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Perhaps We can Still Avoid
The Third Civil War

By David Truskoff

10 March, 2007

March 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 reflection.

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 Racist stupor.

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 too deep.

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 slumlord apartments.

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 natives quiet.

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 possible.

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 Black.

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.


David Truskoff


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