AN INTRODUCTION TO MY OWN IMPLICIT RACISM

November 29, 2020 Kelley Kidd. Once upon a time I was a newly minted member of the Georgia fraternity of lawyers by reason of having passed the bar exam in the summer of 1968. But I was also temporarily unemployed and restlessly searching for some means of responding to the call to action of a fallen prophet. MLK had been murdered in April and Robert Kennedy was murdered only two months later. That summer I followed the advice of a young public relations executive named George Abernathy, the younger brother of a college roommate and the one positive tie I had to the Atlanta Jaycees. His advice was to spend a few days in an odd little endeavor called The Cornerstone Project.

So I introduced myself to the three college kids who were the staff of the Project. They were from Middlebury College. Incredibly they had hustled foundation funds from several liberal foundations in Atlanta, and rented a two story house in the middle of Summerhill, an impoverished community of African Americans that occupied the residential area to the immediate West and South of the Fulton County Stadium. Simultaneously they had recruited a number of young professional workers from Lynden Johnson’s war on poverty to come from Washington agencies to stay for two weeks in that house while they learned about the successes and efforts to reduce poverty in “the City Too Busy to Hate”. These two week students/boarders were deemed “participants’; their expenses were paid by the agencies that sponsored them. The little staff worked for their own food and board. Each group consisted of four to six of each sex, virtually all of whom were whites who would have chosen to describe themselves as liberal if anyone had asked. There were few Republicans and no radicals of any stripe. They slept on bunk beds that had been obtained as gifts from the federal penitentiary near Atlanta.

In June of 1968 I spent a few days in that Cornerstone Project house. Those days were to turn into a few years. Every morning started with a group breakfast. The days usually involved doing volunteer work at a local program involved in the War on Poverty and visits to places that were funded and staffed to help the poor in one or more of the impoverished neighborhoods in South Atlanta. Evenings included another group meal and a program that usually featured some local antipoverty worker as a speaker or presenter.

One of the first such presenter was a young teacher from Atlanta University, a very dark young man who brought his baby girl with him. Aside from the dark color of his skin I remember nothing of his physical appearance except the fact that his hair was intentionally very kinky. Most of us would have said he was wearing an Afro hairstyle; it was months before I learned that his hair was as naturally kinky as mine was limp and thin on top. He talked about his education as a social scientist and historian for a while. With half of his attention on the baby and the other on his teaching of us, he was still managing to be a completely relaxed instructor of his white audience. He was in complete command of his subject and of our attention.

After awhile he informed us that he had been making up his mind about quizzing us on the subject of elementary history and sociology before moving into the esoteric subject of the history and sociology of urban poverty. Thank God he decided to give us a little test, which we would be free to review and grade afterwards. He told us the test would need us to answer certain questions in our heads silently, then we would be reviewing just as silently if we chose to do so. each person would decide hat latter issue and no one would be challenged to repeat the answers he or she had mentally given.

As well as I can remember, the questions that follow were asked by our young Black teacher one at a time slowly, so we could remember the questions and answers easily when we were done: One, who discovered America? He said he was starting with an easy one, and that it might get more difficult as we went along. Two, who was the first to discover any part of what we now call the United States? If you are unsure just mentally record the guesses or half memories you have, he said pleasantly. Three, who discovered the source of the Nile at Victoria Fall? Four, who was the first to explore what we now call Australia? Five, name one ruler of a kingdom or state south of the Sahara desert prior to the colonization of that area by Europeans. Six, name the ruler of any state in the Indian subcontinent prior to its colonization by the British. Seven, how many races are there? Eight, keeping in mind the number you believe to be most accurate, answer the following five sub-questions: what race does each of the following belong to: Yasir Arafat, Suharto, Indira Gandhi, Zapata, Lena Horne.

By the time we reached the last question, I began to see the foolishness of my earlier answers. i had mentally recorded Columbus or Leif Erikson as the answer to the first and Henry Hudson or Amerigo Vespucci for the second. For three I thought Stanley for I had read a fascinating account of Stanley search for Dr. Livingston and his further expedition to find the falls. The questions about the early history of Africa and India almost tipped me off to the real object of the quiz–to help us realize that we had without objection digested a view of history that completely discounted the history, even the existence of nonwhite people. In my mind the history of the world was largely the story of white folks! Soon the discussion that night revealed that all of us were in the same condition. Each of us had ignored the existence in each “discovered’ people of many generations of nonwhite people prior to the visit of the first leader of a group of white folks. And none of us could defend any number for the races of humans other than one. Once it became clear that any other selected number was biologically to small to serve as the finite number of categories, we were forced to recognize that race was a learned perspective, not a biological or anthropological reality outside of our prejudices and arbitrary categorizations.

But the most alarming revelation of the evening for some of us–including me–was the realization that this young teacher was actually smarter than we were! I came to the startling awareness that there were people who were both Black and superior in learning and intelligence. Whether I wanted to be or not–and I desperately did not want to be–I had to recognize that in a very real and disgusting way, I was a bigot!

A TIME OF TRAGEDY AND THE PROMISE OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE

November 22, 2020 Today is the anniversary of one of the most tragic moments in modern American history–the murder of President John F. Kennedy. I was only a college kid then, but I remember like it happened this week. It felt tragic, was tragic, and frightening too. Suddenly the most important position in the world had been vacated by the act of at least one murderer. At the close of that day it was still unclear whether the killing had been the act of a single individual or the consequence of much larger ambitions than the killing of a single person. Years later I had abundant confirmation of my worst fears when people I knew to be as carefully conservative in their judgement as they were in their lifestyles confirmed my worst fears about the events of November 22, 1963. Reliable witnesses told me that they had been at the leading Dallas country club hours before the killing, and that they had heard several happily excited leading citizens rejoicing openly about what they were sure was the day John Kennedy would be eliminated as a thorn in the sides of their likes. It was that very day they were sure; of course they predicted what they knew was planned for that very day.

Bob Dylan has recently released a song that commemorates the sad truth that the assassination of November 1963 was the result of a true conspiracy to change the direction of American political policy though “murder most foul”. I have carried my own feelings about that reality in a bag in which are stored the nightmares of a long life.

Today I spent about an hour watching President Trump and his henchmen make serious efforts to replace the sitting President with the same man–himself serving a second term denied him by both the popular vote of the people and the electoral college. And I have watched Kelly Lefler and David Perdue, the Senators from my home state of Georgia, defame their opponents and endeavor to keep their seats through character assassination rather than bullets. Lefler in particular personifies exactly the kind of soulless hatred and arrogance which my friends overheard from wealthy denizens of Dallas in 1963. She has never served a day of public service in her life until her ambition coupled with the great wealth that owns the New York Stock Exchange propelled her into the uncontestable position of she-who-must-be-appointed-to-succeed when an ailing Georgia Senator retired in the middle of his term. Her ambition drives her to denounce the Republican Secretary of State for allowing the votes of Georgia citizens to determine that the Democratic nominee actually beat Trump in the election of 2020 in this State. Now it drives her to to use the current racist catchwords for any Black man–“gangster” and “thug”–and the current slander that uses “socialist” as the buzzword slur on any politician who believes that government should guarantee educational opportunities and access to medical care to all citizens. These are the current assassination tools of an economic and political elite which dominated this country in 1963 and which still dominates it today.

But what are the reasons–if there can be any–for the second part of the title of this posting, that “promise of a brighter day”. First and foremost, my home state of Georgia just became the first in the history of the deep South to become a two party state. The rejection of Donald Trump by a record turnout for Joe Biden makes this state one in which the most dominant party is being effectively challenged by an opposing party.

I had a hand in the effort in 1968 to replace Herman Talmadge with a Black man–Maynard Jackson. Jackson carried a majority of votes in Atlanta, thereby becoming the first Black person to win a majority vote in any southern city. Although he became the first African American to become the Mayor of major southern city a few years later, the state remained firmly in the control of the Democratic big money machine, which became the Republican big money machine in 2000. Now Raphael Warnock is contending for that same Senatorial seat that Maynard Jackson could not win in 1968. And he has a fighting chance to win it.

I also take heart from the fact that Georgians have been positively affected by the nationwide outcry over the police murder of George Floyd and the police killings of several Georgians in 2020. A lot of white Georgians are waking up to the roles of implicit racism in public policy as well as in their own private feelings and behavior. And Stacey Abrams has shown the country what can happen when there is a vigilant effort to register poor and African-American voters and to aggressively oppose the various tactics of the Brian Kemp variety of political bottom feeders, who use every means at their disposal to discourage voters who threaten the one party system.

So I am encouraged tonight. Trump will soon be out of office and others will have a chance to lead the nation in new and better paths. I am a sixth generation Georgian on both my Mother and my Father’s side. I have watched nearly eight decades of struggle in this to escape the horrors of racism and class exploitation. I have hope, and as Obama would say, when you have hope your determination can bring the promise of a brighter day.

EARLY RELECTIONS ON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 I am tempted to use the opening line from a well known rock song to start this off. “I didn’t sleep at all last night!” Instead I lay awake to watch the State of Georgia become a “blue state” by reason of its voters giving more votes to Biden than Trump. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate “won Georgia” was 1996 when Ross Perot took more votes from the Republican candidate than the Democrat.. Georgia has consistently given most of its votes to Republican candidates since. This time the conventional wisdom was that Trump would win Georgia by a narrow margin. The reverse happened.

Now Georgia will determine whether the Democrats will also have at least a tie vote situation in the Senate. Since 2010 the Republicans have held a small but disciplined majority there. The consequences have been that Trump got approval for every foreign and domestic policy move and every appointment, no matter how clearly that appointment might be of someone incompetent but loyal to Trump. A Republican controlled Senate would meant the Biden presidency would be cripples in every area of policy formation and in selection of executive and judicial officers. Georgia will either give Biden a relatively free hand in a variety of policy matters and in those appointments.

The State is about evenly divided right now. So every effort to register and turn out voters is potentially crucial. We are in for a very interesting couple of months here between now and the conclusion of these Senatorial races.

THE LOOMING ELECTION OF 2020

October 31, 2020

Today is Saturday and Halloween. In only three days my country will go through the election of a new president or give Donald Trump four more years.

I am 78 years old. So I have seen the coming and going of many presidents and congresses. In 1942, the year of my birth, this country was engaged in World War Two. One of my earliest memories is hearing my Father crying about the death of Franklin Roosevelt. I recall newsreel of his successor Harry truman appearing in public in short pants and somehow becoming aware that my parents were upset with him more because he had attempted to racially integrate the armed forces than because of his choice of attire. I also recall hearing that his re-election had come as a surprise.

I was 10 years old when Ike was elected and 14 when he was re-elected, results which satisfied me as well as my parents. In 1958 I was in the auditorium in which the President gave the commencement speech to graduating midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I still believe that it was a magnificent speech, despite Ike’s generally deserved reputation as a weak public speaker. He talked about the importance of young officers seeing human qualities like patience and a sense of humor above the trappings of military rank, which made everyone that officer’s “superiors” and “subordinates”. Ike always rose above partisanship and selfish desires, which is an explanation for the action results which have made him my favorite president—of my lifetime at least.

Most of my adult life I have voted Democratic, and I have already done so this year. And, like so many others, I believe this to be the single most important election of my long life. A few days ago I heard a Q and A on NPR with a self proclaimed lifelong and ardent “conservative” law school professor who said the same thing about the importance of this year’s election. She said that there was really only one issue: “Do the American people want to continue their experiment with constitutional government or will we now live under a monarchy?” It is already clear that the majority of us prefer the former, but that our electoral college is capable of delivering the second.

Twice in the last five presidential elections have resulted in a majority of votes going to the candidate of the Democratic Party, but the presidency being awarded to the Republican candidate. In 2000 that winner was created by a decision of 5 out of 9 votes by members of the United States Supreme Court. That result actually was achieved by the Court halting the voting process in Florida when a majority of one judge decided their judgement superseded that of the voters. The second time the process was skewed by the intervention of an announcement by the top federal cop (i.e., the director of the F.B.I.) that his agency was investigating the Democrat for possible felonious handling of government information.

This time the election process may not be marred by high handed intervention from any federal agency. This time the minority vote getter may win simply because the electoral college, our constitutional process for choosing a new president every four years, will not only be at odds with the decision of the voters, but also at odds with the continuation of genuine constitutional government. That possibility is what makes this election so desperately important. This would not make this United States of America the first republic to commit suicide through the machinery of its own constitution. But it would be the most spectacular failure of the democratic ideal in my lifetime. I pray it will not happen, and I have worked to do my part to avoid that result. I hope all my friends can say the same.

WHY I DON’T DESPAIR TODAY: PART ONE

September 21,22, and 23, 2020

There is good reason lately to find myself sad and sometimes anxious for the future of myself, my friends, my city, my State, my country and the world I live in. I am 78 in the year of the COVID19 and have two pre-existing conditions, and the males in my family have all died before they turned 50; those deaths include an identical twin who died 30 years ago. My friends include two who threaten to leave the country if Trump wins, and one who was close to despair Sunday night. The latter, a brilliant professional and beloved associate in avocational work, confessed she is continually depressed and her life is threatened by working for an employer who does not encourage COVID precautions and misleads about the casualties in her company so far. I work in a profession that officially discourages me from working on site, but I do anyway because I am a Georgia Public Defender, which is so underfunded that we are short on needed lawyers even if I show up anyway. Then there is my city, the county seat in Bulloch County, currently listed as the number two hot spot in the nation, which leads the world in ignoring taking needed precautions and avoiding needed testing. So self, friends, and hometown face terrible dangers from the pandemic.

But leaving the plague aside, my State, nation and world face terrible other reasons for great anxiety. My beloved associate and I live and work in Georgia, a state which has led the nation in efforts to downplay the dangers and to ignore needed precautions in dealing with the virus. We continue to do that under the lack of leadership from our governor. Mt country continues to suffer extraordinarily high numbers of deaths from this virus, and much of that suffering comes from the same miserable lack of leadership as my state. The world faces even greater peril from dramatic asn accelerating climate change, which has been created by human greed and hubris in the consumption of fossil fuels. As my associate says “We are out of time.” We face the very real possibility that climate change will become irreversible, which would mean that our best efforts would then be powerless to prevent environmental losses and human costs that would be beyond any catastrophe our species has ever known. It now appears that the Supreme Court of the United States, once a frequent ally of the forces for human rights and freedoms. will become an even greater adversary of those causes than it has been by narrow margins in recent history.

So why am I not in despair, despite all of the above reasons and more for the “heavy heart” I frequently feel when I look at the vicissitudes faced by all that I love?

A real hero to me was the recently passed Congressman from Baltimore, Elijah Cummings. He famously said that he counseled his daughters to not ask why they had troubles come to them in their lives. “No” he said “ask why these things happen FOR you.” He said that only through difficulties can we learn to grow and only from these difficulties can we ever make progress in our lives. The above cited difficulties may be preludes to needed changes that would not happen otherwise.

When I have talked recently with friends about the current threats and difficulties, I have started with telling about historical moments that looked very bleak, but that became preludes to fulcrums for salvation. Here are a few favorites:

In the summer and early fall of 1864 Lincoln was on the verge of losing his race for re-election to a Democratic opponent whose pledge was that he would make a peace settlement with the Confederacy that would have preserved both the Confederacy and slavery. Then Jefferson Davis appointed John Bell Hood to command the defense of Atlanta. Bell promptly attacked Sherman’s army and got whipped so bad that he had to abandon the city. Atlanta’s fall won the re-election of LIncoln, thereby assuring the preservation of the union and the end of American slavery.

The American Revolution was at best a bloody six year stalemate until Cornwallis detached his two best generals to consolidate his hold on the Southern colonies. Both kicked over local hornet’s nests by their brutality and arrogance; many locals who had hitherto largely favored the British or stayed on the sidelines were suddenly fighting like devils for the Revolution. The rest of the story is told in Southern victories called King’s Mountain, the Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and finally Yorktown.

Finally i tell my friends about how Stalingrad changed the course of World War Two. It was an unexpected miracle of resistance to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. I also recall the air war over England that unexpectedly blocked Hitler’s conquest of England. The latter miracle was preceded by the totally surprising performance of Churchill after the miracle at Dunkirk, and the acceptance of the English people to not negotiate, but to fight Hitler to the bitter end. So the outcome of World War II hinged on at least four unanticipated turns of events that saved us all from the domination of fascism in the 29th Century.

There are so many other stories from history that demonstrate the truth that history’s greatest moments usually come as dawns that can only flow from the great gloom of the darkest hours. But I will refrain from them for now. These essays, of which this will be the first of three, are being composed primarily for the love of that associate mentioned previously. And I told her to expect an essay on this subject soon. That was Wednesday night and it is mow Wednesday. So here is a beginning on the promised argument for replacing despair with hope. The other two parts, which will come soon, will attempt to cover some of the urgent problems which are not likely to have real solutions until they become even more painful, the current signs of hope that the worst of the past and present may be overcome in the future, and some personal experiences with seeing transformation rise from the ruins of catastrophe.

MENTAL ILLNESS IS A MEDICAL ISSUE: NOT A CRIME

September 10, 2020 Chris Parker Youmans Guest Writer. The Journal of Public Law is very grateful for this informative and stimulating contribution.

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I have worked in the mental health field, and I’ve spoken with hundreds of police officers during NAMI trainings designed to help them understand what to do when someone is in crisis. I can tell you why cops shoot people; and it’s not because they want to hurt anyone.

POLICE OFFICERS SHOOT PEOPLE BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE TRAINED TO DO. That is what they are trained to do when they fool like the situation is out of their control. The gun gives them control.

Dealing with folks who are having a mental health crisis is not about establishing control. it’s about establishing trust. It’s about listening to them , it’s about communication, it’s about taking time to understand the situation. Most cops don’t have the time or the training to concern themselves with any of these things.

Police officers are trained to deal with criminals. They are looking for criminal behavior, expecting criminal behavior, and responding to criminal behavior. That’s their job.

Anyone who is in the midst of a mental health issue is not a criminal. Even the justice system makes allowances for “insanity’, lack of control over their their emotional reactions is the most basic definition of ‘crisis.” Police officers are not trained to deal with these situations.

The most logical way to ensure that cops stop killing people is to stop calling them to get involved. STOP CALLING THE POLICE in situations where no crime is being committed, and call someone who is TRAINED TO HELP.

Who can you call for help with someone in crisis? In the United States there are not many options. In Georgia you can ask to speak to an officer who has been through specific mental health training, but there is no guarantee. And a few days’ training cannot compete with years of experience in dealing with criminals.

So what’s the solution? Can we create something that will handle mental health crises as medical situations instead of crimes? Can we offer treatment instead of incarceration? Can we stop asking the police to handle situations that they are not trained to deal with?

Until we do something different, the police will continue to do what they are trained to do, and we will continue to see people who are dealing with mental health issues suffer and die. We will continue to see shootings and deaths at the hands of cops who are given little guidance and even less support on how to approach these situations.

MENTAL HEALTH IS A MEDICAL ISSUE, NOT A CRIME. Let’s stop asking law enforcement to deal with it, and find a better solution.

AMERICAN HISTORY MICROCOSM: JULY 30, 2020

JULY 31, 2020 KELLEY KIDD Yesterday was one of those times when all of the threads of American history are dramatically shown in the day’s headlines. The President of the United States ignored the funeral of a national civil rights icon while claiming that the November election will be rigged if he is not allowed to postpone it! Immediately a host of members of his own party and self-proclaimed conservative supporters publicly disclaimed his claim. Meanwhile three former presidents eulogized the civil rights icon at the funeral, and one of them gave a rousing speech for expanding the opportunities for larger voter turnouts, something the President clearly believes will lead to his undoing.

Then there was news that the U.S. economy has just experienced the worst quarter of contraction in history. At the same time Republican Congressional leaders announced that they would be going home for the week without passing any legislation to address that crisis. And the stock markets showed gains for America’s largest corporations, thereby clearly revealing in the most stark terms the truism that what is good for the big corporations has nothing to do with what is good for the vast majority of the American people. Millions of Americans will be left without financial relief for job loss tomorrow, and other millions will be subject to homelessness when rent protection expires at the same time. This horrifying prospect led to some political handwringing but no action. True to their current form of rewarding the super rich at the expense of the rest of us, the major investment markets took a cheery upturn today!

Congress adjourned for the weekend on the day that followed, i.e. today. Both Republicans and Democrats gave up negotiations last night after it became clear that 77 days had not been nearly enough time for the Senate Republicans to come up with a coherent response to the Democratic legislative package proposed way back then to aid workers, renters, unemployed, state and local governments, hospitals and front line health personnel, small businesses and election supervisors. On the night of this historic day, both sides agreed they did not have enough common ground to do anything but wring their hands and blame each other! The President had sent his Treasury Secretary to the negotiation. Afterwards we learned that most republican Senators had rejected the President’s tax cut proposal and did not trust the Treasury Secretary! Unstoppable force met immovable object while further saddled with undesirable burden and unlovable intrusion.

The deceased civil rights icon had become a hero championing the claims of poor people. So the same funeral-ignoring president chose this day to announce the end of long-standing federal protection for efforts to assist the poor to live in areas where their chances for a better life could be enhanced by good location for their homes. The President bragged that his actions this day would prevent suburbanites from having to share their neighborhoods with poor folks. George Wallace and Bull Conner would have been proud of this betrayal of Jewish and Christian compassion. Sadly, I suspect the President’s evangelical base will receive the news with neither reproach for the action nor compassion for its victims. So much for the Jesus who told the story of the Good Samaritan and spent his life among the poor. Most of these public housing projects hold Black folks. That fact is lost on nobody. Racism now clearly has become the principal plank of the President’s re-election campaign. He picked the day of John Lewis’s funeral as the best moment to reveal that racism in its boldest form to date.

Then there was the baseball game the night before the 24 hour period in the spotlight. The world renowned Yankees played the current champions, the Washington Nationals. All of the players on both teams greeted the national anthem on one knee with head bowed! That’s our national pastime, the great game of baseball folks. Despite the greed of its owners and the sometimes ungrateful attitudes of some of its players, major league baseball remains as a sometimes amazing reminder of the redeeming qualities of American life.

On the same night federal agents, who had been hired and paid to keep the homeland and its people safe, attacked peaceful American citizens with tear gas, a weapon outlawed for use in foreign wars by the Geneva Conventions. The President, who has bragged about the unconstitutional and brutal actions of these militarized agents, has encouraged this behavior, for which he is responsible.

That President’s pre-election polling numbers were revealed yesterday to be the lowest in memory. And polling shows a large majority of the American people disapprove of the President’s handling of both the current economic crisis and his continued attacks on the demonstrations he has helped to engender. Other related news shows the President actually trying to prevent the Postal Service from doing its job, apparently in hopes of frustrating mail-in voting, which the President claims will lead to the electoral chaos he himself is fostering. The fact is that people of color and the elderly may be most affected by any constrictions of voting opportunities. Nevertheless, in many places the President and his Republican Party seem hell bent on adding hurdles for would-be voters to overcome. By contrast, John Lewis–the civil rights hero we buried that day–is his country’s greatest champion of those rights.

Also revealed today was the fact that this President refused to even mention to the dictatorial ruler of Russia that U.S. intelligence has reports indicating that the Russian government has been financing the killing of soldiers whom that President has been elected to lead as Commander in Chief. The deaths happened in Afghanistan. He passed off questions about that behavior by shrugging that we had done the same thing to Russian soldiers in the past. In fact, that was true during the Cold War in the late 1970s when Russia was part of the Soviet Union. It should be noted that this is the same president who violated international law last year by assassinating the commander of the most prominent Iranian forces in supposed retaliation for Iran providing military equipment to rebels in Iraq, a neighboring country to Iran. Of course international law has condemned political assassinations for decades. The same President did not even mention the killing of American soldiers in the very near past.

Last, but not least, the President held a press conference to triple down on his claim that an anti-malarial drug he likes can protect from the virus that has killed 150,000 Americans. While all the scientific evidence available says otherwise, a president who has refused to implement a national strategy to combat the virus has also refused to supply major support to the states he claims have all the responsibility for leading the fight against a world wide pandemic. The press conference gave us a president who is not afraid to keep repeating snake-oil claims of companies whose bosses are friendly to him. This is the guy who used purloined Emails of his client in 2016 as the basis for his claim she was a practitioner of “crony capitalism.”

Quite a day. Wouldn’t you agree? Buckle up friends. There are many more such to follow soon. We are all living in a period of intense change that will leave us a very different country in many ways. I believe with my whole being that this is the time for action from each of us who are healthy enough to act. What each of us is called upon to do depends upon our present circumstances and abilities. Despite my advanced age and limited abilities, I have at least fifty years of training and experience in practicing law, thirty eight years in trying to be helpful to alcoholics, fifty two years of intense concern for the victims of racism and poverty, and sixty eight years of knowing that the decency and dignity of every human being is a concern the Creator of the universe expects each of us to cherish with Him. I am not infirm yet, so I have no excuses if I don’t use my legal ability and other resources as well as possible in pursuit of the justice and compassion John Lewis showed and sought his entire life.

Each is called to do his or her part. “If I am for myself only, what am I” Hillel asked 2100 years ago.”And if not now, when?” Each of us is challenged by what Martin Luther King called the fierce urgency of now. Recently we have lost an irreplaceable person whose whole being summoned us to make good trouble, necessary trouble. The deepest roots of our religious heritage must nourish our capacities to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable. When we see ourselves becoming cynical or frightened or tired, the life of John Lewis just might remind us that we are not here to be comfortable or contented. We have work to do today, and tomorrow will be too late.

THE MOST IRREPLACEABLE PERSON I EVER KNEW

July 31, 2020 KELLEY KIDD When a friend introduced me to John Lewis in 1970 he was a world famous civil rights hero. He had been among the first practitioners of nonviolent direct action when he led the sit-ins at lunch counters close to his college campus. And one of the first freedom riders who integrated buses in other Southern cities. Elected as the first President of the Student Nonviolent Coording Committee, he led the shock troops of the movement until the Black Power advocates led by Stokely Carmichael voted to evict the white folks, then he had resigned. He had expanded his advocacy for what he called “the beloved community” by demonstrating for peace in Southeast Asia, for desegregated housing in Chicago, for fair conditions for nurses in South Carolina, for community control of education in New York City, for farm workers in California, and for the Poor Peoples Campaign. And most famously he had been at the forefront of the demonstrators when the Alabama troopers charged and beat him and others for daring to demonstrate for giving Black folks the simple right to register and vote. In short, John Lewis was already a legend. I was a white guy with a few years of service in trying to educate federal employees about the need for federal responsiveness to the problems of inner city poor people.

Despite the huge disparity of importance between us, John talked with me exactly as though our worth was unquestionably equal. He steered the conversation to my work and aspirations as though my life’s work was the most important subject. His speech impediment and the simplicity of his words left the unmistakable impression of a man who thought of himself as ordinary. Nobody special. I had worked a little for and with his friend Julian Bond, the smartest, coolest, most patrician person I knew. The contrast between these civil rights giants was striking. But even then I think I knew that in his own way John was what he has remained—the most irreplaceable person I would ever know. When I learned of his death two weeks ago I started to cry. I only came out of sobbing grief by telling understanding friends stories about John for hours on end.

Just this week I have learned from a white friend that he had come to Atlanta to volunteer to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the early 60s, He needed a place to stay. John put that friend and his girl friend in John’s apartment. There was only one bed. John insisted that the white couple from some place up north sleep in John’s bed while John took the sofa.

John never wavered, never hated, never surrendered to evil or to the demands of social respectability, never ignored human need for necessities and for basic dignity, never gave up on sinners or on the struggle to help those sinners to salvation, never despaired or whined or griped or made excuses for himself or his actions. His steadfast courage and love and vision have been surpassed by nobody. We have truly been blessed that he walked among us. Like John, we must keep “walking with the wind.”

SIXTY YEARS AGO IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE

REALIZING THAT I AM THE SURVIVOR FROM A BYGONE ERA

July 10, 2020 Kelley Kidd. One of the strange consequences of getting very old is that you remember stuff that no living contemporary can recall. So it is with me. I remember being an employee in the United States Senate in 1959. I was fifteen years old and it was only a summer job. But I can tell from memory how that Senate was conspicuously different from what that body is like today, and the differences are large. Several years ago a judge said i was the only person left who could tell about how it was in the Senate back then. And an old indian friend of mine has urged me to write about those memories so there would be some record of that subject. This is what I have done here.

I got the job through the efforts of my step mother. She and I had spent about a week in Washington in June of 1968. We went up that way because to watch Jack Gladden graduate from the naval Academy. Since the academy is at Annapolis right around the corner from the Capital, she decided it would be a good idea to take in a little bit of that too. So we did and that got the idea rolling that I was going to go back as a page in the office of our representative, Mr. Carl Vinson.

You may wonder how it was that my stepmother was in a position to suppose that Mr. Vinson would want to bring little Kelley up to work for him. working for a member of the House of Representatives would not be a usual ambition for a fifteen year old in 1959 or ever I suppose. So I am gonna back up and tell you some more about my step mother and my relation to her. If you want to skip that part and go right on to memories of 1959, you go right ahead. The caution I would add is that between here and the tale of 1959 lies some stuff that might help you get a better grasp of the tale. A dog that barks a lot is one who has been through some stuff before. Knowing the stuff helps to appreciate the dog barking today.

HOW I GOT THERE: ME AND MY STEPMOTHER IN 1958 AND 1959

Harriet Oxford Kidd was my Father’s third wife. She was his last. They were married in 1950 and he died in 1961. My Mother had been his first, and they had fifteen years of tumult caused largely by my Father’s alcoholism. Although she got custody when they divorced, he spent a weekend with his twin boys every month in Milledgeville, Georgia where we were born in 1942. Harriet inherited the man who would not give up on getting to live full time with his kids. In 1955 he succeeded in getting just that. My Mother justified giving us up because Milledgeville offered education in the military high school associated with the junior college named Georgia Military School.

So for five years i was a military cadet of sorts. i had a paper route to throw every evening and Sunday morning, a ping pong tale in a small room my father had built at the back of the garage, and a portable transister radio to catch the only audible station’s music after school. But my chief preoccupations aside from school lessons was the Presbyterian church located only two blocks away on the same large square as the military school.

The first Presbyterian Church as well as other denominations had been given state land for construction in the planning that had gone into the construction of the village of Milledgeville in 1803. These were all protestant churches of course and all had become or been founded as sanctuaries for white freemen aad their families. The building in which I went to school had housed the Georgia legislature and the Supreme Court of Georgia. I had become a Presbyterian–despite the Methodist and baptist roots of my parents– largely because Harriet was one and i greatly admired her.

Harriet oxford Kidd was a relatively world wise person compared to the small town experience of most of my contemporaries and their families. She had been a semi-professional ballet dancer, lived most of her life in the big city of Atlanta—where se had become the first female claims investigator for a large insurance company, made herself a confidente of a famous Presbyterian minister, directed plays and fashion shows, and served as a member of the first unit of female Navy seamen. That latter distinction endeared her to a prominent citizen of Milledgeville who had become the father of the modern Navy, Congressman Carl Vinson.

She used that last connection to obtain an appointment to the naval Academy in Annapolis for Jack Gladden, a poor boy who worked after school in my Father’s small haberdashery in downtown Milledgeville. four years later she took me to his graduation. It was June of 1958 and the graduation speaker was the President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower. After the ceremony she and I spent three days in the capitol city. We visited all the famous places and used letters of introduction from prominent Milledgeville Republicans to meet J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Nixon. I was fascinated by the glories of national government. Harrie went to work to get me an opportunity to work as a page in Carl Vinson’s office the next summer. And when that fell through, she hornswagled Senator Richard Russell’s administrative chief Bill Jordan into taking me on as a worker in the Senate. Somehow Bill got me a job wrapping and mailing books that Senators gave to various celebrants trough their franking privilege. the bargain was that I would volunteer time doing menial administrative jobs in Russell’s office after regular working hours. I was more than willing.

WHAT I SAW AND HEARD IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE. I was there for about ten weeks. The Senate was a very very different place from what it seems to be in 2020. I lived in a tiny room at the YMCA, which was only a few blocks from the White House. Buses ran up and down Pennsylvania Avenue to take me to and from the Senate five days a week, sometimes six. At the Senate office building, where I worked in the basement wrapping and mailing books, I entered through the main entrance. There may have been a single guard for the entrance to the building that housed the one hundred Senators and their staffs. I do not remember ever feeling that security was an issue for anybody.

I got my breakfast in a tiny restaurant in the basement of that building. Sometimes there were half a dozen other customers, never more. The other two regulars for breakfast at the same time were the “whips” of the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate. Dircksen of Illinois was the minority leader and I believe Aiken of Vermont was his whip. The Majority Leader was Lyndon Johnson, who was often referred to publicly as the most powerful man to ever hold that position. His whip was Mike Mansfield. The two whips talked quietly over their eggs and toast.

That amiable breakfast meeting I now regard as a microcosm of the way the Senate operated then. There was a complete lack of the kind of bitter partisanship that is now constant. Legislation originated in bills proposed by individual members of either the House or Senate. Frequently these proposals were offered by a member from each party. Proposed legislation was then printed and readily available to all members of Congress and to the press. Each bill actually had to be considered by a committee of the House in which it was proposed. No legislation was proposed by a party caucus. All of the bills had to be read several different times out loud in the chamber of the House in which it had been proposed. All were subject to proposals to amend before being voted on by the members of the House. Differences between House and Senate were ironed out in “conference committees” before final vote. I never heard a single rancorous comment said by any Senator to or about another. The Democratic leaders in both houses consulted frequently with the President regarding legislation, and the President usually consulted them about any dramatic executive order or action.

A few years before 1959 the so-called McCarthy era had come to a quick end after Senate committee hearings showed the American people that the anti-communist finger pointing and bullying of that Senator were products of an immorally reckless man. The even worse such behavior by the House Un-American Activities Committee was ended soon after. Most Committee inquiries and hearings seemed to be legitimate and frequently bipartisan efforts to do the nation’s business.

In the summer of 1959 the most celebrated hearings were conducted by the Select Senate Subcommittee for the Investigation of Improper Activities in the labor and Management Field. Despite the inclusion of management as one of two targets for investigation, in fact the subcommittee’s public hearings all centered on allegations of bad conduct by labor leaders. Jimmy Hoffa, president of the powerful Teamsters Union, was the most conspicuous target and witness. His attorney was Edward Bennett Williams, who later owned both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Redskins. I attended several hours of their appearance before the Committee. Their principal antagonist on the committee was the attorney for the committee, Robert Kennedy. His older brother, John Kennedy was one of the committee members. The thing that left the strongest impression was the presence of John Kennedy. When he was in the room he dominated it with the magnetism that got him elected the next year. It seemed barely possible that anyone could dislike him and I certainly did not.

Of course the Senate at that time was filled with famous and influential men. Three would eventually become the President of the United States—Kennedy Johnson and the presiding officer, Richard Nixon. Others included Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell and Paul Doulas, Wayne Morse and Harry Byrd, Everett Dirksen and William Fulbright, Scoop Jackson and Wayne Pastore, and many more.They all showed each other respect and even affection, regardless of party affiliation or other association. They appeared to be determined that the Senate would live up to its reputation as the ‘greatest deliberative body in the world.” Maybe it was.

THE SMOTHERING OF HISTORY IN AMERICA 2020

July 4. 2020 KELLEY KIDD A friend recently posted on Facebook an article attacking people who have defaced statues of confederate soldiers and generals, Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the confederacy. The article was published first in a publication of the Federalist Society, a group of self-styled “conservatives.” The rationale for opposing the destruction of confederate statues in that article was the claim that these statutes represent “art”. The more frequent argument for preserving the statues has been that they “are history.” Both arguments usually assume that the only alternative to keeping these statues where they are is that of destroying the statues. Hence the opponents of these things are deemed to be out to destroy either history or art or both. This author is certainly NOT opposed to either history or art. And I am NOT in favor of leaving any of those statues on any public lawn. Art and historical statues belong largely in museums and galleries, not on courthouse and state capitol lawns.

The courthouse is the place our public funds create to support the institutions of democracy and justice. There our aspirations to provide equal justice either do that or our pretenses to fairness and justice for all are shown to be shams and false pretenses. The majesty of the law then is mocked when the lawn of that courthouse is adorned with a tribute to the white men who fought to keep the Black citizens of our community in the degradation of slavery. Yet there is such a symbol before the courthouse of Bulloch County where I represent the descendants of slaves.

I have lived major portions of my life in the vicinity of statues that portray confederate soldiers or famous supporters of slavery. My childhood and my school years were filled with both reverence for the confederacy and the presence of memorializing art that carried that message. I was born in a clinic across the street from the building in which my state of Georgia seceded from the union in 1861. in the same building the Georgia laws that created the legal sanctions for slavery during the antebellum period. I went to high school in that building and graduated in the room in which secession became the law. Every year during my high school career we had a special program dedicated to remembering the confederacy and by implication the slavery it embodied. The confederate gray uniform I wore while a student there was also worn by every white male student, and all the students were white males.

All the students in my school were white males because of the same history that produced the secession and the confederate monument. That home was on the same street as the school and the monument because location near that school and monument was prestigious. And my family had money and prestige. My Father and his Father had graduated from the same school, a school which sat on land owned by the State of Georgia and supported largely by local taxes, the burden of which fell on Black folks and women as well as on white males. Poorer white males did not attend the school because the costs of uniforms and books put that option out of their reach. The war in which the memorialized confederate soldiers fought was intended to protect the slave-holding interests of wealthy white males, although most of those who died and were maimed were poor. That history was also carved into the confederate statues, and that history is carved into every confederate memorial, whether or not the carver is aware of any of it.

In my American history class I was taught to revere certain white slave owners, including those who had led the effort to dismember the United States in order to protect slavery from the real of imagined threat posed by the election of Abraham Lincoln, who I was taught to loathe for his Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation was said to be evil because, as one aunt said, it “exposed white women to rape by slaves” while their husbands were away fighting for their rights to their property”. It was clear to me that fear of black me and a love for the confederacy was powerfully underlain by a foundation of racism that was much deeper than the legal segregation and discrimination which was commanded by the laws of my state. I sensed then that abolishing legalized racism would not change the problem, ut at most ameliorate some of its consequences. Adoration of confederate “heroes ” was and still is a symptom of the intractability of the problem.

In 1962 the truth as published in a book I read outside any of my academic college courses. Michael Harrington summarized the extent and depth of racism.

“If all the discriminatory laws in the United States were immediately repealed, race would rmain as one of the most pressing moral and political problems in the nation. Negroes and other minorities are not simply the victims of a series of iniquitous statutes. The American economy. the American society, the American unconscious are all racist. If the laws were framed to provide equal opportunity, a majority of the Negroes would not be able to take advantage of the change. There would still be a vast, silent, and automatic system directed against men and women of color.”

Harrington was right. Nearly eight decades have passed since that book, Harrington’s book, THE OTHER AMERICA, But the situation he described remains as real as it was then. The very least of the things we can and should do is to remove the visible symbols of our pride that this situation remains to poison the lives of children of color and to symbolize the intractability of this evil. These statues smother the truth that the rebellion called the Civil War was caused by this evil. They proclaim the continuation of this racist system with the heartless pretext that we are entitled to be proud of it.