I was a young child when my mother first talked to me about Emmett Till. It was not in the same manner that black parents today regularly instruct their children on how to avoid death by cop. Mom’s casual talks with me, her eldest child, were more of a lesson on the ways of the south where she had grown up during the Jim Crow years.
When relatives or other visitors came to call at our Washington, DC home, and their conversation turned to Till’s murder in Mississippi, even though I had been sent out of the room during the “grown folks conversation” I became proficient at eavesdropping. And at an early age, I was captivated by the tale of the tragic and senseless murder of a 14-year-old boy who didn’t know his place in a racist society. To this day I remain fixated on the Emmett Till story.
In September 1955, when Till was funeralized reporters from JET magazine were invited. The magazine published an unsettling article about the horrific murder of Till and included pictures of the young boy’s disfigured remains. My dad had been a faithful patron of JET for years, so when the magazine was left on the coffee table, alongside Ebony and Sepia, I picked it up to view the pictures and was horrified by the Till photos.
Today, when I see news reports and videos revealing the atrocities happening to black men (and women) — it seems like old times. I am alarmed, but not surprised by the murder of unarmed black men, not just by rogue cops, but by racists who are non-affiliated with law enforcement and are hell-bent on supporting white supremacy. The unjust occurrences — torture, shootings, hanging — have been on-going for decades. It’s time it ended.
Had Emmett Till lived, he would turn 75-years-old, next week on July 25.
This post is a reality check for those who tend to forget the past. It is enlightenment for those too young to know about Emmett Till or who are old enough to know, but too unconcerned to care.
The 50-minute documentary below is a captivating look at the short life and agonizing death of Emmett Till. It includes a section revealing Till’s mother’s plea for a federal investigation into her son’s death and the refusal of then President Eisenhower and J. Edgar Hoover to grant it.
No justice, no peace is not just a lip-service rallying call. The victimization and violence of black people persist in 2016. Pretending that the problem does not exist will not make it go away anymore than pretending that the Emmett Till murder was a bad fairy tale in an out-of-print book.
(Do not be deterred by the advertisements near the beginning of the video. Forward past them and watch this captivating documentary.)