In August 1955, two white men kidnapped a black teen named Emmett Till from his great uncle's home to torture him. They beat and shot the 14-year-old--who was visiting Mississippi from Chicago--finally ending his life by attaching an industrial fan to his neck with barbed wire and shoving him into the Tallahatchie River. Why did the men commit this barbaric crime? Because Emmett Till supposedly whistled at one of their wives.
In the segregated South, flirting with a white woman was a dangerous move for a black male to make. Evidently, some things haven't changed. In Millry, Ala., a white father has sparked controversy after allegedly threatening to kill a black boy who befriended his daughter.
"He said that if any contact was made to his daughter that he would kill him and his black friends," Latisha Mitchell, stepmother of the boy in question, told Local 15 News.
The man reportedly made the threat after storming into the school gym where the boy has basketball practice. Now, there's a full-on scandal in this small Alabama town. After all, the incident took place as the nation recovers from the Arizona shooting last month that left six dead. Moreover, the parent made the threat simply because the boy is black, and his daughter is white.
The threat of racial violence has reopened old wounds in Millry. Parents in the community have gathered to talk things over, and the local chapter of the NAACP has addressed the incident as well. Some community members are holding their tongues, however, because of rumors that the Ku Klux Klan plans to retaliate against those who've spoken out about the incident, Local 15 News reports.
"There's a lot of people backing down because they're scared of what's gonna happen," a woman named Vanessa Wimble said at the community meeting.
But Latisha Mitchell isn't backing down. She wants justice for her stepson. While the school has banned the father of the student from visiting campus, Mitchell wants the police to get involved in the matter as well.
"If a black male stepped on campus and made that threat, other action would have been taken; it's just a matter of being fair," she said.
While the man should be disciplined for threatening to kill a minor, he should also receive counseling. A person who's racist enough to threaten murder likely needs mental help. If counseling's not an option, the community should consider organizing a forum to break down concerns about interracial relationships. For the record, Mitchell says that her stepson and the man's daughter are just friends. What's wrong with that? And if the relationship grew into something more, what's the problem with that?
The reasons why people oppose interracial relationships have long been debunked. We know that biracial children aren't tragic. One grew up to become president, after all. We also know that from a scientific standpoint, there's virtually no difference between blacks and whites.
Leading this man into an argument about race may not be the way to go, though. Perhaps the community should appeal to his paternal instincts and ask him to imagine how that young boy felt having an adult storm onto campus and threaten his life. Let's ask this man to imagine how the boy's parents and the entire community of Millry would feel if he were indeed killed for talking to a white girl.
Fifty-six years ago, Americans gasped in horror when the image of Emmett Till, grotesquely disfigured in an open casket, appeared in newspapers. Then, both blacks and non-blacks wondered how grown men could so viciously brutalize a young boy. The father who threatened Latisha Mitchell's stepson may have no idea who Emmett Till was or why his murder remains one of the most shocking moments in American history. Before he threatens the life of another black boy for talking to his daughter, someone best clue him in.