I first became aware of Tyson’s work when I read his powerful Blood Done Sign My Name, a book that combined history with autobiography in telling the story of a young black man’s murder and its riotous aftermath in Oxford, N.C.
I posted a more detailed review/editorial about the book shortly afterward (which I could not longer locate online at first posting, but a friend found it here). I marveled that I had moved to the same town less than a decade later and lived there for five years without hearing a word about what had happened. The town, it seems, had almost completely expunged the murder, the torchings, and the unjust verdict from its collective consciousness.
We don’t like to admit our racism, but it’s very much alive. Consider, for example, the plethora of news polls and interviews showing that a substantial number of people state that they would not vote for Barack Obama for president, simply because they can’t bring themselves to vote for a “black” candidate.
Which begs the question of why Obama is considered “black” when he’s actually biracial: his father has black African heritage, his mother is white. That, however, is another rabbit to chase on another day.
I have no quarrel with people who vote their conscience because of someone’s political record or proposed policies. The attitude that rules someone out because of his or her racial heritage, however, is the sign of a mind ruled more by prejudice than perceptiveness.
In this country, we ought to be past that.