A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.

Whistling in the Dark

Emmett Till, a black boy who was brutally murdered in 1955 for supposedly flirting with a white woman. His murderers took him to a barn where they beat him, gouged out one of his eyes before finally shooting him in the head. They tied a 70 pound cotton gin around his neck with barbed wire before they dumped him into the Tallahatchie River. In court, the jury came back with not guilty for the two men who brutally ended the life of a fourteen year old boy. The true tragedy here is that this boy’s death is one of the major incidents that sparked the civil rights movements of the 1960s and I didn’t know his name until I read Marilyn Nelson’s book A Wreath for Emmett Till.

emmett till

Her book is a collection of fifteen sonnets, the last one composed of all the first lines of the first fourteen poems. It was a beautiful elegy for this boy and her introduction was interesting in that she wrote about how she could not get Emmett Till out of her head. This boy’s murder haunted her. So, she wrote about it. To express her anger and her anguish. To give voice to the fear of a boy watching the boots come at his face and the feeling of having his eyes pulled from their sockets. To mourn with his mother and to stand up with the civil rights activists.

emmitt till gravestone

After reading this book and learning a little bit about Emmett Till, I wanted to know more. His mother had insisted on an open casket funeral. With trepidation, I decided to google him and what I found was the image of a young boy, smiling, and then something that looked akin to the elephant man. I had to stare at the image of Emmett Till for several minutes before I began to piece together where his eyes would have been and where his mouth was. This image is probably not for everyone and it does not add to the understanding of the viciousness of this event and so I have decided not to include it in this post. If you want to see Emmett Till, you can google Emmett Till.

Racism makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t stand it. It’s disgusting and has no place in our world today. Several posts ago, I wrote about standing up to a racist incident at work. While, in hindsight, I don’t believe my speaking out against racial slurs made any sort of difference or solved any problems, I feel better about what I did because I DID something. I decided not to just stand by and let it all play out. I decided to attempt to fix the problem. Of course, I begin to ask myself what I could have done differently to really fix things. How could I have followed up on this and made sure it didn’t happen again. Standing up once isn’t enough. Standing up twice isn’t either. If I really want to do this, I’ll have to spend my life on my feet. My thoughts travel like this for awhile before the dark, slimy thoughts crawl out of the horrible corners of my brain. They ask questions like “what if the black man didn’t actual care about the racism directed toward him?” What if you just made a big deal out of nothing? What if the black man didn’t want you to do anything about it? Now, I think of Emmett Till and those thoughts flee in terror. What if someone had had enough of standing on the sidelines watching horrible events like this? If someone had decided to speak out sooner, perhaps a boy would have lived. If someone decided to take action, a mother may not have had to bury her child. We have to stop sitting around twiddling our thumbs. Our culturally okay racism is wrong. We have to say no to it. We can no longer watch as racism continues. People are still killing each other on no other basis than the color of their skin. Mexicans, blacks, it doesn’t matter. We have to embrace loving each other and putting aside the stereotypes. Hate can stop with us. Now, are you willing to stand?

civil rights


One comment on “Whistling in the Dark

  1. brittanylenz
    March 28, 2013

    I love the passion you have while writing this and the compassion you expressed towards racism. Racism is a shame, I agree that it has no place in our world to create such barriers. But it’s amazing how Marilyn Nelson so artfully put these words to create emotion toward such a horrific event. Well done, thanks for sharing your analysis as well as your personal opinion of this week’s book choice.

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This entry was posted on March 28, 2013 by .

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