The Civil War was over and done with in the 19th century. African Americans were freed from slavery to join the Union Army. It was supposed to be a precedent that after the victory, all Black people will be emancipated. To a degree it did happen. But social equality was still a dream that will not be realized until far into the 20th century. One of those who fought for the true liberation of the Negro race was Walter White, which as his name suggests is not a member of the race in bondage. He instead is a white man, that dreaded slur used to convey rank, abusive power, and dominion over others human beings.
The following looks into the life of Walter Francis White (1893-1955). It will focus on the reason for his realization and eventual conversion from the elite social circles into the lower rung of the social ladder. What he did was comparable to what the biblical Moses did, when the young Prince of Egypt shunned earthly wealth and chose instead to embrace the Hebrew slaves. So, the question is simple, is Mr. White a hero or lunatic? The answer to that determines the impact of his life to the Negro race and could be used as a shining example of what can happen if a man offers his life unselfishly to a worthy cause.
It is interesting to find out what happened because of the following: 1. Walter White was a white man and does not have an iota of Negro in him. 2. Walter White had nothing to gain from associating or giving his life for the second class citizens, which are the African Americans of his day. 3. There are many who were befuddled by his decision and most importantly there were those who were naturally suspicious of what he is doing. 4. Many would like to know the main reason why he chose to be Black rather than White. The Negro Race
As a people Walter White was able to describe their lot and their history in one short anecdote as found in his memoir A Man Called White: Not long ago I stood one morning on a subway platform in Harlem […] My heel came down upon the toe of the man behind me. I turned to apologize to him. He was a Negro, and his face as he stared at me was hard and full of the piled-up bitterness of a thousand lynching and a million nights in shacks and tenements and ‘nigger towns. ’ The man then completed the picture of the racial tension between two races when he said, “Why don’t you look where you’re going?
You white folks are always trampling on colored people. ” The story does not end here. According to Walter White, immediately after he got the stinging rebuke from the man of color, his friend arrived to discuss about NAACP business. Suddenly the offended black man was lavish in his asking for forgiveness for he did no realize that he was talking with Walter White. What prompted such bizarre reaction? It was the fact that this white man had forsaken his place in society to stand tall with the Negro race.
He became and enigma to many and in his own words he tried to explain why it was not an easy pill to swallow: I have tried to imagine what it is like to have me presented to a white person as a Negro, by supposing a Negro were suddenly to say to me, “I am white”. Bu the reversal does not work, for whites can see no reason for a white man ever wanting to be black; there is only reason for a black man wanting to be white. His adoption into the race was deliberate and borne out from his experience in the Atlanta riot of 1906. The following sheds light to the enigma.
Atlanta 1906 A little bit of history is in order here, to get a correct perspective about the riot of 1906. As with all major events this one did not occur in a vacuum. In fact many undercurrents and other seemingly unrelated events were thrown into one single pot and the brew that resulted was a disaster for both people groups – black and white. It all started in the usual places where one can find greed, power, money and fame. In the world of politics and businesses the fate of the Negroes of Atlanta was about to be decided upon.
According to Walter White the main characters of this drama was Hoke Smith the person who would do everything to get elected and Tom Watson who would do everything to win. Both Smith and Watson’s eloquence aided by the sensational writing of the local newspaper created a situation that was flammable and tempted white people into righteous rage against the blacks. In an attempt to win votes, Hoke Smith used the stereotypes of blacks and the plight of the poor white farmers to concoct a story of madness and insane irrationality.
But for the ambitious politicians nothing was sacred. Kenneth Janken revisited those turbulent times and he was quick to find out that the starting point were Hoke Smith and Clark Howell. Both of these men, “…competed for the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia in that party’s all-white primary. ” Janken then remarked that Howell was leading the race by telling the white men that the black people were the cause of their economic troubles. A scapegoat is very much indeed to shift the frustration and anger of those suffering in hard times.
And the Negroes went back to their traditional role as emotional punching bags. Janken adds: Allison Dorsey went deeper and asserted that the white leaders of that time were wary of the growing influence and status of black people. Dorsey thus comments, “More important, the riot was in large measure a visceral reaction on the part of the white population to the presence of a maturing black community … a multilayered challenge to the power white society possessed to maintain a racial status quo.
To the already potent brew Janken adds: The shrillness of the campaign to deprive blacks of their political rights for all time was matched in intensity by rumors of black male sexual aggression. The editor of the Atlanta Journal made explicit the connection between black political activity and the crime of rape. And so the evil that will happen in the middle of that year was already set in motion.