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Letter to the Editor: Race relations plagued by violent past

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

The city’s Human Relations Department has taken the initiative to open up discussions concerning race relations, which is a positive step forward. 

The first installment of this effort was held in the Council Chambers on April 11. The speaker, Ms. Bertha Todd, presented a detailed history of the 1898 massacre of African-Americans in the city of Wilmington by white supremacists, who were unwilling to accept the legitimately elected local Fusionist government. They organized and armed white people openly, either expelling or murdering black leaders in the city, destroying property and businesses that black people worked so hard to build after the Civil War.

Some newspapers and people continue to try to whitewash this event as a “race riot.” The was not a race riot, this was a massacre, a mini-holocaust and the only illegal coup d’tat in U.S. history. The Cape Fear River ran red with blood and was reported to be filled with black bodies. The perpetrators were not brought to justice or to a Nuremberg-like trial as they should have. No reparations were paid to the victims of destroyed property or to the descendants of murdered African-Americans. This unfortunate history has been repeated many times over the centuries, starting with the initial massacres and displacement of the First Nations.

Meanwhile, we are told to accept the white interpretation of the events which portrayed white supremacists as “heroes,” not murderers. And we need to be “reconciled” to this egregious period. For me, the red shirts (which were worn by armed white men of that period) were no different from the brown shirts of the Nazi period. The open show of arms predicted that giving in only invited bolder aggression.

I submit that when faced with such an exigency, the people who are threatened have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary. One should not be reconciled to bullying or use of brute force. Reconciliation is a myth. It can never happen in a society programmed for centuries with white supremacist ideology, unless the underlying reinforcing political-economic system is removed, restructured and substantive equality undertaken to remove all barriers of advancement to folks of color.

People of color are so far behind the finish line that unless they are brought forward to the same level as what white people currently enjoy, the term equality has no meaning.

Dr. Kim E. Koo

Rocky Mount

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