From his columns, I know my father as someone who believed America thought too much of itself when it came to racial justice.
He often used his writing to remind readers that while the United States was promoting itself around the world as the land of the free, it had a lot to answer for at home. He chastised white American leaders who responded vocally to the scourge of Nazism, but were mum on “the many injustices to which Negroes of America have been subjected during the past many years.”
“Truly, the oppression of Negroes in America is of a more subtle nature than the present ruthless persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime,” he wrote, but “there are individual cases which compare remarkably well with the deeds perpetrated by proponents of the brown shirt and swastika.”
Much of that column, published in the New York Age on January 7, 1939, was devoted to an incident a few weeks prior involving a wealthy black Chicago businesswoman — Noblesse Boyd — who was racially profiled, jailed and charged with vagrancy in Indianapolis for the crime of wearing an expensive coat.
But that weekly offering also referenced lynchings, including one notorious case in which several members of a family — the Lowmans — were brutally murdered by a mob in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1926.
“It Happens Here!” was the title of that column.
And it happens still. It happened in America on June 17, 2015, when nine black women and men were gunned down during bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white supremacist who allegedly spewed racial epithets along with his bullets.
The dead are Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, and Myra Thompson, 59.
I refuse to utter this terrorist’s name or publish his photograph, as it will just give him another platform for his hatred. But photos show him wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia. His neo-Nazi and Klan inspired diatribes appear to be well documented. His terror indeed compares, as my father said, “remarkably well with the deeds perpetrated by proponents of the brown shirt and swastika.”
“It happens here,” Ebenezer Ray reminded his readers in 1939. As we approach Father’s Day 2015, I am forced to say, “Daddy, you were, and still are right.”