Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mocking Emmett Till

One of my earliest memories growing up is of my father telling me the story of Emmett Till. In August of 1955, when Emmett was fourteen years old, he went to visit his relatives near Money, Mississippi. Before he left, his mother gave him some tips on proper behavior in the South. She told him that you do not talk to white people. As you meet a white women on the street you look down and do not make eye contact, and to step off the street if necessary. These were the rules of the day as far as African-Americans were concerned. A few in a laundry list of instructions that had to be utilized for survival. 
 After Emmett got to Mississippi he was with a few local boys. He showed them a picture of a white girl back home and told them that she was his girlfriend, they scoffed because interracial relationships were largely unheard of especially in the south in 1955. The boys dared Emmett to talk to the women working in the local store to prove his familiarity with white women, and Emmett, who was known to be particularly precocious, and daring, went into the store and as he left, he said, “Bye Baby” to Carolyn Bryant, who happened to be the wife of the store owner.
While asleep at his friend Mose Wright's house, two white men drove up in a blue Chevy truck, got out, broke down the door, and then proceeded to tie up Wright. When Emmett tried to help him they took him and forced him into the truck.
The two men took Emmett to an old abandoned shack and beat him with a pistol. During the beating, they tied him up and shot him in the head. While they were beating him up, they gouged out one of his eyes. After they murdered him, they tied up his lifeless body, anchored him with a seventy-five pound fan and dropped him to the bottom of the Tallahassee River so that he would never float to the top. 

Before Emmett’s body was found Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were arrested for kidnapping. But they were tried and found not guilty.  Three days after he was savagely beaten and murdered, Police found Emmett's body at the bottom of the river. After he was found the police put him in a box and sent him back to his home in Chicago for a proper funeral. The state ordered that no one was to see his body except his mother. But Mamie Bradley, Emmett's mother, decided to have an open casket funeral so that the world could see what these "men" did to her only child.
She was quoted as saying....
 “Have you ever sent a loved son on vacation and had him returned to you in a pine box, so horribly battered and water-logged that someone needs to tell you this sickening sight is your son?"

In September of 1955 Jet Magazine published a photograph of Emmett's badly deformed, bloated, body and his murder garnered national attention as a result. This was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, and was the catalyst for Rosa Parks no to give up her seat on the bus, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott.

I told this story in gruesome detail because it is imperative that the full impact is understood. Blacks being murdered in the South just for being black,was not unusual back in those days, but the shear brutality inflicted upon a child was far more sinister than most, and changed the world forever.

Fast forward 60 years later. One of my co-workers told me about a rap song that referred to Emmett Till in a derogatory manner. I thought he misunderstood, and believed that he must have been talking about Emmett Smith. After all, who would use Emmett Till as a point of reference in a rap song? Lil Wayne, that's who. The controversial self proclaimed "greatest rapper alive", known for his penchant for sipping on cough syrup, covering every inch of his body in barely decipherable tattoo's, and collecting baby mama's made an insulting reference to Emmett Till in his verse on a song entitled, "Karate Chop". Wayne compared rough sex to the beating of Till, and as of this writing seems to find nothing wrong with such a crass insensitive lyric. Emmett Till's family has expressed their outrage, and Wayne still hasn't commented or apologized
This is inexcusable. If he had no idea that it was was offensive when he wrote it, or spit it in the studio, surely he knows now.
Stevie Wonder, who spoke out recently in condemnation of Lil Wayne said it best,
"You can't equate that to Emmett Till, you just cannot do that, I think you got to have someone around you even if they are the same age or older, is wiser to say, yo that's not happening, don't do that."  He then went on to sat that the disturbing verse should have never made it beyond the recording studio for the world to hear.
He could not be more right!  To use this horrific tragedy as a metaphor is to mock the memory of Emmett Till, and all of those who died in the struggle so that artists like Wayne could have the right to act a fool for profit.
Warning! One of the following photo's is disturbing!




  1. I don't listen to rap "music", and I just barely know who "Lil' Wayne" is, but he surely needs to be educated in regard to his history as a Black man in America (and the world). (I suspect that he uses the word "nigga" quite freely, as well.) And by the way, that picture of Emmett Till in his coffin no longer shocks me--I've seen it many times now and I have always admired his mother for allowing the world to see what America did to her child.

  2. I admire her also. This was my first time seeing the pics, & they shocked me!!