Home > Uncategorized > It’s Not Just Texas’ Problem…

It’s Not Just Texas’ Problem…

So, I was watching the Daily Show the other night and what should come on but a story detailing how a long-time African American community in Turkey Creek, Mississippi has been ravaged by racism. But not simply racism — racism exists everywhere, after all. In this case, their historic cemetery filled with the bodies of people once enslaved was paved over and destroyed so that the town might erect some new apartment buildings. And now, due to eminent domain issues, block busting, ghettoization and the like, the people of this community — not even able to get help from the NAACP — have turned to the only people who will help them, the Audubon Society. And, as the name may suggest, the Audubon Society is only in this fight for the birds which migrate through Turkey Creek — building birdhouses after Hurricane Katrina instead of aiding the people who suffered in the storm.

The story is provided below:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-24-2011/bird-like-me

This — along with the clip of rampant racism in which “reporter”  Wyatt Cenac goes through a local mall and finds that no white person will even look at him while they curse but when he dresses up as a bird they practically invite him over for lunch — disturbed me and I hope it disturbs you as well.

Certainly, there are battles to be fought to protect and open-wide these historic cemeteries to decedents — but how do we fix these larger underlying issues? How can we — why should we have to explain to some people that “other” people are more valuable to society than a bunch of birds, than apartment buildings, than $10,000.00 deer or pine trees? It astonishes me in such a way that I find it difficult to appropriately articulate my feelings. I know that rage cannot solve rage and I know that in many ways, being a young white woman, it’s a sort of vanity to feel so outraged and pained by these racist actions — but what can I do? Where is the balance between being helpful and involved and being controlling or assuming? This is a question I’ve been dealing with primarily in connection to my Native American studies, realizing the atrocities we as Americans have inflicted upon these peoples for generations and yet feeling powerless to help in many ways.

As Lawrence Gross explains in his article, “The Comic Vision of Anishinaabe Culture and Religion,” it is imperative to the survival of cultures that the people belonging to those cultures “maintain a distinct identity,” and to do so “by continuing to tell [their] sacred stories and controlling the telling of those stories” in order to sustain “cultural sovereignty” (Gross 436, emphasis added by me).

I don’t know how to help without being a menace or overstepping my boundaries, and I can understand and sympathize with Galland in this respect — but I know I do want to help. I do want to help.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ellen Davis
    January 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Katie – I also saw that segment and could not believe that a city/state could let an apartment building be constructed over a cemetery. But as my husband (who grew up in Mississippi) says, “That’s Mississippi.” It would be interesting to know what the laws in Texas require if developers find burial sites on property they want to develop.
    Ellen Davis

    • carinaevans
      January 27, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Ellen, according to Texas law, all cemeteries are protected. If there is a recognized cemetery on a piece of land, a developer cannot interfere with access or develop it. Some of these issues came into play locally with the Smalley Antislavery Cemetery in Round Rock, which is now adjacent to (and literally in the backyard of) a housing development.

  2. trilderos
    January 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I saw the same episode of the Daily Show and was kind of thinking the exact same thing. The terrible treatment of these slave cemeteries seems to be a national epidemic, and it terrifies and shocks me. The fact that they seem to be so easily moved and/or forgotten speaks volumes about our sensitivity to the subject of slavery and the final resting place of people who had to endure it. On a side not, it’s really rather interesting that a piece on that could speak so clearly about the exact same issues that we as a class are looking at right now.

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