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Mar 12, 2007

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John D. Young

The term Community Wide Discussion around the T&R Report remains extremely inaccurate. Of the around 80 people most are the usual faces. But because the Public Library was the host yesterday's discussion seemed far better than the previous presentation at Bennett. Both Steve Sumerford and Yvonne Johnson set a different tone and yesterdays discussion benefited from their more inviting language.

But we know that 98% of the Greensboro community including most of the African-American community have distanced themselves from this T&R process. Most residents of Greensboro decided to remain silent knowing that a primary interpretation, backed by a primary ideology and mindset informed the process in its beginning, during its more accepting Commission statement stage when people were invited and urged to come forward and certainly now as the remains of the process is returned to the GTCRP and the Beloved Community Center. If you want to see how narrow the process is just review the video "Voices of Greensboro: Reflecting on the Tragedy of Nov. 3, 1979." Then read the conclusions and findings pulled forward from the Report. The conclusions and findings are the same on the front end as on the back end. Sadly a wealth of rich material in the guts of the Report, in the statements given to the Commission and additional material in archives did not receive sufficient prominence in the Report's conclusions.

The reason the process could follow this well predicted route is that most people don't care or have rejected the T&R process. And those who have supported the process remain insular and believe that their actions are just, righteous and deserving of praise. The supporters cannot understand why there is massive indifference to the T&R process. Because of this huge divide conversations and dialogue have proven almost impossible.

Still for me the needed conversation around Nov. 3rd is about "the ends justifying the means" or the use of violence to pursue "ones righteous version of justice." I am a critic of the thoughts, words and deeds of the CWP as well as others on the left or right who seek to convince us that their pursuit of "justice" requires hate, anger, weapons and death. These were not unarmed civil rights and labor activists seeking to unionize the textile factories and bring about racial healing but were militant Maoists who actively created the "perfect storm" and participated in the violence of Nov. 3rd.

So as the supporters continue to discuss the failures of the police on Nov. 3rd, with which I agree, the survivors and GTCRP loyalist may eventually realize that the organization of the violent Death to the Klan March in the residential community of Morningside Homes was, in and of itself, wrong and a central causal part of the violence. While the police failure is very significant it was the CWP's hate enticing language at the Kannapolis press conference, in flyers, posters and letters that was central to the violence. Five CWP guns fired 16 to 18 shots with more "long guns" in their vehicles. The role of the CWP in the violence on Nov. 3rd cannot be considered "secondary."

So as long as the GTCRP supporters of the Report continue to push most of the blame elsewhere few will consider this effort a serious attempt at either truth or reconciliation.

And for those who think the manipulative Greensboro media of 1979 - 1980 spun a lie that this was a "shootout between two extremist groups" (a far more accurate depiction than the Greensboro Massacre myth) and that the current "city power structure" continues this lie and controls the narrative on Nov. 3rd look again. The narrative is basically controlled by the survivors' writings, speeches, and activities, the very young International Center for Transitional Justice, the Greensboro Justice Fund who has this as their mission, the GTCRP and the Beloved Community Center. No wonder that outside of Greensboro many folks think: "Unarmed civil rights demonstrators seeking economic and racial justice were gunned down in the streets of Greensboro by 30 Klansmen. And the Klansmen were acquitted by two all white juries for no sound reasons from any court testimony but because the jury simply sided with the Klan."


Jim Rosenberg

Where are the Commissioners?

John D. Young

Jim, no Commissioners attended yesterday.

Ed Cone

Fortunately in 2007, we've got the new alternative media to, um, republish without comment outright misstatements about the views stated in the TRC report: "Everyone involved was to blame, but...the people at the TRC continue not to see it that way."

A real improvement over 1979.

Roch101

"Republish" -- sounds like your comment is specific to Greensboro101, yes?

Ed Cone

People are going to write what they write at their own blogs, but republishing a falsehood at an "altmedia" site seems much the same thing as doing so in the op-ed pages of the N&R.

The CA

Thankfully, we have you to take everything out of context, Ed. I was clearly referring to the blame for who actually was involved in the "attacking". I never said the TRC exonerated everyone but the Klan, but there is no doubt where they put most of the blame and where they put the least.

And people wonder why I get nasty with you. Jeez, I was actually going to take Hoggards advice and stay away from your site for awhile...

The CA

Pissed off, are we Edward? Now Roch shouldn't highlight my stuff and the N&R shouldn't publish Davenport? Everyone is wrong and unworthy but you.

There was no falsehood, Ed. Just an opinion that you distorted. Read what John D. Young said above. He basically said the same thing I did, just better and longer.

Jill Williams

John,
I don't really want to jump into this conversation because I've got a sense that it isn't really going to go anywhere new, but I can't ignore some of your comments. You refer to the "organization of the violent Death to the Klan march." Sure, the events of that day became violent, but if the Klan had not shown up or if the police had been there as a buffer, I'm not sure what would have made the march violent. So how can we say that the march, as it was organized, was violent? If someone had come to the community dialogue and killed people yesterday, would the organization of the event be accurately defined in retrospect as violent? You might say that because five guns were being carried by CWP members even before the Klan showed up, it already had the seed for violence in it. But to argue that, we must recognize that our own Bill of Rights includes that same seed of violence.

Second, you say "it was the CWP's hate enticing language at the Kannapolis press conference, in flyers, posters and letters that was central to the violence." How is speech violent? Speech can be dehumanizing and, as Nelson Johnson repeated last night, he regrets his use of dehumanizing language on and leading up to Nov. 3. Speech can also be provocative. But provocative language is not the same as violence. Personally, I don't want to live in a community where provocatively calling out the Klan is seen as a justification of any kind for murder.

A lot of the faces yesterday were the usual ones. But some were new. My father's best friend from college, who I haven't seen since I was 7, showed up for the event and hadn't participated in any other TRC-related programs. He's even read the full report, so I know for a fact that new folks are getting involved as the process moves forward.

98% of the population in Greensboro doesn't care about many things, but that doesn't seem to be a sound argument for ignoring them in other cases. The fact that you and Elizabeth Wheaton, both of whom have been publicly opposed to the GTRC's findings, were at the event yesterday, spoke and were heard by everyone present shows that the event included folks who do not share the same views as the former CWP members. To claim that the event did not include those voices is, in an odd way, dismissing your own perspective.

Ed Cone

Sam: "Lex leaves out the fact that the CWP also attacked the Klan and the Nazi’s (sic). Everyone involved was to blame, but Lex and the people at the TRC continue not to see it that way."

TRC report, exec summary: "We also find that some, albeit lesser, responsibility must lie with the demonstrators who beat on the caravan cars as they passed. Some CWP members also brought guns to the rally and fired them in the direction of the Nazi-Klan members."

The CA

Is that bit you cited in Lex' story, Ed? No.

Does the TRC blame everyone? No. They assign "lesser responsibility" to the demonstrators- quite a bit actually. Sorry that I didn't use the word "equal". I figured most people could tell what I meant.

Roch101

Greensboro101 exist to provide a one-stop overview of topics of local interest from ordinary citizens with minimal editorial intervention. My motivation for creating Greensboro101 was to encourage citizen news and commentary free from the gatekeeper role of traditional media, therefore I am disinclined to become much of a gatekeeper myself. Instead, my goal is to excerpt (not "republish" as you state) local content in accordance with Greensboro101's published policy:

Certain functions of this web site allow the editors to feature or otherwise give prominence to specific content. Selection for features is done without regard to author's point of view. Generally, prominence will be given to articles that are:

1. About local topics or may appeal to the local citizenry.
2. Well-written.
3. Interesting.
4. Original.
5. Current.

In truth, I also choose not to feature posts that make unsubstantiated personal attacks, claim to report information from undocumented sources or quote without attribution in addition to the standing rules against porn or threats.

To disqualify a post, especially one that otherwise meets the above criteria, because of a misstatement of fact would defeat the primary objectives of Greensboro101 and eliminate a number of otherwise interesting posts from display.

While I dislike the perpetuation of misinformation as much as you, my consolation is in the knowledge that all blogs that feed to Greensboro101 are required to allow comments and that it is there that corrections can and do happen (or in the comments of Greensboro101).

I think it is best that all opinions and ideas, even those that have errors, be exposed to the community where we can then take up discussion and debate rather than trying to push opinions and conclusions with which we disagree (or that are flat out wrong) to the periphery where they may fester unchallenged, don't you?

Bubba

"There was no falsehood, Ed. Just an opinion that you distorted. Read what John D. Young said above. He basically said the same thing I did, just better and longer."

Maybe Ed's just angling to be the revisionist script writer when the story gets to Hollywood.

He's got the experience to fit the bill, based on this thread.

Let him stay pissed off.

Ed Cone

Roch, publishing falsehoods under the banner of 101 has to call 101's own credibility into question.

Maybe readers will comment and push back and read each others' comments, maybe they won't; maybe readers will read the terms of publication, maybe (probably) they won't.

It seems likely to me that a lot of readers, especially those coming in from search engines and such, will just read the article and go away saying, huh, this smart-looking site published, say, an article saying the TRC didn't assign blame to the CWP for violence at the march, I guess I'll go ahead and put that my term paper...

The CA

Ed, I'll let your whining speak for itself. The only falsehood is in your mind.

Elizabeth Wheaton

Like Jill, I'd rather do just about anything than get wrapped up in another TRC blog argument, but I feel compelled to respond to a few of the comments she made.

First, she dismisses the effect of the CWP's violent rhetoric (and overlooks their role in antagonizing the Klan at China Grove), in which they publicly challenged the Klan to "come out from under your rocks" and face the "wrath of the people." They even gave the Klan the time and place: Greensboro, November 3.

She questions whether violence would have occurred if the Klan had not shown up and/or the police had. But that is sidestepping the question: Would the Klan have come to Greensboro without those wreckless threats? Trial and TRC testimony both indicate that they would not.

Jill further muddies the issue with the statement that somehow those of us who criticize the CWP's pre-Nov. 3 rhetoric are giving "justification" for murder. That is as insulting as it is untrue, and it is just the kind of obfuscation that makes it difficult for people like CA to want to participate in the discussion.

Finally, she characterizes me and John Young as "publicly opposed to the GTRC's findings." I can't speak for John, but I have never been opposed to the TRC, the report or its findings. I have expressed serious concerns about many aspects of the TRC, but to say that I have been opposed is simply not true.

Roch101

When Marcus Kindley wrote that homosexuality was akin to pedophilia, his comments ran on the main page of Greensboro101. It was not an endorsement and I think that was clear. Nobody suggested it was improper for Greensboro101 to feature that post.

If bringing attention to the diverse opinions and perceptions of the people of Greensboro risks Greensboro101's "credibility," so be it. I think Greensboro101 is building credibility as a resource for navigating the heartbeat of the local blogosphere with minimal interference and for bringing attention to the variety of thoughts of people who live here.

As to the specific issue at hand, the truthiness (or lack thereof) of Sam's claim, he attributed something to Lex AND the TRC. Sam is correct that Lex did not, in his article, mention that the CWP attacked the Klan and Nazis. He is wrong that the TRC does not acknowledge that. The ambiguity in the rightness or wrongness in Sam's assertion is just one more reason not to have disqualified his post as a Greensboro101 feature.

Nonetheless, your guidance, Ed, has been invaluable in my endeavors, and if you have suggestions for changes to my methods (that can be applied consistently, not just a one-shot reaction to this particular matter), I'm all ears -- here or privately.

Ed Cone

Interesting point on Kindley -- he made a statement that I found offensive, and over which I argued at the time, but I have no problem with putting it on the front page of 101, because it's clearly an opinion.

A misstatement of fact seems to me to be another issue.

Maybe the answer lies in an easy-to-see disclaimer on each relevant screen that says 101 doesn't vouch for the accuracy of information?

Roch101

Thanks for the suggestion, Ed. It's a good one.

I'm actually in the process of revamping Greensboro101. In addition to impovements in appearance, usability and reliability, I'm also attempting to create something that will remove the need for an editor but still allow users to put their fingers on the pulse of local conversation. Many months away, though.

Jill Williams

Elizabeth,
Let me take your concerns one at a time.

First, I did not dismiss the effect of the CWP's rhetoric. I merely called into question the term "violent rhetoric." Rhetoric is not violent. Rhetoric might provoke violence and it might be dehumanizing, but rhetoric in and of itself is not violence. Both I and the Commissioners in their report acknowledge the role of the CWP's provocative language.

Second, I was not "sidestepping" any question because no question was asked of me. I merely pointed out that it was ill-founded to call the "organization" of the anti-Klan march violent in retrospect because violence took place. Again, the language you quoted (and that was also quoted in the TRC report) was of course provocative.

Third, I will apologize that my statement came across as accusing you of thinking that the killings were justified. I was trying to point out (ineffectively) that actively calling out the Klan for its racist foundations and actions is an act that should be seen as positive.

Finally, I was basing my characterization of you and John as being "publicly opposed to the GTRC's findings" on your statement at yesterday's dialogue in which you said that you had problems with the findings and facts outlined in the GTRC's report. Likewise, John talked about his disagreements with the report's conclusions and recommendations. I'm not sure at what point disagreements and problems cross over into opposition, so I apologize if I overstated that point.

I reiterate that the fact that we are having this conversation now (as exhausting and frustrating as it is for both of us) and the fact that you and John and others made your comments yesterday show that dialogue is taking place between people who see things differently. I hope neither I nor the GTRC as a group have made you or John feel dismissed during the process of this discussion or otherwise.

The CA

Perhaps a disclaimer on your site Ed that says you can't vouch for the veracity of your own opinion or choice of words or lack of consistency on any given topic.

Nice attempt to discredit me, Ed, but it sure looks like you are making something out of nothing and whining.

Jim Rosenberg

What's missing is a process for reconciliation that is agreeable to people of good faith like Jill and Liz. For a complex problem like this, I would suggest it is useful to separate out the issues involved in the TRC process into quadrants on a grid like this organized by relevance and consensus. First, divide up the issue into these quadrants and then tackle them in that way. You can rename or refocus the quadrants, but to me the organizational framework for seeking reconciliation matters and creates at least a fighting chance from the outset that everyone is on the same page seeking the same result instead of on separate teams suiting up for battle.

John D. Young

Jill, as I said above I appreciated the welcoming attitude yesterday expressed by both Steve Sumerford and Yvonne Johnson. I did not feel dismissed. I got a chance to speak.

I am one who continues to show up and be engaged because I still see a small glimmer of hope for some community reconciliation. But we do have a major disagreement about the role of language. I think that our thoughts inform our speech and our speech inform our actions. Our language can precipitate violent actions.

Both Sally Bermanzohn and Mike Nathan were deeply concerned with the violent language of the CWP and the Klan/Nazis at China Gove and the actions of the CWP and the Klan/Nazis at China Grove. "We almost got ourselves killed" directly expressed their concern. The guts of the Report quotes Sally Bermanzonh's concerns. Also we hear about Nathan's concerns with the wording that flowed from Kannapolis and the letter to the Klan. That violent language directly nurtured violent actions on Nov. 3rd.

Buddhist teach us in their Eightfold Path of the importance of "Right Speech." We are asked to become aware about what our language reveals about our own character. We find that our language can create "unkindness" and from that can flow hate and bitterness and from that flows anger and violent actions. The line is so thin it can disappear.

So yes I believe there is violence in language and the CWP and the Klan/Nazis both knew the importance on dehumanizing, hate speech to create a perfect storm.

The Report says that the police were "more responsible" because it was their sworn duty to "serve and protect." I agree they failed in their role to protect on Nov. 3rd. But the CWP's organization of the Death to the Klan March and the language used to "get the Klan from under their rocks" was highly successful. This success was understood by Sally Bermanzohn and Mike Nathan. The rigid hierarchy of the CWP structure directly silenced the fears of Sally Bermanzohn. If Sally Bermanzohn and Mike Nathan had communicated their concerns about the likelihood of violence perhaps the event would have changed in focus. Perhaps the extremely harsh language would have been modified. Perhaps the safety of the residents of Morningside Homes would have become a greater concern.

But yes the CWP was a prime mover to create this perfect storm. They were not "unarmed civil rights activist" but direct participants in the violence in thought, word and action.

Cara Michele

Re: John Young.

Friend speaks my mind.

Ed Cone

And so we circle back toward the point of the post: what a shame that this conversation is happening so late, and in such an obscure venue as my blog comments. The value of the flawed but useful TRC report seems to be in some danger of disappearing into the post-report process.

Rosenberg is trying to move past the problem. What's the forum for that conversation?

The CA

"For example, the report says members of the Communist Workers Party bear responsibility for their rhetoric and actions in challenging the Klan, but then gives these educated people, who had faced off with the Klan once before and seen bloodshed as activists and labor organizers, something of a pass for being "very naïve about the level of danger posed by their rhetoric and the Klan’s propensity for violence." The commissioners criticize the decision by the march organizers "to undertake this highly risky strategy in a marginalized poor neighborhood," but then allow for a possible "benevolent spirit" behind that choice."

Your words, Ed. It certainly sounds like the TRC wasn't spreading the blame very well, now doesn't it?

You got your wish. More people responded on your blog instead of mine on this topic. It only goes to show what a little disingenuous whining will get you.

David Hoggard

Late to the conversation, but I'll not mince words after reading all of the above (including "skip over Sam"....

Lex's 'boiler plate' was revisionist and incomplete.

Sam was right to point that out.

Roch was right to publish Sam's opinion.

Ed's criticism of Roch and Sam is off base.

Heed Rosenberg's plan and quit the rest this unproductive crap.

John D. Young

Thanks Cara! And yes Jim Rosenberg did ask the important question of how can we really find some pathway to bring together "people of good faith." The Greensboro Public Library hosted a broad and diverse discussion around the Danish cartoon controversy involving issues of religious understanding and free speech. To provide the diversity the Library invited folks from the Rhino Time, Carolina Peacemaker, N&R and the Greensboro Islamic Center. It became a very useful and helpful format.

I suggest that the Carolina Peacemaker, Rhino Time, YES Weekly and the N&R host two community discussions around the T&R process and Nov. 3rd. If they could put together two discussions along with the Greensboro Public Library that would be great! We can then see if any real energy exists in the community or if we are just kicking a dead horse.

There is still some light at the end of the tunnel and I think the process of community reconciliation is worth some significant energy. However, the discussion needs to represent the broad diversity of opinion in Greensboro including the opinion of the many who "simply want it to go away."

If the news print media above asked who should we invite to participate in two discussions my suggestions would include:

A number of former residents from Morningside Homes and hopefully former textile workers who had direct interaction with the CWP. We need to bring in the insights of Rev. Howard Chubbs, Bishop Brooks, Rev. Jim Dollar, Rev. Julie Peeples, Rabbi Fred Guttman etc. We need to also ask these clergy how to help build some bridges towards community reconciliation.

We need to have Irwin Smallwood respond to the Report's chapter on the Media

We need to have Judge James Long, Mike Schlosser, Hal Greeson and Percy Wall explain their reaction to the T&R Report Chapter - Injustices in the Justice System.

We need Octavio Manduley and some other jurors to express their concerns about being on the jury and their response to the Report.

We also need voices like Chuck Forester, John Hammer and Joe Guarino to present the strong critical voice against the T&R process.

And of course we need some Commissioners, Jill Williams and several survivors. Finally we need Elizabeth Wheaton.

After these two discussion we should know if we can help create some broad based community discussions around the Report and community reconciliation.

Ed Cone

JY, who could organize that kind of broad-based group? You mention the three weeklies and the N&R. Yes and the Peacemaker would seem to lack the heft to do it without the other two, the Rhino seems unlikely to take the lead if it would participate at all...that pretty much leaves the N&R as the driver. Is there an interfaith organization that could help? And what ever happened to the City's human relations group?

John D. Young

The Danish cartoon event worked well so I thought the group of print media could pull this off. I have had a couple of recent conversations and it appears that little energy exists at the level of the HRC to carry anything about the T&R Report forward.

I am working with a few clergy folks who may have interest in doing this as a faith community event. So maybe something along those lines can develop over the next six weeks. The conversations are tough because most have no energy or desire to tackle this issue. The phrase "whipping a dead horse" floats around a lot.


Ed Cone

The Rhino was deeply invested in the cartoon story. It has been dismissive of this effort all along. Different situations.

Maybe the release of Adam Zucker's film this week will spark some interest...or maybe an academic institution will take this on.

Or maybe the T&R process has run its course.

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