The senator's passing is, however, being marked by black bloggers, in much the same way that James (Strom) Thurmond's passing was marked, with a looking back over the lives of those who, at some point in their lives, supported a way of life that made life a living hell for many.
The thought comes to mind: The good die young, while evil live long, and from life the last drop is wrung, before we can truly say they're finally gone.
Tupac looked at this phenomenon of the young dying young, as did Billie Joel, Joel's lyrical observations speaking seductively of postponing sexual gratification, and Tupac speaking regrettably about the vicissitudes of life.
I'm reminded, too, about a famous passage from one of Shakespeare's plays, delivered by one Mark Anthony:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ...
This, too, will probably be true for Senator Robert C. Byrd.
I'm not sure what Byrd's legacy will be--what will stand out, whether it'll be his political legacy, or his racial legacy, or both. Many in the press and the media marked his passing, if not with flourishes of praise, certainly not with damning criticism. Several noted his evolutionary, transformational progress--from that of a former Klansman to one who opposed the war in Iraq, and had several civil rights voting achievements under his belt.
For my part, I'll let Byrd's life speak for itself--those long and short passages with which he elevated his life, and those with which he plumbed the depths of racial animus. At one point in his life, Byrd is quoted as saying:
"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side…Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."
I left the following observations at another blog. I debated whether I should include them here, even though it seemed appropriate. I rarely discuss my encounters with racism, and the incidents that follow will be familiar to whites and blacks, alike, but these examples are "tip of the iceberg" instances, and I could have, just as easily, presented more horrific examples. Although, over my life, I've become rather adept at spotting racism, I rarely dwell on the subject.
Here's the black reality as I have lived it, and continue to do so:
In this country, even before we're accused of anything, we're guilty of something: We're guilty of being black.
We're told in our legal system: We're Innocent until proven guilty.
For blacks the reverse is too often true: We're guilty until proven innocent, or until we can prove our innocence.
We were born guilty. We grow to manhood, and womanhood, guilty, and, for many us, we die guilty.
That's why we're followed around in stores by white store clerks. It's because we're guilty.
That's why whites cross the street, rather than come within an unsafe distance of us. It's because we're guilty.
That's why whites yell out the invective, Nigga, when they drive by. It's because we're guilty.
That's why the job we're seeking, and is qualified to do, is given to somebody white, instead, who is not as qualified as we are. It's because we're guilty.
That's why the customer service to which we're entitled, oftentimes comes up grossly lacking. It's because we're guilty.
If, for years, whites treat a people as though they're guilty for existing, they shouldn't expect a "thank you" for it, black cooperation for it, or an adoption of their white value system, or ideals, for it--just because they, and other blacks, say it's good for them.
Living guilty is hard to live down.
If you think that the incidents I cited above happened in yesteryears, you'd be wrong. Most of them happen periodically, several within the last year, and a couple within the last month.####
No, I don't live in the Deep South. I live within a liberal stronghold, an area in which you'd think racial enlightenment has come. No, not all my encounters are racist. Many whites with whom I have contact, give respect, and show civility. But there is an element that's still waiting for the memo from the front office.
There is a white supremacist gang in my area that's at war with the police department, and have done damage to police property, setting booby traps to inflict bodily harm, but it has been my good fortune not to meet up personally with the group.
Frankly, I'm mostly inured to these behaviors, and actions. And those whose purpose it is to demoralize me, fail miserably.
I'm long past the times, however, when these racial and racist taunts and behavior can disturb my spirit, other than evoke the deepest of pity, and my concern for the future of our country, and the flagging outlook for humankind.