John Kelly -- and a whole lot of other Americans -- can't handle the truth about slavery
"All of our leaders have flaws," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders in defending Kelly. As if Lee's ordering two men and a woman stripped to the waist and whipped ("Lay it on well," he said) for the crime of seeking freedom was in the same moral universe as Barack Obama's cigarette jones.
I can anticipate how all this will land among certain people. They'll call it "racist." They'll call it "divisive." They'll call it everything but untrue.
They are, you see, deeply invested in the myth that struggles with poverty, mass incarceration, joblessness and miseducation arise from something African-Americans chose or did, while the rest of the country, innocent as the dawn, did nothing to cause or benefit from any of it. They will be angry at the reminder that this is ridiculous.
As if this was about them. As if we should give a damn about their anger.
This country stole from black people. It stole their bodies, their children, their names, their land, their lives. Now, some of us seek to steal the very memory of the crime.
Well, let them tell a thousand lies. Let them treat truth like the money card in a game of three-card monte. Let them salve history with the balm of false equivalence. But let them know that some of us find strength for our own trials in knowing the trials of our mothers and fathers.
So we will not be fooled and we will not be robbed.
We will remember -- and demand they do the same.
(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)