Armi & libertà nel movimento di liberazione dei neri afro-americani

Il II emendamento della costituzione americana garantisce ai cittadini il diritto di possedere armi per tutelarsi contro la tirannide: armi disperse, democrazia garantita.

L’europeo medio sente come distante questa mentalità, eppure la storia parla chiaro, anche quella recente: una garanzia del genere è stata decisiva, per esempio, nella lotta dei neri americani per i diritti civili. Ce lo ricorda il bel libro di Charles E. Cobb Jr. “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”.

Il periodo centrale della lotta abbraccia i decenni ‘50 e ‘60 del XX secolo.

La scelta non violenta risultava problematica…

… In retaliation, men, women, and children were surrounded by raging mobs or assaulted by helmeted white policemen wielding batons and fire hoses… events shocked the American public and rallied popular support for such historic legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965…

La dialettica degli scontri vide così mescolarsi nonviolenza e autodifesa

… those gains could not have been achieved without the complementary and still underappreciated practice of armed self-defense…

L’uso della forza garantì la sopravvivenza di molte comunità nere.

L’idea nonviolenta era nuova ed estranea ai più.

La tesi di fondo…

… Simply put: because nonviolence worked so well as a tactic for effecting change and was demonstrably improving their lives, some black people chose to use weapons to defend the nonviolent Freedom Movement….

Testimonianza di Robert P. “Bob” Moses, direttore del “Mississippi project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” sulla convivenza di stili diversi nella lotta…

… “It’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.”…

Stokely Carmichael e la storia della tipica vecchietta…

… bringing an elderly woman to vote in Lowndes County, Alabama: “She had to be 80 years old and going to vote for the first time in her life. . . . That ol’ lady came up to us, went into her bag, and produced this enormous, rusty Civil War–looking old pistol. ‘Best you hol’ this for me, son. I’ma go cast my vote now.’”…

La nonviolenza ebbe i suoi momenti di gloria che non si possono negare, il boicottaggio dei bus nel 1955-1956 a Montgomery. Oppure i sit-in degli studenti neri.

Tuttavia, molti leader reputavano folle affidarsi solo ad essa. Oltre al fatto che…

… reflected weakness, even cowardly submission…

W. E. B. Du Bois, per esempio, espresse grande scetticismo…

… “No normal human being of trained intelligence is going to fight the man who will not fight back . . . but suppose they are wild beasts or wild men? To yield to the rush of the tiger is death, nothing less.”…

Malcom X

… he denounced Martin Luther King Jr. as a modern Uncle Tom…

Gli antesignani della nonviolenza furono Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, James Farmer ma soprattutto Stokely Carmichael, ecco le sue parole…

… “[It] gave our generation—particularly in the South—the means by which to confront an entrenched and violent racism. It offered a way for large numbers of [African Americans] to join the struggle. Nothing passive in that.”…

Lo storico Vincent G. Harding

… Our struggle was not just against something, but was trying to bring something into being. Always at the heart of nonviolent struggle was, and still is, a vision of a new society. Nonviolence enabled people to see something in themselves and others of what could be; they had been captured by the possibility of what could be…

Ad ogni modo, nella comunità nera, chi vedeva la nonviolenza come uno stile di vita era un’esigua minoranza.

Non c’era una tradizione in tal senso. Forse l’unica fonte di ispirazione era un certo cristianesimo neotestamentario…

… nonviolent resistance tapped deeply into a vein of righteousness that was rooted in Afro-Christian values and provided moral guidance… an idealized acceptance of the kind of redemptive love and suffering expressed in the New Testament is the closest black people have come to embracing the philosophy of nonviolence en masse…

Ma le Chiese Battiste erano altrettanto sensibili ai libri e alla logica veterotestamentaria…

… Black Christians, however, have also readily embraced the Old Testament, with all its furies and violence…

Il testo di un Gospel la dice lunga…

… “If I could I surely would Stand on the rock where Moses stood. Pharaoh’s army got drown-ded. Oh Mary don’t you weep”…

La nonviolenza è un elemento estraneo alla cultura americana in generale e nera in particolare.

Al contrario, la cultura dell’autodifesa è profondamente radicata, specie nel sud…

… black people sometimes used the threat of an armed response to survive… southern black communities in the 1950s and ’60s. There was always resistance to the idea of nonviolence…

Bob Moses è ancora il più chiaro su questo punto…

… “Self-defense is so deeply ingrained in rural southern America that we as a small group can’t affect it.” Willingness to engage in armed self-defense played an important role in the southern Freedom Movement, for without it, terrorists would have killed far more people in the movement. “I’m alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms,”…

Lo spaccato offerto dall’attivista John R. “Hunter Bear” Salter

… he always “traveled armed,” said Salter. “The knowledge that I had these weapons and was willing to use them kept enemies at bay.”… guns would be used to defend his Tougaloo campus, well-known as a launching pad for civil rights protest and thus always a target of terrorists, also helped deter assaults against it, although it could not prevent them completely. In one campus attack, Salter remembers a bullet narrowly missing his daughter… says Salter, “we guarded our campus—faculty and students together. . . . We let this be known. The racist attacks slackened considerably. Night-riders are cowardly people—in any time and place—and they take advantage of fear and weakness.”…

Il diritto di difendersi quando attaccati era sacro…

… a claim to a tradition that has safeguarded and sustained generations of black people in the United States…

Eppure di questo punto ci si dimentica volentieri

… this tradition is almost completely absent from the conventional narrative of southern civil rights struggle…

La comunità armata dei neri d’America fu al centro della lotta per i diritti…

… willing to provide armed protection to nonviolent activists and organizers as well as to black communities…

Le pistole erano parte integrante nella vita del sud.

Ancora Moses…

… never had a chance of usurping the traditional role of firearms in black rural life; although many rural blacks respected protesters’ use of nonviolence, they also mistrusted it…

La figura di Hartman Turnbow, un leader della comunità contadina del Mississippi…

… Turnbow also “traveled armed.” With tragic foresight, Turnbow bluntly warned Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964, “This nonviolent stuff ain’t no good. It’ll get ya killed.”…

Persino il Reverendo King chiese il porto d’armi allo sceriffo della sua contea (rifiutato).

La testimonianza del giornalista William Worthy nel giorno in cui intervistò King…

… Worthy began to sink into an armchair, almost sitting on two pistols. “Bill, wait, wait! Couple of guns on that chair!” warned the nonviolent activist Bayard Rustin… When Rustin asked about the weapons, King responded, “Just for self-defense.”…

Secondo Glenn Smiley della “Fellowship of Reconciliation” King non portava armi su di sé ma la sua casa era un arsenale. Le armi erano utilizzate da delle guardie del corpo sempre presenti a tutela della famiglia…

… Indeed, there were few black leaders who did not seek and receive armed protection from within the black community…

Testimonianza di Daisy Bates, editrice dell’ “Arkansas State Press”…

… recalled that after the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on her lawn and fired gunshots into her home, her husband Lucious Christopher “L. C.” Bates began staying up to guard their house with a .45-caliber pistol. Friends also organized an armed volunteer patrol to protect the Bates home… Daisy Bates herself sometimes carried a .32-caliber pistol in her handbag…

C. O. Chinn businessman e supporter del movimento…

… he instructed friends and family members to chaperone CORE organizers wherever they went in the rural areas of the county and sometimes even in town. Like Chinn, these chaperones routinely armed themselves…

***

Alcuni leader del movimenti, dicevamo, erano impegnati nella nonviolenza come stile di vita. King era il più prominente. Un altro era il Reverendo James M. Lawson, attivo su in Nashville in Tennessee. Anche John Lewis, ora parlamentare in Georgia, era un nonviolento per convinzione ideale.

Questa era gente filosoficamente convinta della sua scelta. Ma per la maggioranza la musica era ben diversa…

… For most activists, however, nonviolence was simply a useful tactic, one that did not preclude self-defense whenever it was considered necessary and possible…

Persino King…

… acknowledged the legitimacy of self-defense and sometimes blurred the line between nonviolence and self-defense…

Le sue parole sul diritto a difendersi con le armi  furono inequivocabili…

… “The first public expression of disenchantment with nonviolence arose around the question of ‘self-defense,’” he wrote. “In a sense this is a false issue, for the right to defend one’s home and one’s person when attacked has been guaranteed through the ages by common law.”…

In questo senso bianchi e neri erano “culturalmente” in accordo su tutta la linea, cosicché fu facile passare ai fatti…

… South’s powerful gun culture and weak gun control laws enabled black people to acquire and keep weapons…

Il militante medio del movimento di liberazione non si sarebbe mai potuto definire nonviolento o radicale o moderato.

I neri del sud avevano un incentivo fenomenale ad armarsi: le loro proprietà non erano difese dal governo. I poliziotti spesso erano persino membri del KKK.

Si creò così un intreccio indissolubile tra nonviolenza a autodifesa

… relationship between nonviolence and armed self-defense has been consistently overlooked… The dichotomy between violence and nonviolence… is not very helpful… The use of guns for self-defense was not the opposite of nonviolence…

Turnbow il pacifista…

… Hartman Turnbow precisely illustrates what when explaining why, without hesitation, he used his rifle to drive away night riders attacking his home: “I had a wife and I had a daughter and I loved my wife just like the white man loves his’n and a white man will die for his’n and I say I’ll die for mine.”…

Secondo Hubert “Rap” Brown, il quinto direttore dell’ SNCC: “per gli americani la violenza è come la torta di mele”…

… violence has shaped much of U.S. life and culture… the Civil War is one good example… conquest of Native Americans through armed force and the seizure of their lands…

I film di Hollywood starebbero lì a testimoniarlo.

Nonostante questo, sulla violenza dei neri in rivolta è calato il silenzio

… On the other hand, black rebellions—often poorly armed attempts to throw off the bonds of chattel slavery and escape to freedom in some other place—are largely ignored and are sometimes denounced when presented as a legitimate part of the black freedom struggle…

Nella storia americana non esiste uno Spartaco nero.

Ma qui ci interessa proprio un simile soggetto…

… the people—especially the young people—who participated in a nonviolent movement without having much commitment to nonviolence beyond agreeing to use it as a tactic…

Pur stando attenti ad evitare la mitologia dell’uomo in rivolta

… I emphatically do not subscribe to the view that a black man established his manhood by picking up a gun…

Un tipo di cui pure ha parlato molto lo psichiatra Frantz Fanon

… wrote extensively about the mentally liberating effect on men who picked up guns and rebelled against French colonialism in Algeria, and he was widely read by movement activists. Colonialism was overthrown in Algeria in 1962, but that nation’s history since does not show much liberated thought…

La vera rivolta deve essere creativa, non puo’ affidarsi solo alle armi.

***

La storia che ci interessa si inserisce in un continum che inizia con gli schiavi africani…

… they were organizing surreptitiously, out of sight of white people. They planned sabotage, escapes, rebellions,…

La nascita degli Stati Uniti si accompagna ad una grande paura: la rivolta degli schiavi…

… I begin with a discussion of the fear of slave rebellions and insurrections that accompanied the birth of the United States and that underlay almost all gun laws in colonial America…

Il dopo guerra civile è stato un momento particolarmente duro…

… post–Civil War era of Radical Reconstruction, when emancipated black people were poised at freedom’s threshold before savage violence beat them back and “redeemed” white supremacy… the defeated Confederacy, using terrible violence, including lynching and mass murder, waged a ruthless, relentless, and ultimately successful campaign to restore white supremacy…

Lì è cominciata quella che Vincent Harding ha ribattezzato “the Great Tradition of black protest”.

Il nero non era più schiavo: doveva difendersi e al contempo conquistare pieni diritti.

I veterani della guerra civile furono i primi ad organizzarsi formando le prime milizie nere. Gli attacchi erano continui e il governo federale irresoluto nella difesa dei cittadini di colore.

Anche dopo le guerre mondiali l’apporto dei veterani fu decisivo…

… Having fought overseas under the banner of democracy, they were determined to fight for democracy at home….

Il Mississipi, lo stato più violento, fu cruciale nel fronteggiarsi dei neri con i bianchi…

… The stories that have emerged from Mississippi introduce a set of extraordinary heroes and heroines who need to be better known: small farmers, sharecroppers, day laborers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, and church leaders. Many of these men and women, chafing under white supremacist rule, chose to fight back. Like Salter and Turnbow, they often “traveled armed,” and they kept their homes organized for defense as well. Much of their story is set in rural communities and reveals an unexpected form of “black power” that was grounded in a collective determination to defeat white supremacy, manifested well before that term was popularized by Carmichael in 1966…

Quando i nonviolenti presentarono la loro proposta le persone comuni li accettarono nel movimento solo in quanto schietti militanti, la loro proposta era secondaria e circondata da un certo scetticismo. Ma quando funzionò tutti la sostenettero. Vigeva un certo sano pragmatismo.

A quel tempo le principali milizie nere erano due: la “Deacons for Defense and Justice”, formatasi a Jonesboro in Louisiana e la “Robert Williams’s branch” legata alla NAACP di Monroe…

… The Deacons protected nonviolent CORE workers under attack by the Ku Klux Klan; the Monroe NAACP, largely led by World War II veterans, also protected the black community from Klan attacks…

Ma una menzione spetta anche all’organizzazione di veterani messa su a Tuscaloosa in Alabama da Joseph Mallisham

… Their 1964 protection of the nonviolent Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee (TCAC), an SCLC affiliate, played an important role in bringing about the unexpectedly rapid elimination of segregation in the city’s public accommodations…

La cooperazione di queste milizie contribuì negli anni ‘60 all’estinzione del terrorismo bianco.

Si trattava di organizzazioni perfettamente integrate nel movimento e vissute come presenze naturali, specialmente dalla generazione più anziana…

… Significantly, it was most often the relatively conservative adults involved with the movement, rather than the radical young “militants,” who organized armed self-defense in southern black communities…

Il loro lavoro rese sempre più chiara una lezione fondamentale

… whites had learned that antiblack violence was ineffective and counterproductive…

Nel corso degli anno sessanta, l’epilogo

… In Memphis, Tennessee, during the 1968 sanitation workers strike, King and his associates felt pressure from the Black Organizing Project (BOP) to sanction retaliatory violence. But generally in the South, despite some continuation of white violence, such as the Orangeburg massacre and the assault at Jackson State College (now University), the need for organized self-defense seemed to decrease after the early 1960s… in 1968 even the Deacons for Defense and Justice had disbanded…

Taluni leader venivano vissuti come “troppo radicali” per la piega presa dalla storia…

… The presence of genuinely radical figures like Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Sunflower County, Mississippi—and they were few—led a political process that had heretofore excluded black people to worry that the southern movement was too “radical”; sharecroppers, day workers, and the like were insisting on being part of the political process…

Il successo del movimento dei diritti civili portò in primo piano i leader nonviolenti ma a quel successo, meglio ricordarlo, contribuirono a pieno titolo coloro che imbracciarono un fucile e impugnarono le pistole.

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