“For when Negroes leave the South they don’t move to New York – they move to Harlem, they don’t move to Chicago- they have to move to the Southside. Without question, Harlem is a great improvement over Birmingham- but not nearly so great as white men assume. Northern discrimination is less brutal and less personal than the Southern variety, and it lacks the overt action of law. It hurts none the less. The North leads the way by showing that Negroes can be “kept in their place” without written laws. Southern cities are rapidly learning the de-facto technique of the North. In the Spring of 1963, for example, Albany, Georgia removed all segregation ordinances from its city code in order to balk the Negro legal attack. The City remained as Jim Crow as ever.”
This reminds me of when people talk about Sonny’s troubles with the police in Philadelphia and in St. Louis: People tend to say that Sonny was always getting in trouble with the police. It is almost as if by saying things like that, people believe they can just tear out the pages of our history books that they don’t like, and only keep the parts of history that they like. It’s as if all Americans are suffering from a case of amnesia on a national scale.
By saying that Sonny was a problem for police, we are then excusing the history of police brutality, which has forced the African American community to resist that abuse in the first place. The problem with our Democracy is in its design. The majority must always win and the minority must always lose. This has a tendency to create friction and tension between the winners and losers in our political process. This ultimately puts our police at odds with the minority population who are not in power. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
What the police tend to forget is that our Constitution gives the minority population their constitutional right to resist the majority if they do not like how they are being ruled. The police usually find themselves stuck in the middle of Democracy in action. The police have historically worked on behalf of the majority and the status quo more often than not at the expense of the minority. This is not true Democracy. In order for the police to keep the peace they must maintain an air of neutrality by treating the majority and the minority populations with mutual respect and equality.
Because ultimately even though one population is the majority and the other population is the minority both are citizens of the United States of America. So the job of the police is to help to enforce the constitution and in doing so they will start to protect the rights of all citizens.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such a form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and Happiness.”
The police have a duty to serve the people and must avoid the trap of being stuck in the past as the world moves more and more toward globalization.
“The police in all societies are charged with maintaining public order and protecting public safety, and that generally means conserving the status quo in whatever form it may take. The police are inherently conservative in both their actions and their predispositions. They represent the vested economic and political interests and values of the societies in which they perform their policing duties. Where countries are changing and adding cultural and ethnic multiplicity, the police are most likely to be aligned with the old cultural and ethnic guard, or they may be perceived as such by new or newly empowered constituents. As a result, questions about the philosophy and practice of policing are ultimately liable to come under close and probing scrutiny.”
This is the reality that Sonny was living in when the status quo at that time in history did not necessarily believe that black people should have equal status in American society. By blaming the victim, we are not dealing with the real problem, and that is that we live in a society with a history of racism, a history that has terrorized a segment of society solely based on the color of their skin.
By allowing police brutality to exist on a state, local, and government level, we as a nation are giving our police the consent to implement terror. What we are not willing to come to grips with is that Sonny did not have a problem with the police. The police had a problem with Sonny. Sonny was not anti-American nor was he anti-police; he was just anti-hatred.
“Race riots decades before the Civil War in such Northern bastions of abolition as Cincinnati, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York, and in smaller cities and towns throughout the North, blacks were attacked in the streets by gangs of whites and their neighborhoods were invaded and sacked. African Americans were severely beaten and even killed and black homes and institutions- including schools, churches, and even orphanages-were destroyed by white mobs long before the end of slavery.
The negroes were not generally welcomed in the North. Many of the northerners who sympathized with the oppressed blacks in the South never dreamt of having them as their neighbors. In the second decade of the twentieth century alone half a million African Americans moved from the impoverished rural to the booming industrial cities of the North, wooed by the promise of jobs and freedom. The migration intensified in the second half of the decade in an industrial boom fueled by the First World War.
Blacks arrived by the trainloads, and many whites responded to the African American incursion with a horrific series of racial confrontations, riots and massacres that broke out in cities across the nation beginning in the summer of 1917 in East St. Louis.”
When African American soldiers came back from World War II wearing their medals and uniforms in the city streets of America, there was a surge of lynchings across America especially in the South. The reason for this was because they wanted high- profile black males and women to remember their place in society. Sonny Liston was a high-profile black male who, with his fame, fortune, and success was beginning to disrupt the status quo.
But he may not have been lynched in the literal sense of the word. He was now being lynched in the figurative sense, through the Media. And the by-product of that began to have an effect on the public’s opinion of him. One man who went out of his way to lynch Sonny from a popular tree was Walter Annenberg, the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer. One of the nicest things Mr. Annenberg ever said about Sonny was that, “He was a bum.
I didn’t want to give him publicity.” Could this lack of publicity on the part of Mr. Annenberg’s be partially responsible for no one showing up at the Philadelphia Airport to greet Sonny Liston after he had won the heavyweight championship from Floyd Patterson in 1962? Until we take a good look at the power and influence that Walter Annenberg and his father Moses Annenberg wielded with their newspaper empire, we will not even come close to understanding the political and social impact that their practice of yellow journalism had on the people listed on their black list, including the name of Sonny Liston.
The assertion that some people have made over the years that Sonny was a strike breaker for the mafia or that he was a part of some goon squad seemed rather unusual in light of the fact that,
“For approximately 150 years, union organizing efforts and strikes have been periodically opposed by police, security forces, National Guard units, special police forces such as the Coal Iron Police, and/ or use of the United States Army. Significant incidents have included the Haymarket Riot and the Ludlow massacre. The Homestead struggle of 1892, the Pullman walkout of 1894, and the Colorado Labor Wars of 1903 are examples of unions destroyed or significantly damaged by the deployment of military force. In all three examples, a strike became the triggering event.”
For the sake of argument, let us say that Sonny was a strike breaker, even though there is no proof of it. The first thing we must ask ourselves is why we are choosing to make such allegations against Sonny without the burden of proof? When, on the other hand, we have mountains of proof that will substantiate for us the true culprits of these acts against the IWWW and other Union agencies; names like, The Auxiliary Company, Jack Whitehead, James Farley, The Bergoff Brothers, Anti Union Vigilantes, The United States Army, and local authorities. Sonny may have made mistakes when he was a young man.
But he paid the price for those mistakes by the evidence of the time he spent in jail. With the amount of accusations that have been made against Sonny by the many journalists, authors, filmmakers, sports commentators, actors, and/or athletes, it is just not possible for one man to have committed so many of these acts of crime and violence in just one lifetime. And that is why the true facts about his life and the accusations made against him just don’t add up. We have to come to the realization eventually, that Sonny Liston could not possibly be responsible for all the world’s problems.
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