A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
Feeling the Pain of History
by Wilhelmina Sims
May 17, 2002
want to share with you and your readers a poignant article that was
In May 2001 federal prosecutors convicted Thomas Blanton, 62, of the murder of the four black girls in the explosion of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.
Now, it's "Cherry Bomb's" turn.
The article chronicles the day of the explosion and the anguished, and in one case, subordinate comments of some of the residents of Birmingham a city with the nickname "BOMBINGHAM."
"All it does is stir up old things that are pretty much in the past" according to Jim Harrington, 62, a white resident of Birmingham. STIR UP THINGS? Now where have Black people heard THAT expression to our challenges of lifelong prejudice, legalized mistreatment and discrimination?? Was it when "coloreds" were sitting at the lunch counter of Woolworths! Mr. Harrington continues, "we can't get away from that in Birmingham, but this city has changed. We like it here and we don't like the rap we get from the press." Oh, and he wishes to "tell people" that Birmingham, the childhood home of Bush National Security advisor Condoleeza Rice and Alma Powell, wife of Secretary of State Colin Powell, has "paved streets" and "indoor plumbing." Thanks, I'll make a note of that. By the way, do the voting machines work there?
Discrimination is doubly damning when there is no warning and when young, innocent children are involved. When I look at the photographs, captioned at the top of the article, of those four beautiful girls, I see a Supreme Court Justice, a doctor, a teacher, a writer, a world leader, a President!!
The murder of these FOUR LITTLE GIRLS brings to me an intense anger, even if it has been long repressed. At the heart of this story is that African Americans today have such a positive self-image, an enduring appreciation of achievement, worth and avoidance of self-blame. We now recognize the persisting flaws in the United States social system. We don't have to conform to white standards anymore while maintaining our personal integrity and Black identity. We're not required to do, what you require us to do, to achieve. I wonder what "Cherry Bomb" would do NOW if one of the many intelligent, proud, prosperous, prominent African Americans in this country would walk right up to him and place a mouth full of saliva in his face!
The trial has started. Perhaps this long overdue "payback" and the previous convictions will give African Americans some sense of power and confidence, at least overtly, in the civil rights criminal justice system.
Let's not forget the patience that has been a feature to many African American responses to the pervasive discrimination that we have encountered all our lives. Let us not forget the "Pain of History."
Wilhelmina Sims, New York City
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