Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Thought I'd share with you some of my current reading -- Edmund Morris' Theodore Rex...a very interesting read so far (200 pages down...355 to go).

On October 16, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt--having been sworn in on the heels of William McKinley's assassination little more than a month before--did something that evoked a peculiarly ugly and sinful reaction across the South. What did he do? He dined with Booker T. Washington in the White House. Pretty shocking, eh? Well, it doesn't seem like much of a big deal today, but here's a sampling of headlines from across the South in response to the news of the Roosevelt--Washington dinner at the White House:

Roosevelt Dines a Darkey
A Rank Negrophilist
Our Coon-Flavored President
Roosevelt Proposes to Coddle the Sons of Ham

Here's a couple lines from the Memphis Scimitar the morning after the news broke:

The most damnable outrage which has ever been perpetrated by any citizen of the United States was committed yesterday by the President, when he invited a nigger to dine with him at the White House.

South Carolina Senator Benjamin R. Tillman said:

The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again. (above references pp. 54-55)

Tillman's words might seem like overinflated rhetoric except that Morris claims that the lynch rate at this time in the south was about 100 hangings per year. He also mentions a grisly story of a black man in Winchester, Tennessee, who was burned at the stake with slices of his roasted liver sold to the crowd that watched him burn (47-48).

Roosevelt wasn't free from racial prejudice which diminished the image of God in men, as he believed that blacks had certain limitations, though he firmly believed--because of Darwinism--that this could be alleviated over a century or so as blacks evolved in a more civilized direction.

That any of this type of talk could be quoted in a newspaper by a politician, let alone run as headlines, boggles the mind. Obviously this was a severe blind spot--that there could be the kind of consensus approval that would condone such atrocities. Yet it was just 100 years ago that this didn't cause so much as the blink of an eye.

I wonder how they could be so blind to their sin, to their cruelty. More disturbing however, is the recognition that the chances are quite good that I, too, may be blind to something that will seem equally as unthinkable a century or even a few decades from now. What will it be? I plead to God for mercy, that He might be so gracious as to keep me from such blindness and sin. Let the sword of the Spirit penetrate deep into my heart and judge the sinful thoughts and attitudes that reside in me.

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