The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

Learning about Emmett Till is important, without question, but the epilogue of this is what knocked me to my knees.

a sample…

“America is still killing Emmett Till, and often for the same reasons that drove the violent segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s. Yes, some things have changed; the kind of violence that snatched Till’s life strikes only rarely. A white supremacist gunman slaughtering nine black churchgoers in a prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2014, however, reminds us that the ideology of white supremacy remains with us in its most brutal and overt forms.”

We are still killing Emmett Till, with our silence, our generalizing, our refusal to see the problem or by calling violent events a “one-off, the work of one crazy person”.

We haven’t changed as much as we like to think and we are still killing Emmett Till.

Update November 30th, 2017: This has turned out to be one of my most liked reviews on Goodreads and even though I read the book way back in January, some 400 plus books ago, this one still haunts me. The epilogue has helped me focus my lifelong search for understanding and a focus on Civil Rights then and now, especially considering the current political climate. Call me an idealist, but I’ve never understood the hatred of or the difference between races, religions, or even cultures ‘other’ than our own. We all have the same or similar dreams for our lives and children if we have them. We all cry the same tears, live through the same heartaches and disappointments, celebrate successes as they come, and even bleed the same damn color.

The ‘wrongness’ of all of this has been with me since childhood and it isn’t like it was something we discussed at the dinner table or that my parents were strongly one way or another, racist or not, if anything, growing up in a predominately white area of Southern CA and then being at UCLA during the last days of the Civil Rights area, they were somewhat isolated from all of it. (Although my mom does like to mention that she had Kareem Abdul Jabar in one of her classes, all she says is that he was really tall. Her being 5’2′ in shoes, this isn’t exactly surprising. )

It was just a vital truth that came from inside me, but being an introvert with anxiety issues, I’ve never been able to figure out how to take part and be a soldier in the change. This book helped me realize that with every act, we are all part of the change or the continuation of this. If we allow a derogatory comment to slip by without calling someone on it, we are part of the problem. If we cross the street when we see someone different, either black, seemingly mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or wearing a burka. we are part of the problem. If we aren’t willing to shake each and every hand that is put out to us, we are part of the problem. If we don’t bother to learn about different cultures, either by immersion and face to face interactions or by reading, we are part of the problem.

As basically a hermit, I read and learn constantly and that brings me a greater understanding and respect. Although sometimes I get so fired up that I feel ready to take on the world about this issue, I know that with my mental health issues that isn’t sustainable. I can be a small part, however, through my gaining of understanding and respect by my reading, by shaking every hand, by returning every smile, by speaking up or calling someone out when I see or hear an issue, and by using my words on the screen. Right now, I’m just not in a position to do more. I hope to be less of a hermit someday be able to volunteer more and be a part of larger changes.

It’s the least I can do for Emmett Till and all of those that lost and continue to lose their lives in this battle along with those continuing to suffer from all of the crap thrown at them or walls built in their way in their everyday lives. We are all the same and until every single person realizes this, we will continue to be killing Emmett Till and that’s not okay. 

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