We can Still Avoid
The Third Civil War
By David Truskoff
10 March, 2007
7th 1965 is the day the Selma civil rights marchers were beaten trying
to march for freedom. On March 9th we re-grouped and started the historic
Selma to Montgomery Freedom March. Presidential candidates are planning
to attend this year’s anniversary celebration. They will again
embarrass most of us who made that March with their hypocritical promises
of a better America for all races.
When I wrote the book THE
SECOND CIVIL WAR it was with a great deal of emotion and yes, some tears.
I think that it is important that on this day liberals at least read
the introduction to the book.
The first time that I met
LeRoy Jerome Moton was in March of 1965, one hundred years after the
first battle of Selma. He was in his late teens, and the Messiah had
come to his hometown. The six-foot gangling youth glowed in the Messiah’s
It was all a beautiful dream.
Martin Luther King, that very articulate, internationally famous, Black
man had come to Selma Alabama to lead them to the Promised Land. LeRoy
was ready to follow no matter what the cost; no matter what sacrifice
had to be made, no matter what dangers had to be faced.
LeRoy Jerome Moton is an
intense person, but he has a smile that could turn the Wicked Witch
of the West into Mother Teresa. His very presence added to the excitement
of being part of the worlds greatest love in, the 1965 Selma March that
seemed to shake this country out of it’s one hundred year long
When ever he came marching
into town singing and laughing with a group of students behind him,
you couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement generated
by the young pied piper who walked, always, like the Alabama mud was
The last time that I saw
LeRoy we both shared a podium at the University of Hartford on Martin
Luther King day, in 1997. His hair was silver and his young son sat
in the first row of the audience. He was doing quit well. He had a good
job, nice home and he was free of the frightening grip of depression
and frustration that plagued him in the seventies and part of the eighties.
It was a joyous reunion. I was so glad to see him, but I soon learned
that his disappointment about America’s progress in ending racism
that he saw as not only alive and well, but also developing new roots
among both Blacks and Whites, was the same as my disappointment.
When students ask me the
question, what has happened to white liberals in America, and why do
they seem to be moving away from civil rights. I told them how I felt
when Jessie Jackson called New York City "Hymie Town." I felt
betrayed. If I, as a white man, called New York "Nigger Town"
I would be cast out of the society, but Jackson was not cast out. He
is still accepted in the Black community as a leader, and he has his
own TV program. I shall never forgive him, nor should anyone. If that
kind of phrase comes out of his mouth, then it is part of his thoughts.
To me he is a bigot. I do not think that Black people have ever assessed
the lasting damage that Jackson has done.
I feel obligated to tell
the students about the depth of the impact the O.J. Simpson trial had
on race relations vis-a-vis white liberal America. I had to put that
into perspective for them. I told them that in March of 1965 a Beautiful
person named Viola Liuzzo was murdered by a group of cowardly, racist
thugs as she drove along the highway in Alabama. She was on her way
to pick up freedom marchers that wanted to return to Selma Alabama from
Birmingham where the historic Civil Rights march ended.
I knew her and I knew how
proud she was to be helping Doctor King and all the young people who
she thought would get a better chance at life once segregation was defeated.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who the killers were. The
FBI. had a paid informer in the car that pulled along side of her car
and emitted the fatal shots.
The men were brought to trial
in a small segregated county in Alabama. The lawyer for the killers
blamed "Communists" for the killing. He also tried to convince
the all white jury that Leroy Moton the young black man riding with
Viola might have been the killer. The defense lawyer, Imperial Klonsel
Matt H. Murphy Jr. said, in his address to the Jury, "The nigger
is an African, and everybody knows that the African lived by the tooth
and the claw for three thousand years and never built anything on earth
more advanced than a hut with a thatched roof."
It was all a shame and a
disgrace to American jurist prudence. The killers walked out of the
courtroom free men and signed autographs as they left. Two members of
the all white jury, frightened of what the K.K.K. might do to them,
could not bring themselves to convict. But wait, I hear you saying isn’t
that awful. How could that happen in an American courtroom? Yes, the
lawyer who got them off; the racist jury and the frightened judge should
all be condemned.
Now I ask you, dear reader,
how could I not tell those students to think about what Black attorney
John Cochran did in the O.J. Simpson trial? Did he not play the same
race card? He even went so far as to have Minister Louis Farrakhan’s
body guards come into the courtroom and menacingly stare at the almost
all Black jury during the last days of the trial, just as the Klan stared
at the all white jury during the Liuzzo trial. I ask you, where is the
condemnation? Cochran is a hero in the Black community. He even has
his own TV show, as does Jessie Jackson, although I doubt if many white
liberals watch either one of them. Many liberals feel betrayed, as I
do, and many take their hidden rage into the voting booths with them.
While Black intellectuals
talk at each other, and the Black middle class seems preoccupied with
escaping Black, the rage among poor blacks increases with each passing
day, and the danger exists that when a spark ignites the rage, white
liberals will have their own rage to deal with.
It appears that most African
American people today cannot determine if they, as a group, are moving
forward or backward. In the face of present day media control it is
difficult to determine if we, as a nation, have made two steps forward
and one step back, or one step forward and two steps back. Perhaps in
the sixties we made one giant step and have been moving in inches ever
since. LeRoy had no such problem that day in 1997, his speech was full
of pessimism and anger.
The University had made up
a poster with a photo of me marching with Doctor King in Mississippi
and a picture of LeRoy taken from a newspaper article that I once wrote
about him. In the photo of me, I was standing between King and Fanny
Lou Hammer. During the question period, LeRoy was asked who the Woman
in the picture was. He did not hear the question so I stepped up, not
to answer, but to ask how many of the Black students in the audience
knew who she was. Not one replied. It was a sobering experience for
both of us. One young student finally asked if it was Oprah’s
mother. It made us realize that this second, "Me First" generation
cannot relate, or even understand those who made the great sacrifices
so they can have the education that they were receiving. In the early
sixties there were only twelve minority students in that school.
I told LeRoy that it was
normal for young people to ignore the past and to remember that we were
talking about something that happened before they were born. I told
him that he would soon have the same problem with his son as I did with
my teen-agers. Never-the-less when we parted, we promised each other
that we would do more speaking to young audiences even though neither
one of us still had the passionate fires burning. There was a time when
those of us who fought for the voting rights act felt proud of what
we had accomplished, but now the pride is gone.
Recently, I went to down
town Hartford Connecticut to hear a Black politician speak. I heard
her say all the things that I said many years ago. There was, however,
a major difference. She did not tell the people, who desperately needed
decent housing for their families, to go home and get their blankets
and pillows and camp inside of city hall until housing was found. We
did that in Waterbury Connecticut in 1968. Oh, wasn’t that a special
time? I shall never forget the look on the mayor’s face when he
arrived to find dozens of kids running up and down the marble stairs.
Before the day was over, and the media could print their front page
pictures, housing was found for nearly all of the families, and no one
had to huddle in front of open ovens to keep warm, as they did in the
The African American politician
called for more jobs, better housing and better education for minorities.
She never said a word about how to achieve those goals. She simply demanded
them. The audience applauded and I walked out. Too many times, people
my age have heard the demagogues present to new young audiences that
six-word combination that will cure everyone’s problem. "Vote
for me . . . Give me money"
At my age those speeches
become a kind of pornography, obscene acts by opportunists. Young people
are always susceptible. As Thoreau once said, "Every generation
laughs at the old, but follows religiously the new."
I must admit that after listening
to the politician’s speech, I went home in a very depressed mood
and decided to re-read the old LeRoy manuscript and at the same time
I played some of the tapes that the manuscript is drawn from. I heard
LeRoy’s young voice, and some of the singing. Tears came to my
eyes. Have we gone forward or backward? I asked myself.
The political speech that
I heard was given in the heart of the ghetto. There, the housing problem
is much worse than it was thirty years ago: There, the schools are more
segregated than they were thirty years ago. There, the isolation is
worse than it was thirty years ago. (Bypass highways have been built
so the suburbanites do not even have to see the city as they drive to
work and into their parking lots). There, crime is much worse than it
was thirty years ago, and the lack of leadership is much worse than
it was thirty years ago.
Today, Old "Uncle Tom"
has been transformed. He is no longer the preacher who fronted for the
slumlords or the city hall employee who was counted on to deliver the
"Darkie’s" vote. No, today it is the Black politician
who is counted on by the white chamber of commerce to keep the restless
I ask you, dear reader, to
honestly, without the uses of any rose colored glasses, evaluate America
now. Ask yourself are we moving ahead or are we moving one step forward
and two steps back. Is there a city in American where there is an African
American structure (Mayor, police chief) and the majority of Blacks
in that city are better off today than they were thirty years ago? Chicago?
Detroit? Hartford? Newark? New York? Los Angeles? Have the cities been
turned over to Blacks only after the living sections of the cities have
become worthless property and walled off while the Malls and the office
buildings remain white owned?
In Hartford Connecticut there
are only two major chain super markets in the entire town and both are
close to the outskirts. Some women have to take two buses to do their
food shopping. Most of the white owned business fled to the suburbs
and the malls following the riots of 1969. They were right behind the
exodus out of the cities of the white homeowners. The same thing happened
to many towns in America, and like Hartford, they never recovered. The
tax base continues to dwindle as companies move out to business malls
What was the Los Angeles
Riot really about? Most Americans, Black and White were appalled by
the pictures of the beating of mister King, but after learning about
Kings actions preceding the arrest, they were willing to simply rationalize
it away and say a Pox on both the police and King. On talk shows and
in letters to the editors many said simply that the riots were uncalled
for. There was little understanding of the combustible build-up that
the King beating sparked. There seems to be very little awareness of
the thickening of the wall of fear that separates the city dwellers
from the suburbanite today.
What kind of progress are
we making? Run down buildings are being left for the cities to take
over every day, punching more holes in the feeble city economies. Once
again leaderless minority people have been taken down the garden path.
A garden filled with garbage and crime. Promises are followed by more
opportunists’ promises while the frustration leads to more Black
on Black crime that has already reached terrifying proportions. I am
reminded of the old "Wobblies" song. (The Industrial Workers
Of The World) that goes, "There will be pie in the sky when you
die, that’s a lie." Once again tomorrow has slipped away
for too many Americans.
I did not risk my life and
deprive my family so that we could replace incompetent, corrupt, opportunist,
white, politicians with incompetent, opportunist, corrupt, Black politicians.
That is not what I had in mind. I thought that we were all fighting
for a restructuring. An American perestroika that would make equality
One violent night in Mississippi
in June of 1966, a young Freedom Marcher returned to the tent after
being threatened by gun carrying hoodlums riding in a car with a swastika
on the side, and learned that his father had been killed in Vietnam.
He died fighting for free elections in Vietnam. At least that is what
he was told. Most Black people in Mississippi could not vote then. I
think that tells the entire story about the weakness of Black leadership
then and now. Blacks should have been at the head of the anti-war movement.
After all, African Americans were also a heavy load of cannon fodder.
When Doctor King finally denounced the war and merged the anti-war movement
with the civil rights movement, he became, not a civil rights leader,
but an American leader and it was then, many believe, the decision to
assassinate him was made.
Black people in the cities
are faced with another serious problem that wasn’t so prevalent
thirty years ago and that is the problem of the ghetto brain drain.
Too many Blacks that benefited from programs that others fought for
have taken their education and fled to the suburbs where they are tolerated.
Do not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing anyone for trying to create
a better environment for their families, but I am distraught by the
fact that so many forget their obligation as citizens and not only are
glad to escape the cities, but Many are still trying to escape being
It is time for all Americans
to turn away from the tube and face reality. I beg you now to join me
and look back. Remember when Blacks and Whites were joyously singing
"We Shall Overcome" and believing it before President Johnson
turned it into a political slogan? Remember when we believed that integration
was not only possible, but also workable? I ask you to remember when
we were all reaching for a better tomorrow together. Let us try to recreate
that momentum because another showdown may not be that far off and the
senseless acts of burning ones own community may be repeated. This time
Liberals may sit on their hands and watch. Surely the Los Angeles riots
of 1992 should serve as a pre-cursor of things to come if we do not
act as individuals to prevent it. I ask you to please read on, but keep
in mind; with the ever worsening world economy, the widening economic
segregation in America, and the bulging jails and the daily horror of
children shooting children in our cities, the ticking bomb may have
just a few more ticks. It is easy and comforting to look at the few
who "make it big time" playing basketball and ignore the thousands
who are forced to waste their scholarship and are thrown back on the
junk heap. "Live a dream," we are told by those promoting
the state Lotteries who want us only to see the few who win and not
the millions of desperate dreamers who spend the rent money gambling
and lose. Listen to the LEROY tapes with me and re-generate the motor.
Look Back so that we can all, once again, march forward together.
PERHAPS WE CAN STILL AVOID
THE THIRD CIVIL WAR.