Edgar Hoover had two great fears: the blacks and the Reds. In his mind those were the only forces that could threaten the America he knew and loved. Nothing he envisioned would be of greater danger to America than those two uniting.
Hoover was born 30 years after the Civil War ended. That war was fought over the issue of slavery. Some suggest it was a state’s rights war. That was just another way of saying the people in some states believed they had a right to enslave those of another race.
The blacks who were slaves were emancipated during that war; the period of Reconstruction took place for ten years afterward during which the blacks rights were protected; but when that period ended the era of Jim Crow came into existence.
It was in full bloom when Hoover was born and grew up in Washington, D.C. The courts sat back and let it thrive. It would continue in existence up until the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement took place. The fire on the street showed the validity of Hoover’s fears.
It was during the 1960s and into the 1970s that blacks not only protested peacefully but also engaged in forms of violence. It was also during that time that Hoover instituted an FBI program called COINTELPRO which was aimed to bring about dissension among various black groups by pulling off what are commonly referred to as dirty tricks. It was also Hoover’s fear of the Black/Communist connection that had him hot on the trail of Martin Luther King because of King’s association with two people known to be communists or sympathetic to them.
The black protests and violence died from natural causes in the 1970s as more black Americans achieved elective positions and jobs started to open up for them especially in the public sector where they found decent pay, good benefits and security in exchange for hard work. Blacks could see that the courts having little alternative began to protect them which they failed to do at the turn of the century by enforcing the laws giving them equal rights.
The early 1970s were also the days when school integration became the bailiwick of those courts. The busing of students came into vogue as a way the courts pretended they cared. The busing was no more than a shuffling among the urban economically disadvantaged which left the better-off suburban folk unaffected.
Hoover died in 1972. At that time the Communist Party in America was no longer a threat; the blacks were finally finding their place under the American sun; and a relative peace was purchased between the races. Racially speaking America had several decades of such with the underclasses both black and white being bought off and kept in line by the generosity of the federal programs and public sector jobs that kept them in shelter and provided them with enough to eat and a little extra. Those in gated communities who complained of too much money being spent on the down-and-outers did not seem to understand that because the excluded had enough to keep them quiet and content their gates kept them safe.
When we moved into the 21st Century we were greeted with a foreign attack that made all remain calm and in their place for to do otherwise in a national emergency would have been too un-American. War, threat of war or national danger, produces a coming together and immense hostility to those who would make problems by not joining hands. It is a difficult time for protesting.
A decade, and a couple of inconclusive wars that now drag on and appear will last forever slowly sucking us in like quicksand, and the impunity of Wall Street types have shattered the “all in together” mindset. Many who were quieted became unfettered but most blacks remained stilled. Perhaps our black president was the batten that contained their discontent but time and change for the worse weakened his holding power.
Today Hoover rolls in his grave seeing that the pot is simmering. A perception has gained currency among blacks that their lives matter less than those of whites. That is not only in their perceived treatment by police officers; but also in the economic arena with strange phenomena such as the value of their homes falling or stalling while those of whites rising and the cut back in public sector hiring.
The uproar of the 1960s and 1970s died out in part with their belief the courts would protect them; now it appears the courts protect those who cause them harm as was done in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and probably the most outrageous of the killings that happened in D.C. that passed without notice.
Ominously, Boston seems to think it has the answer to any potential unrest by maintaining good will with community policing, openness and apologies. Mayor Walsh complements the Boston police, they are “doing a very good job.” But he is misguided if he believes race is only one component of the problem or it is more than skin color driving the hostile interaction. It is not. It is the only problem.
The police commissioner’s belief Boston is ahead of the curve in dealing with volatile situations is naive. He has yet to confront the real one. He will with one wrongly placed bullet.