“Thank God we are not where we are, but praise the Lord we are not where we should be.”
These words were recently uttered by Deacon Arthur Miller, a Catholic priest in the 1950s who was discussing the brutal 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, his neighbor in Chicago in Mississippi.
Till, a black teenager visiting relatives in rural Mississippi during the Jim Crow era, is abducted and tortured to death by two white men who whistle on white shopkeeper Carolyn Bryant, who is married to one of them. Bryant’s husband, Roy, and her brother, J.W. Milam was acquitted of Till’s murder a few weeks later.
The teenager’s death, and perhaps even more so, the crusade to bring attention to her grieving but courageous mother, Mamie, was one of the sparks in Till’s life and her mother’s crusade that ignited the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The new movie “Language” is currently showing in cinemas.
Deacon Miller may have been talking about the life and death of his childhood neighbor more than 65 years ago, but he also pointed to a 9-foot-tall statue of Thiel recently erected 10 miles away in Greenwood, Mississippi. The site of the store where fate whistled the story.
“Maybe that monument will call people to say it’s time to stand up for what’s right,” Deacon said in response to a reporter’s question. “Because it’s not about being black, it’s about social justice, our Catholic faith and what Christ taught us.”
If Deacon Miller’s words didn’t come out of nowhere, it would be a rare occurrence in the Mississippi Delta, where in recent years there have been more than one sign and marker to remember Till and the story of his murder. smashed, damaged, destroyed, even peppered with guns.
At least two historical markers at the site of what was once Bryant’s grocery store are gone or need to be replaced, and four more placed along the Tallahatchie River at Till’s burial site have also been removed. Each of them is surrounded by bullets, so the last one is made of bulletproof steel.
But while local efforts to erase Teal’s image and fuel the hatred that killed him appear to be continuing, Deacon Miller believes the new statue will be “a beacon of hope that we will never let something like this happen again.” Let it be repeated.”
He is not alone. Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Against Racism, also said those who saw the memorial were inspired to “remember Emmett Thiel” and “do everything we can to continue to fight for victory.” the evil and sin of racism”.
In March — 67 years after Emmett Till’s gruesome death — President Biden signed a bill named after Till that made lynching a federal crime in the United States. created equal.” A month ago, shortly after his appointment by Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Louisville said that work for social justice must go hand in hand with prayer.
“Laws must play an important role in defeating racism, but laws alone cannot change hearts,” Archbishop Fabre said on the Gloria Purvis podcast in February.
Psalm 97:10 puts it another way: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He preserves the lives of His faithful servants and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”