1981.04.15: Atlanta murders are not isolated incidents (Mass Media, UMass-Boston)

Mass Media [UMass-Boston]
April 15, 1981

Atlanta murders are not isolated incidents
by Michael Letwin

Is the murder of 21-22 Black children in Atlanta an isolated, freak crime, or is it related to a racist upsurge in this country?

Local and federal government, the press, and some respectable Black “leaders” assert that racism has nothing to do with Atlanta, that, though tragic, the child­-murders are simply victims of “normal” crime.

Although there is no hard evidence that white racists are responsible for the Atlanta murders, it is hard to ignore the connection between the still unpunished and ongoing mass killing of black children, and the individual and organized attacks on black and other third world people in the US today, which, at the very least, have created an atmosphere in which black people can be attacked without fear of punishment.

Nationally, openly racist attacks on black people are epidemic: the killing of an interracial couple, Jessie Taylor and Marion Bressette, in Oklahoma City on October 21, 1979; the murder of five blacks and leftists by Klansmen and Nazis in Greensboro, NC on November 3, 1979; the attempted assassination of Vernon Jordan in Ft. Wayne, Indian on May 20, 1980 (Guardian, 4/1/81); and the brutal murder of at least six black men in Buffalo in September-October 1980 (New York Times, 11/30/80).

Most recently, Michael A. Ronald was lynched by three white men in Mobile, Ala., in what white authorities insist was a “non­racial” incident (New York Times, 3/28/81).

The same pattern is visible in Boston. For example, in the last year and a half, we’ve seen the shooting of Darryl Williams in fall of 1979; the murder of Michael T. Robinson (a white sailor) defending a black shipmate Anthony McGhe, a black sailor in July 1980; and the murder of Billy Rae Kelly, a black worker at Schraffs in Charlestown on May 1, 1980. All of these men where victims of white racial assaults. And Boston has its own Atlanta: the murder of 13 black women in 1979.

In the background of these and many other racist attacks on black people looms the dramatic growth of the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis and other racist organizations who organize openly to attack non­whites.

In late 1979, the B’nai B’rith Anti­-Defamation League reported that the KKK’s strength was greater than at any time in the 1970’s. It said that the Klan had at least 10,000 hardcore members in 22 states, with another 100,000 close sympathizers (New York Times, 11/11/79). At the end of last year, Rep. John D. Conyers (D.MI), announced that the Klan and related groups are running numerous paramilitary training camps scattered throughout the country (New York Times, 12/30/80).

Racist organizations are also flourishing in­ Boston, the most prominent of which is the South Boston information Center, and its para­military wing, the South Boston Marshals, which both have links to the Klan. These organizations, under the banner of anti-­busing efforts, have organized attacks on black students at South Boston High School, on anti-racist demonstrators, on arbitrarily chosen nonwhites throughout Boston, and on white South Boston residents who oppose them (Racist Violence in Boston, draft pamphlet of the Boston People’s Organization, Fall 1980).

Not every racist attack is coordinated by racist organizations. But the individual racist assaults are made possible by, and contribute to, a growing and consciously racist counterattack on the gains which black people have made in the last two decades.

Atlanta’s not a fluke; it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

(Next week: The Government’s role in racist violence)

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