand, when these two groups draw the line in the sand, the individuals come off half cocked, braying like a donkey in the middle of a fireworks exhibition.

Johnnie Leashore and the Bishop Fortier on 105 are particularly guilty of the drawing the circle around the wagons. They are quick to castigate good men and women for not being part of an omnibus movement in Selma to run politics the way they want.

Thus, if you are black and you oppose them, then you are a puppet of some nefarious white voting bloc that will take you and use you up.

This sounds a little bit like what Neil McMillen, a former college professor and author of “Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow,” used to call this the myth of the omnibus civil rights movement.

Indeed, historians have proven the professor correct. Most people wanted the same thing: They wanted freedom for all — to sit down and eat in a diner; to go in the front door of a physician’s office; to walk down the street and look another person in the eye; or to even walk down the sidewalk when a white person came down that sidewalk; to vote; to associate with whom they chose; to have a good quality education.

But different groups went about fighting for freedom in various ways. Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was not that of Stokley Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committed and certainly not that of Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton’s Black Panther Party.

Whites had their differences as well and did not present a front to manipulate or control politics. Many good white people lost their lives, their homes and their jobs because they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with blacks in the movement. This was evident in Philadelphia, Miss. when two white kids from New York, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, shared a makeshift grave in Olen Burrage’s dam for 42 days with a black Mississippi native, James Chaney.

Another group, the moderates, including some of the leaders of Philadelphia, shuttered their doors and kept their mouths closed, hoping the firestorm would go away. Still others like Preacher Killen, an unrepentant Klansman who helped kill the Philadelphia three, thought violence would preserve a way of life.

We are not all one people. Building community can’t be achieved by bullying people.

It’s so disappointing to see human beings move from standing on street corners with shotguns or standing on roofs of homes (like the Deacons for Defense) to protect their homes, to grabbing microphones and hurling words like bombs lighted with half truths and threats on both sides.

Leesha Faulkner is editor of The Selma Times-Journal. She may be reached at 410-1730 or e-mail her at