Monday, November 11, 2013

Mourning Reconstruction, Mourning Emmett Till

I always saw the story of Emmett Till's murder as the epitome of all Reconstruction's shortcomings.  While Southern industry made strong moves to catch up with the Northern economy, it did so by reasserting white supremacy over society.  What is worse is that the federal government, wrapped up in economic woes, westward expansion, and imperialistic development, did nothing to protect the civil rights of African Americans. 

Till's story also brings us full circle, in the sense that it raises the issue of freedom, and the way that it applies to modern America.  In the 19th century, it was clear that freedom was not an absolute right awarded to all Americans because of the number of bodies that were deemed as property by the federal government.  By 1955, the year of Till's murder, one would think that freedom would expand to all those protected by the 14th Amendment.  But it did not.  Till's violated body, that his mother insisted upon showing to the world, displays the degree to which black Americans were still not given the freedom that Reconstruction policies had promised them. 

As we leave this unit behind us, we must consider what freedom actually is.  While slavery is over, the ability of the federal government to grant equal rights to all citizens seems to be a continuing battle.  The government's conception of freedom will change in our next unit to the idea of economic equality and what happens when capitalism is in crisis. 

So why should we mourn Emmett?  In what ways does his death demonstrate the degree to which the federal government conceptualizes natural rights by the mid 20th century? What went wrong?

9 comments:

  1. I believe that we should mourn Emmett for who he was and the pivotal role that his murder played on society. When a child is murdered, it is a time to come together and help one another deal with the lose of that child. Everyone was fifteen once and can imagine themselves in Emmett's place, furthering anger towards the white supremacy groups; both from the North and African Americans alike. We also Mourn Emmett because, “ the existence of the remains and the reality of the remains connect us... to our humanity. We are not using grief to create art, but we are recognizing that art is a form of mourning, and the act of mourning... is at once an aesthetic and political act.” The action of the court demonstrates how the federal government failed. By exonerating the men who murdered Emmett, it sends a message to others like them that it is okay to kill any African American they please, with no repercussions. The white men harm an African American they perceive to have overstepped a boundary. To treat a white person as an equal is seemingly grounds for action. Not only did racial issues stop the murderers from going to jail, it was morally wrong, yet no one did anything. That was what went wrong; people overlooked horrific events because of race and not because it was right or wrong.

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  2. For me, I would definitely mourn Emmett, because I believe everybody who died innocently should be mourned. Emmett was just a boy who used to talk to a girl, but the only "difference" was that he was black and she was white. I couldn't understand they considered this as “molesting”, and I believe that happened because of racism that exist after the Reconstruction. What if Emmett was a white? Would he die if he was a white? What if a white person actually molested Carolyn? According to the result of the two murders (they were released with no guilty) and the fact that they were kind of protected, the federal government already conceptualized natural rights without actually apply those rights to people (even take them away from black people). What went wrong was that the social status of black people went lower and many people had racism against black people in common, black people lost what they used to be promised——their freedom and a better life...

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  3. We should mourn for Emmett because of how he died innocently but had an impact on society. Just because the color of their skins were different, it was immediately assumed he was molesting her. Just like everyone else, your allowed to talk to who you like, and do as you please. Just because he was black he was not allowed free will, which was the goal of abolishing slavery. If he were white, even if he did molest Carolyn, he still probably wouldn't have been killed. This also shows the harshness towards blacks. The murderers were released, kind of scary considering they could easily kill again. But as long as its a black person, they wont get in as much trouble because of the racism that seemed to increase after reconstruction.

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  4. After reading "Mourning Emmett Till," I do believe the title is correct in that we should mourn him. We should mourn Emmett because it shows how the innocence and life of one person is so easily taken away just by the color of his skin. "No matter what long bloody trail led to Emmett’s death, the boy’s body annihilates the white racist panic of miscegenation, and in a moment of shattering silence the southern lie, the chivalrous storytelling ceases to exit.” This shows exactly why Emmett should be mourned. This story of Emmett ultimately shows how much the Reconstruction era failed to do its job in creating a whole society with new perspectives on African Americans.

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  5. After reading "Mourning Emmett Till," I think we should definitely mourn for Emmett. He was just a kind boy who in the past talked to a girl, but the only difference was that he was black and she was white. Is this really fair? It should not matter what your skin color is just who you are as a person. During this reading the action of the court demonstrates how the federal government failed. Since the people who killed Emmett did not get in trouble or have any consequences they and everyone else will not learn from their mistakes. The white men harm an African American they perceive to have broken a boundary. I think they are over reacting. To treat a white person as an equal is seemingly grounds for action. That was what went wrong; people ignored horrible events that occurred because of race and not because it was right or wrong thing to do. Overall this is again not fair to the innocent black people.

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  6. We should mourn Emmett Till because the injustice done to him and his family. His death, however brutal, was a changing point in the fight for equality among the US and by realizing this I would venture to say his death was not totally in vain. Tens of thousands of people turned up to his funeral to observe the mutilated body his mother insisted by shown to the world. What really stuns me about this case is that it happened not even 2 years before both my parents were born in 1957. I think this is absolutely mind boggling that an event like this could happen around the lifetime of my parents. Even more crazy is to realize my grandparents were alive to see this. While my grandparents are a different case and were much older its still crazy to think they existed in the kind of world that can murder a 14 year old boy for speaking to a white women and not prosecute his murderers.

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  7. The "Mourning of Emmit Till" was probably one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read. I think we should mourn him because it was an innocent 14 year old boy who really did nothing wrong. His trial shows us how the federal government really didn't care about civil rights and could care less about the trial because in the south there were so many lynchings and killings of african americans. Because the men who did the crime were not punished this showed other white supremacists that they could do the same crime to someone else and get away with it. This also showed how the reconstruction era did not provide a stable life for the newly freed african americans.

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  8. There is just no explanation for things like this. For someone to take this kind of action is beyond me. Emmett symbolizes a figure of innocence murdered for no reason only due to the color of his skin. I guess freedom really isn't free. Just because you are protected by the law obviously does not mean you have the freedom to live your life without the worry of being discriminated or in this case: killed. I think we still mourn Emmett because his story is a striking example of the realization that that no matter how much our government can try to improve and protect our rights as humans, we will never be completely safe from harm.

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  9. We would mourn for emmet because his death was uncalled for, just because a black boy flirted with a white mans wit does not give the person the audacity to go and kill a child like that. Emmets murder was ruthless and disrespectful to the dead. The story of emmet lives on and it also shows that society has now changed seeing as the president is of black heritage which was deemed an inferior race

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