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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Killen Killed 'em

(Okay, you knew someone had to make that pun...) Today, former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen (why is he a 'former' Klansman? Is there record of him giving up his Klan ID card? Is there a Klan retirement age we're not aware of?) was found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of three civil rights activists, found shot to death and buried in a deep ditch in the summer of 1964. I've got to say I'm happy with the verdict although not completely satisfied. I'm not entirely sure why he was convicted of manslaughter and not, say, conspiracy to commit murder since there was testimony that the ditch in which the men were buried was pre-dug, but perhaps there simply wasn't enough evidence to pin it on Killen. If so, part of me wonders if, even with this conviction, Killen still essentially got away with it. The news article makes mention that Killen's conviction comes 41 years to the day when Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were killed, and the cynic in me wonders if part of this is nothing more than a huge publicity stunt. After all, Mississippians are running around talking about the changing South now, as if the conviction of one 80-year-old man erases the entirely racist history of the Deep South then. The CNN article quotes Neshoba County D.A. Mark Duncan as saying, "Today we've shown the rest of the world the true character of the people of Neshoba County." I'm skeptical of that. After all, earlier today on Anderson Cooper, I watched a proverbial Clash of the Titans. White liberal Anderson Cooper meets a Southern white conservative mayor of a small Mississippi town (the same guy who was brought up as a character witness for Killen yesterday). You bring the popcorn, I'll get the rootbeer. In this interview, Cooper tried to lambast and, in the end, belittle the conservative for unabashedly claiming that the KKK were actually like the Batman of the 1960's, running around righting wrongs and triumphing over the evils of moral decline. The fact that this man, an elected official in Mississippi could go onto the mainstream news and have no problem spouting such nonsense to a white liberal in NYC is probably a truer indication of the character of the people of Mississippi than this highly publicized manslaughter conviction. Not that Cooper was any better. While the mayor had no moral or intellectual leg to stand on, Cooper was doing his best to try and publicly chastize the man for his beliefs -- while I agree with what Cooper had to say, I think the condescension he displayed was probably one of the reasons liberals get such a bad rep. In the end, justice was (sorta) served and Killen will spend the rest of his life remembering the three men he's spent 41 years blissfully forgetting. And more importantly, hopefully the resurrection of this case into the public spotlight will remind Americans of just how real discrimination was, how recently it was, and how dire it still is. As activists, we have one foremost responsibility: above all else, we must never forget. See also: Geriatric Justice

1 Comments:

Blogger James said...

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6/22/2005 04:42:00 PM  

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