by Charles S. Garabedian
How Some Christians Viewed African-American Civil Rights in 1964
The recent issues highlighted by the news media are voter suppression and racism. The subject is Ms. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), who is in a still-unresolved race for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi. You may read about it in the article below, and while you are at it, be sure to play the short video clip embedded in the article—just to reassure yourself that her behavior is a matter of recorded fact rather than election year propaganda. Just click on the following safe link:
Voter Suppression in Mississippi
According to her U.S. Senate campaign website, Ms. Hyde-Smith and her family are active members of Macedonia Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi. It is a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical church. You can check out its website here:
Macedonia Baptist Church
Personally, I think the right to vote is a precious thing given to us by our founding fathers in the U.S. Constitution. My position is that every American citizen, even people I do not particularly like, should have the right to vote. It should be free, open, and easy. No one should be suppressing or impeding any citizen’s right to vote.
What is it with Ms. Hyde-Smith and her apparent racist comments about being willing to take a front row seat at a public hanging in Mississippi? She claims it was just a passing joke—but was it? Historically, Mississippi is first among our 50 states in total lynchings of African-American people, and her opponent in the U.S. Senate is an African-American gentlemen.
The way I read the Holy Bible, we are all brothers and sisters on this Earth, regardless of race, ethnicity, or whatever else. For those of us who are professed Christians, we are all one and the same—and equal in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27-29).
What is it with some Christians and racism? Why do they claim to be followers of Jesus while behaving in manners that look racist in nature. Take a look at the political cartoon above, which was published in the Christian Beacon newspaper in 1964. It was drawn by Vic Lockman, a well-known Christian cartoonist-for-hire. He was also known for a 1985 pro-apartheid cartoon strip entitled Who’s Behind the South African Crisis?
The political cartoon that heads this article is 54 years old. To be quite frank with you, I had a bit of trouble figuring it out—probably because I (and you) live at a different time in American history— a time mentally far removed from 1964—that is until 2016 and the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. In 1964, I was only 12 years old, but I did remember a few things about 1964. Bearing those things in mind, I brooded over this cartoon for a while—and to my own satisfaction—quite suddenly understood its full meaning. Just in case you had some trouble understanding it in detail, please allow me to offer my best interpretation of it.
The “Bill” is the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provided a bolstering of civil rights for African-American people. The human-like figure with the club is also named “Bill.” He represents the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Notice how Bill’s face is drawn to look partly human (like an ancient cave man) and partly like a chimpanzee. This was done to highlight the old white racist theme that African-American people are all little more than stupid apes whose ancestors originated among the treetops deep in some ancient African jungle. Basically, Bill is the ape-like American black man wearing the clothing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The huge club in Bill’s right hand represents the power of the federal government in the realm of American civil rights. This giant head clouter shows how the power of the federal government has been unleashed against American white people—particularly the pure, lily-white flower of American womanhood in the United States. The club symbolizes how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 empowers African-American people with a new weapon that will work against the interests and safety of American white people.
Notice how Bill’s left hand (African-American civil rights are a product of unChrist-like leftist evildoers) is holding a young white woman (likely the recently invented toy doll Barbie) by her long hair—probably white Barbie’s pure Aryan blonde hair. This image taps into the old white racist notion that the male African-American ape’s highest aspiration is to knock a white woman like Barbie in the head with a club and rape her. This young woman is also a symbol of the entire white race in the United States, and it represents how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would put all white Americans at the mercy of the brutal, ape-like American negro male. The caption beneath the cartoon indicates that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all of the “evil” implied in the cartoon are the direct product of Satan—some times called “The Devil.”
When this cartoon was first published, I was living in a small town in the American South. The white people who lived in my county were soon to face desegregation of their public schools. I attended one of those schools. White people in my county were frightened out of their wits by the prospect of it, and being a mere kid, I was frightened too. For many generations, white people in the American South had been enculturated into earnestly believing a huge pack of lies about African-American people. For example, they were all dirty, lazy, and dishonest.
This dishonesty was not a result of how they were raised. According to the oral, white racist folk narrative, human biology had built such amorality into the DNA of the African-American person. As a racist uncle of mine used to put it:
The negro is a member of a naturally immoral race.
From his perspective, constant evil and immoral lusts of all kinds were part of the basic genetic makeup of all African-American people. Even if their brains resolved to do the right thing at 8:00 a.m. on a certain day, their genes would inevitably lead the black man or black woman into doing some form of dastardly evil by 5:00 p.m. on that same day. The American negro was incapable and incorrigible because of this, and white people had to watch them like hawks all day long to prevent them from raping their lily-white wives or stealing their household belongings.
Today it is hard for many of us to understand how a supposedly Christian newspaper could publish a cartoon as outrageous as the one above in 1964—and do it with a very serious, straight face. White Christians were able to do this as a result of many generations of enculturation into the belief that all African-American people are scum bags who:
Just can’t help themselves no matter how hard they might try.
The advent of the Trump campaign of 2016 and the current Trump presidency have churned up all of these hopelessly flawed white racist notions from the past. Moreover, it is sad to see such notions out in the open and used as weapons in a campaign for the U.S. Senate where one white candidate (the pure and lily-white flower of southern Christian womanhood in Mississippi) is pitted against an African-American candidate.
Cartoon Credit: Christian Beacon newspaper on May 7, 1964