Election week 1920, a white mob attacked, burned and destroyed African-American businesses, homes, churches and farms in Ocoee, Florida. Thirty-five Black citizens, many of them WWI veterans, were killed.
African-Americans in 35 counties around Ocoee had organized tens of thousands of new voters and had vowed to end the whites-only rule. After the violent white mob attacks, African-Americans fled their homes, farms and businesses. For six decades, Ocoee became an all-white town; Black lands and farms were been stolen by force.
Election week 2021, as absentee ballots were returned from largely Black Democratic voting populations in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, Donald Trump began what history will call “The Big Lie”. Actually, Trump began his attack on democracy months earlier when polls made it clear that his rural white voters, in spite of the lopsided advantage that the Electoral College gives to sparsely populated states, and that gave him the 2016 election, despite losing by three million votes, could not overrule once again the nation’s urban and suburban Democratic majority.
Although no significant fraud has ever been found in absentee ballots, Trump relentlessly and falsely claimed that if he lost the election, that in itself was proof of massive fraud.
Propagandists from Hitler through Stalin have taught that lies, told big, and told over and over and over will be believed by low-information voters. More colloquially, it is said that “A lie can make it around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on.”
Lies on Twitter, often over a hundred a day, delivered directly to true believers, thus circumventing the ability of the honest mainstream press to question their veracity, are especially dangerous. Even more dangerous when the Republican Party House and Senate legislators became nothing but weak and scared “Yes Men.”
“The Big Lie” continued with Trump pressuring local and state election officials to substantiate non-existent fraud. “The Big Lie” lost in all except one legal case, and that one win was insignificant and irrelevant. Hopefully, Trump will face multiple criminal charges for his Mafia boss extortionist phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger demanding that Georgia “find” enough votes for a fraudulent Trump win.
Praises to Stacey Abrams who energized Black Georgia voters and delivered a Biden win and elected Democrats Ossoff and Warnock as Senators, thus defeating insider trader Loeffler and David Perdue who in a deliberate racist manner had mispronounced Kamala Harris’ name.
As in Ocoee Florida, white terrorist violence attacked our Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump watched gleefully while tweeting against VP Pence who was acutely in mortal danger from “The Big Lie” mob equipped with zip ties, stung guns, bear spray and nooses.
A Black Capitol police officer, Eugene Goodman, likely saved Pence’s life. I thank again the Circleville Police Department who watched over us “Honk for Justice” protesters holding “Black Lives Matter” signs at Court and Main this past August-November while pick-ups flying Trump and Confederate flags yelled the “N-word” at us, screamed obscenities, gagged us with thick, black diesel fumes and drove so close as to nearly strike us with outlying side-mounted rearview mirrors. Racism is always ugly and violent.
I am indebted to my Quaker mother Marie Cotton who would not let us swim in the “Whites Only” pool while visiting our grandmother in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in the early 60’s. Mom taught school and arranged for the bus to take us kids to a Black babysitter till she got home. I remember watching in real time Martin Luther King’s August 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech with Mom and Dad.
I close with a quote from Martin Luther King, “I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.
“Since Trump began his campaign in 2015 with the racist lie that Obama was born in Africa and that Mexicans were rapists and criminals and ultimately culminating in the white terrorist attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, we have been in a deep and dark moral crisis. Every American, Black, brown, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, LGBT, Democrat, Republican, white, rural, urban has a constitutionally-guaranteed right to equal protection under the laws, the right to be heard and the right to vote and to have their votes counted. ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not mean ‘White Lives Don’t.’”
Silence aids those forces in our politics who do not believe in equality, justice and the American way. Or rather, what the American way was meant to be and that we must continually speak up to bring about. You need to speak up for what is right.
Brad Cotton submitted this column to The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.