Mississippi summers can be brutal. Even late August can be excruciatingly hot. Emmett Till and his group of cousins and friends went into a grocery store to get something to drink in Money, Mississippi, August 1955. A bunch of teenage boys can be rowdy. I imagine that there was a good deal of joking and pushing and laughing. Emmett was fourteen years old, handsome, and known as a kind boy with a hint of mischief. He had polio as a child that left him with a stutter. Friends said because of that he was a bit shy. He was growing to be a young man and was having an adventure. I imagine in 1955, Mississippi was a very different world than his hometown of Chicago. After his uncle visited and told stories about Mississippi, nothing would do but for Emmett to experience it for himself.
That day in the grocery store would be the beginning of the end of Emmett’s life and would start something Emmett probably could never believe. No matter what happened inside of that grocery store on that hot day in Mississippi, there is nothing that Emmett could have said or done to deserve what happened to him. A few days later, he was kidnapped, beaten, brutally tortured, wrapped in barbed wire, shot, and tossed into a river.
I first heard his story in school. We were only told that he was murdered. Even though I understand being sensitive to young minds, we are taught far too little about his situation. His death haunted me then, but now, my heart is absolutely crushed that grown people could do such horrific things to a child much less another human being. The boy who was not of age to fight for his country had no chance to fight for his life.
When his body was recovered, he was hardly recognizable. His mother who had not seen her son for days had to see his bloated, disfigured body. She was a single mother who did the best she could for her son. Her baby now lay dead in a casket which she decided to leave open to show the world. The world should still know today.
I read an article today about the defacing of a monument for young Emmett. While I was disgusted by the vandalism, I was not prepared for the outrage I felt at the comments on the article. With the internet and Facebook, there are always people trying to get a rise out of others. However, it brought to my attention that people in Mississippi still believe these things now. Today.
The commenters stated the attacks should be expected or even encouraged with the removal of Confederate monuments. Any person who has access to any source of media knows that the Confederate monuments will be moved to a museum, battleground memorials, or Confederate cemeteries. They are not being demolished or destroyed. This is ridiculous behavior for adults. They are recommending that the defacing of a monument created to remember a child that was murdered is called for because monuments are being MOVED. They are not suggesting defacing Union memorials, but one for a child. I am floored by the insanity of this.
Another monument for Emmett Till has been riddled with gunshots. Are we really still this backward that we can’t let a murdered child rest in peace? There are always casualties with war. Although it is horrible, it is expected. What is not expected is allowing your child to visit family and for him to come home in a casket after enduring God only knows what before a death he did not deserve.
No present living person has ever met someone who died in the Civil War. Emmett Till still has living family who loved and knew him. They saw his smiles and tears, and they knew the planes of his face. They still grieve for him. I did not know him, but I am angry for him. I am angry that he suffered and died, but also that his life and what the end of it began can’t be appreciated because of those who still have hearts filled with hate and spite. I know that hate will always exist and do what hate does. However, that doesn’t mean I have to be silent about it.