Archive for black

He wasn’t the Lone Ranger — but you should still know about Bass Reeves

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2021 by macmystery
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.
Bass Reeves was the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi.

It’s been a rough weekend and a rough day.

After a week that saw the world lose some musical heroes of mine — Don Everly, Charlie Watts and the Storyteller, Tom T. Hall — things got worse at week’s end.

A high school coach who left a big footprint locally died of COVID. He was 57 and a better man than a coach. and that’s saying something because he was a helluva coach.

Circumstances prevented us from being close. But I liked and respected him, and he liked and respected me, I believe.

I think the COVID surge is starting to wear me down. The mess in Afghanistan and Hurricane Ida in New Orleans is taking a toll, as well. I just don’t have an effective escape in place when the events of the day start to pile up. Mental health is a thing. I’d like to say I was managing it better.

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of the day reading. And I’ve come across a couple of real gems today (I say today … it’s now almost 2 a.m. on Monday).

Late tonight, I happened on this jewel: The Resurrection of Bass Reeves. It’s from the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly, referred to by itself as “The National Magazine of Texas.”

The Facebook link to the story sucks you in by intimating that Bass Reeves, the first Black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi, may have been the real-life inspiration for The Lone Ranger.

I don’t want to disclose too much of the story. My hope is that you’ll read it. Suffice it to say, however, that I had never heard of Reeves before tonight (or this morning). And that was my loss.

Like too many Black Americans and Black towns and Black communities, their stories have been lost, for reasons both sinister and innocent. But it appears Reeves’ story may have escaped the fate of many others and might reach the mainstream. In recent years, there have been multiple books and a handful of movies produced, or on their way to production.

For the record, Reeves’ resume holds up next to the Old West lawmen we’ve read about or seen in movies for the past 100 years — Earp, Masterson, Hickok, etc. He is said to have arrested more than 3,000 criminals — white, Black and Native American — in his time as a U.S. Marshal in Oklahoma.

And another thing that makes the story great. As you watch the story’s main protagonist dig up the history surrounding Reeves, you learn about that man’s story, as well.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead take my advice, and read it for yourself.

np: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; The Soul & The Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck; Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl; and 52nd Street by Billy Joel

An anthem and a beating: The irony of a shared date

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2019 by macmystery

I watched no TV today so I have no idea if I missed anyone else making this connection. I didn’t see it on social media. Maybe I’m the only one who finds it ironic.

On this day, March 3, in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially made Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner the national anthem of the United States.

Sixty years later in 1991, George Holliday’s 89-second video captured Rodney King’s brutal beating at the hands of four Los Angeles Police Department officers on the side of California State Route 210.

Thanks to Colin Kaepernick, these two totally unrelated moments in American history will be forever linked.

The first viral video somehow wasn’t enough to convict the four LAPD officers, at least initially, of excessive force. (2 of the 4 were later convicted on federal charges.)

And the King beating wasn’t the first time a black citizen (I am making no statement about King’s innocence or guilt.) has been mistreated by police, to put it lightly. But it was one of the few times, thanks to the video, the whole world could witness it.

It was also the moment when I realized the people I’d been taught all my life were the good guys, the people you could always trust, … well, they weren’t always what we were led to believe.

I never feared the police. If I passed an officer on the road, if I wasn’t speeding, I thought nothing of it. My friend Tyrone Walker once told me, though, that anytime a cop was even behind him on the road, he was afraid. And it took me a while to comprehend where Tyrone, a black man, was coming from. But I did. If I hadn’t, I would have gained some insight two summers ago.

I was pulled over by a white Beaufort police officer driving my boss’ truck for work. I was going 45 in a 35, and as it turns out, had an expired tag and no current registration or proof of insurance. And a truck full of equipment I couldn’t prove was mine.

No ticket.

Not even for the speeding. A warning.

I’ve no doubt if I were black, I’d have spent some time face down on the pavement in cuffs. I know why.

There’s a bullshit double standard in this country.

The King video obviously didn’t stop bad behavior by law enforcement. It was just the first in a long line of videos and accounts of police misconduct when it comes to black citizens and motorists. Often they end up shot dead. And usually, no one is held accountable.

Just this week, the Sacramento police officers who killed a black man in his grandmother’s yard for talking on a cell phone found out they would not be charged with a crime.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a white mayor opened fire on police but was taken into custody without any violence.

I honestly had no intention of being this long winded, just pointing out the connection between two events, 60 years apart, on the same date. But thinking about it, I’ve found it’s one more thing about our society that seems upside down to me.

The decision by Kaepernick and others to kneel during the anthem to protest this continued mistreatment of black American citizens offended some people. Despite a clear definition of what they were protesting and a clear right to do so, some insist on seeing it as a slight on the military. (Never mind the issue some of these folks have with color.)

Fine. Have it your way. Be offended.

I’m offended more supposedly good people don’t give a damn about American citizens being beaten or shot to death by the very people paid to serve and protect them, simply for the color of their skin.