Question of the Day: Rep. Clyburn Has A Civil Rights Protest Flashback on the Healthcare Debate

Something about the angry people, mostly white, with signs, screaming things have caused Rep. James Clyburn, pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement to have what I sometimes jokingly call a “slavery flashback.” That’s a moment where you see something that causes a chill to run down your spine, something you know about deep in your subconscious that scares the living daylights out of you because it reminds you of a less than pleasant past — whether you experienced that past or not.

For Clyburn it’s the healthcare debate. He sees “hate” and he sees “fear” and he doesn’t like it. It reminds him of a time he would rather forget.

More after the jump.

From Huffington Post:

“I have seen this kind of hate before. I have seen this discussion before,” he said. “I have seen snarling dogs going after people who were trying to peacefully assemble. I have seen the eyes of people who were being spat upon.”

I was born well after the Civil Rights Movement so I can only go by what I’ve read in books. While I sympathize with Clyburn, I think he’s about one Bull O’Connor, several vicious police dogs, some water cannons, and many Klan-style, righteous beatdowns short from a Civil Rights Era protest. Even at the “peaceful” ones involved arrests and being spat on from what I’ve read. These folks showing up at townhalls just seem delightfully nutters and the police seem more interested in keeping the peace than say … joining in. But let’s hear Clyburn out.

“This is all about activity trying to deny the establishment of a civil right. And I do believe that health care for all is — a civil right,” the House Majority Whip argued. “And I think that is why you see this kind of activity. This is an attempt on the part of some to deny the establishment of a civil right.”

Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement, said he was particularly appalled by the use of the Swastika symbol at some of these town hall events. Noting that one had been painted on the office of Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), an African-American, Clyburn insisted that was proof enough that some of the protests were racially motivated.

“There is no question in my mind,” he said.

I’m with him on the swastika, obviously. And I’ll admit that the healthcare debate has gotten a little unhinged, but I don’t know how you can compare this organized chaos to such historic events as John Lewis getting his head busted open like a melon while trying to cross a bridge (re: Selma), or marches in Boston and Chicago where people spat and threw things and there was violence, or any civil disruption that ended in mayhem and people screaming, running for their lives. I mean. People DIED during the Civil Rights Movement. These yahoos screaming about socialism are just annoying to me. I’m not necessarily afraid of taking two to the head from them — at this percise moment. Now the guy who brought the gun to the Obama healthcare townhall, that was kooky and intimidating, but still, I can’t see the comparison with the horror of those days when Civil Rights workers were murdered, never to be heard from again and they’re just now finding their bodies.

But I could be wrong.

What do you think of what Clyburn had to say? Are today’s protests similar to the anti-Civil Rights protests of yore?

18 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Rep. Clyburn Has A Civil Rights Protest Flashback on the Healthcare Debate

  1. I wouldn’t quite compare the two, but the underlying tone of these townhall meetings is a little scary.

  2. Well, in terms of their ability to hamper the signing of a bill–no.But both camps are rooted firmly in the bigot camp.

  3. The Townhallers def remind me of the footage I’ve seen of angry Whites protesting the end of legal segregation and school integration. They have that same hate on their faces. And let’s not forget that at least one Townhaller has shown up to a meeting with a gun on his hip. So while I think that maybe Mr. Clyburn is being dramatic for the political effect there are some similarities. But, he was there, I wasn’t. And he’s from South Carolina so I’m sure he saw some crazy stuff.

  4. The atmosphere at the townhall meetings is worrisome. It is something that should not be ignored or thought of as insignificant. Comparing it to the civil rights era might be a huge leap. But, like a previous poster said, Clyburn has seen once seen this type of hate.

  5. Is there violence? No. There is a hint of it developing later on. The feeling I get is that much of the anger behind the debate is racially motivated. It’s just the climate. It feels superheated and combustible.

  6. I always believe that it (rabid racism, sexism, classism) all really starts with the small things said, the small slights that you choose to ignore at present but in the long run wish you dealt with more honestly and forthrightly as time progresses on and the issue gets worse. Racism is definitely part and parcel of this healthcare debate. People are stating that Obama should die over a healthcare policy debate is beyond the pale. Remember, the White House attempted to address the healthcare issue before and vitirol on this level was not a part of that process when Clinton Co. proposed it so WHY all of the anger now? Pres. Clinton/Mrs. Clinton suggesting that the healthcare policy changes was not called a Nazi, a Socialist etc., so why all of the name calling – esp. words that the American public feel highly threatened by – this time? Yes, Mrs. Clinton did catch it but not at all like this. It is the very same situaiton – a call to change the healthcare policies with results that look violent, threatening and seems hell bent on fear baiting. So again, why all of the screaming, the obfuscation of facts what is the point and what is REALLY setting it all off, what is at the root of the issue? I think the fear of other, in this case a black prez, a latino woman being added to the court etc. has brought us to this point as well as classism. This is no longer just about the healthcare policy – not all of the unreal anger you see broadcasted about this subject. I do not think this situation is quite where we were when the Civil Rights movement began, but there are clearly some that would not be concerend if it got there. Fear of "other" makes folks do crazy things, it has many times before.

  7. Like Clyburn, I am old enough to remember the civil rights era, and the hatred and hysteria of that time. And I saw it from both sides, because even though I lived in lily-white suburbs containing as many bigots as liberals, the hatred and hysteria were never targeted only at blacks. Moreover, I was one of those who crossed the lines, once I was old enough, to stand with my black sisters and brothers.As I see it, the struggle was bigger than civil rights alone; it encompassed the peace movement, and the anti-communist hysteria, and the countercultural movement. It was about rights, but not just about rights. It was also about brotherhood; about trust versus fear, kindness versus power, gentleness versus hate. Blacks were, far and away, its most numerous victims here in the U.S., but not its only victims, not by any means: consider the tens of thousands who were victimized by the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s.I agree with Clyburn that the hysteria, and hatred, we’re seeing today is the same poison we saw back then, even if it is expressing itself less violently. I am not sure, though, what lessons we can draw from the comparison. Maybe that the tactics of Gandhi and Rustin and King, of the Freedom Riders and the lunch counter sit-ins, are still relevant today?

  8. No long drawn out post from me. I do agree with Clayborne though. His fear is that this kind of lunacy can quickly escalate if it is not taken by the horns. Completely understandable.

  9. I was born when MJ put out Thriller so I couldn’t say what it is, or what it isn’t. But to me it doesn’t sound to me like he’s comparing the two outright, more like he’s picking up on little subtleties. Not saying that there was anything subtle about the a cop turning a German Shephard on you, but perhaps its more about the presence of blind fervor. He sounds like he’s seeing the same volatile ingredients in these town hall meetings that he saw at civil rights demonstrations right before they erupted into chaos and violence

  10. I agree with Clyburn. You might not see the dogs and water-cannons; but, there is an air and feel of hatred and anger in the air. If the law allowed the actions of the Civil Rights era, we surely would see the dogs and water-cannons/

  11. Yes they are similar and there is no difference between the two. They called MLK a socialist when he wanted equal rights and now it’s still no difference. Hatred is hatred any way you slice it. A racist and hateful individual would rather "shoot" (deny) himself in the foot before he allows you to be on the same level that he thinks that he’s on. This is a very serious matter and we really need to become proactive about it before it’s too late. This terrifies a lot of the elderly because they have lived through that terror. There are still a lot of old racist still living, some are one foot from the grave but will fight to the death for what they believe in and what they think is right. Forty years for Black People is really not that long when you could not participate in a racist society.

  12. Having been apart of those civil rights demostration, I have said a while back that this whole townhall meeting thing reminded me of those days. These were always the scary people. They are usually the ones who have little more that window and pot that are urged on by the ones who have. they will do some really crazy things and they do frighten me when it comes to the President and his family being so close to them. But one thing for sure, President Obama does not seem to fear them and that helps me a lot. And the thing about it is that they know nothing about what is in the the Healthcare Reform package because they have not even bothered to read any that is available to them. They would rather take anyone’s word just to get the chance to show the nation how much they hate the president. If President Obama said that he was giving each citizen 1 million dollars for a new start, they would protest it because it would be under his administration. They think that Reagan’s words were bible and they want nothing to change. They are angry white folk who will go to their grave being angry. I am waiting for more of them to be arrested as our leaders were arrested when we protested. And the ugly speakers like Limbaugh and Beck need to be arrested for inciting to riot as they have stepped over the line of "shouting fire in a crowded theater."

  13. what scares me is that no one can see that they are telling the truth about what a blackish man is doing simply because they are whites…many of whom voted for obama in good faithit gives new meaning and depth to the legitimacy of reverse racismwhat scares me more is that blacks are not hosting even angrier meetingsas the blackish obama is slaying blacks far more ruthlessly than he is these few whites who dare to rebel banksOUTLOOK

  14. I really do not understand the entire reason why so many people are angry, resentful, and getting all bent out of shape over something that sounds like a good thing for everyone "Healthcare for All". What is so wrong with that? Maybe someone could explain it to me and get me to understand why so many people have their feathers ruffled up over something that sounds like a good ideal to me. I think everyone should be entitled to some level of affordable healthcare regardless of their ability to pay. People have no compassion for the fellow man or neighbor any longer. If they were the ones without healthcare or as they say, "the shoe was on the other foot", I am sure they would feel very differently. No one ask nor wants to be sick, but lets face it, things do happen. I had no ideal that so many greedy, hoggish, uncaring people existed here in the United States. My eyes have been open. May God have mercy upon us all.

  15. K.A.:Many folks don’t want to pay more in taxes or they don’t think it is the gov’ts job to provide health care. Health care for all may sound good but so does the idea of communism, but we all see how that turned out.

  16. Rep. James Clyburn, pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement to have what I sometimes jokingly call a "slavery flashback: This is so amazing, I was having this very same conversation this morning with my friend on the phone about the twisted red faced white people, full of fury and hatered as usual. Oh yes, we remember and reconize this look and behavior very well! I didn’t realized that others observered the same thing too! I’m 50 yrs old and know frist hand that anything good that will benefit the people the Devilish twisted, blind, White man will always be against it! The media is just as bad, note how they constantally show these twisted faced peole as though they have a ligimate beef! No counter balance goining on there! Our young people better quickly wake up, we have not overcome yet!

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