Calendar exposes history of racial violence, degradation that can’t be ignored
Collected in a 2024 calendar, in brutal and excruciating detail, is a litany of violence and dehumanization against people of color spanning this nation’s existence. Some incidents aren’t even that old.
Many state legislatures and governors (including Virginia’s) – howling diversionary terms like “critical race theory” and “wokeness” – wouldn’t want the information in the Equal Justice Initiative’s calendar disseminated broadly.
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Such exposure would illuminate this country’s unbridled racial hostility over centuries.
March 20, 1924: Virginia’s Eugenical Sterilization Act is signed into law.
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Readers of the nonprofit organization’s annual calendar, though, would learn just how savagely this country has treated the powerless, who often have been Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. The day-to-day bloodshed and savagery cannot be ignored.
It’s why, even today, we should all fight racial stereotypes and scapegoating.
Jan. 3, 1895: Nineteen Hopi leaders are imprisoned on Alcatraz Island for opposing government assimilation efforts.
Jan. 13, 1904: A mob of white men lynches General Lee, who’s Black, for allegedly knocking on the door of a white woman’s home in Reevesville, S.C.
The calendar recounts events of naked terrorism. They usually were committed by whites who knew they wouldn’t be punished. The capacity for hate will shock those ignorant of America’s past – and present.
The chronology also has mini-essays detailing acts of second-class treatment, lynchings of children and Black infant mortality rates.
The 1944 G.I. Bill, for example – designed to help military veterans with housing, education and jobs – left the administration of the law’s provisions to the states. That meant Southern states, especially, were free to discriminate against Black veterans and deny them a chance to improve their lives and enter the middle class.
Feb. 23, 2020: Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, is pursued and fatally shot in a south Georgia neighborhood. No one is arrested until the lack of charges sparks widespread protests nationwide.
April 6, 1892: A mob seizes Isaac Brandon from a Charles City County, Va., jail and lynches him on the courthouse lawn.
Jan. 25, 1900: Virginia Senate unanimously passes commonwealth’s first statewide racial segregation law. It requires Black and white passengers to ride in segregated train cars.
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I’m writing about the calendar produced by the Montgomery, Ala., nonprofit for two reasons:
One, folks who castigate Blacks and others for failing “to pull themselves up” should understand the multitude of actions – by legal code or common practice – that prevented racial equality in America.
Such steps were taken to promote white supremacy. They frequently occurred through extrajudicial terror or were promulgated through legislative action. Vestiges of those incidents have not been extinguished. Virginia-based Navy Federal Credit Union, for example, has the widest disparity in mortgage approval rates between white and Black borrowers of any major lender, according to a CNN analysis.
Second, the recounting is a reminder to people of color of how much they’ve achieved in this land despite the huge number of events designed to kill them, steal their property or break their spirit. The fact so many people have overcome so many obstacles is a testament to resilience – and excellence.
The calendar produced by the Equal Justice Initiative features several mini-essays, including how children – even toddlers – were lynched after the Civil War ended in 1865. (Equal Justice Initiative)
Aug. 3, 2019: A suspected white nationalist kills 23 people and injures nearly two dozen more in a mass shooting that targeted Latinos in a store in El Paso, Texas.
Oct. 6, 2009: A Louisiana justice of the peace refuses to marry an interracial couple and later admits he’d denied marriage licenses to such couples for several years.
The calendar is a history of who we have been – and what we, sadly, still grapple with. We must acknowledge those incidents and work ceaselessly to do better.