Hate, Hurt And Healing

Anne Hull: CHARLESTON, S.C. — The glow of their phones lighted up their faces in the night. Terrell White and his friends kept looking down at the updates, trying to separate rumor from conspiracy theory from actual fact. It was 9 o’clock — 24 hours after a suspected white gunman had killed nine black people at church two miles to the south — and here on King Street, the struggle to understand was underway.

“People at Bible study, hearing God’s word?” White said, shaking his head. “That’s no heart. That’s no fear.”

“That’s white America,” said Abdul Denmark, a barber at Fresh Cuts No. 2.

“Man, I wish we had some answers,” White said.

A Flower for the Graves

Eugene Patterson, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 16, 1963:

A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.

Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.

It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.

Only we can trace the truth, Southerner — you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.

We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.

We — who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

We — who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

We — who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

We — the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition — we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.

This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.

He didn’t know any better.

Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.

We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.

We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t.

We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.

Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better.

We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.

The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.

Platforms and presentations

What are your favorite non-print presentations of stories? I’m partial to reading something on paper, but most of the things I most want to read are only available to me digitally. There are some slick things out there, but sometimes it feels like the flashy presentation gets in the way of the story.

I really enjoyed the Tampa Bay Times’ comic book treatment of The Incredible Adventures of Chuck, the Carpenter. (Written by Caitlin Johnston, illustrated by Cameron Cottril)

The New York Times is doing great work, at Upshot in particular, in building interactive pieces built on data. It’s not traditional story-telling, but it ends up presenting something tailored to an individual reader. This piece was really fun to play with, comparing how different counties stack up. As was this one, that allowed people to see how their perception of the link between income and college stacked up against reality.

I’m fascinated with Fold. I played with it earlier this year, to build a digital history of the Mark Jensen case, which has played out in the courts over the past 18 years. The format let me pull in things that could never really have fit in our print product (or on our website, without being incredibly clunky).

Anybody have other links to share?

‘Always A Rotten Apple’

Thomas Lake: BB King always slept with the light on, even as an old man, because he’d never shaken his fear of the dark. One summer night when he was a boy, a tornado howled across the Delta and deposited small fish in the cotton fields and left him in his mother’s arms in a cabin without a roof.

This Friday, with another storm drenching Mississippi, King lay in his coffin between two of his guitars. The lights were on and his eyes were closed as admirers walked past for a final glimpse. Nearby, in an auxiliary building at the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, board member Allan Hammons was telling a story. He’d been with King at a funeral a few years earlier, and he said King had told him: “I want you to pay special attention to the lyrics of the lead song on my new album.”