The Cold Hard Truth

The Cold Hard Truth

By J.L. Chestnut, Jr.

Vol. 11, No. 1, 1989, pp. 24

My wife looked sternly across the dinner table one night recently and quietly reminded me of the flak I received 12 years ago from certain blacks and whites concerning the lawsuit that brought forth the election of three black county commissioners in Dallas County, Alabama, in January. Vivian has a long memory.

I simply nodded but wisely did not explain who paid for the litigation during the long interim the government “cooled its heels.” Initially, even the Carter Administration opposed that litigation and remained uninvolved for more than a year.

I did not file the lawsuit out of hatred or a jaded desire for revenge, though there was ample ground for both. But, I understood then and now that many white leaders have been reared in an atmosphere that is almost racially poisonous. That atmosphere has polluted and tainted generation after generation.

I have never known Dallas County to be without a double standard–one for blacks and another for whites. This has been the case 80 long that whites often don’t realize the extent of their insensitivity.

Respectable conservative whites have organized charitable projects to welcome Vietnamese orphans from this nation’s recent international disaster in Vietnam. But, you will not live long enough to see African refugees from the ravages of colonialism welcomed in America.

After the recent special election, a newspaper in Selma naively called for a “responsible” county commission to avoid a battle or “race war” over the chairmanship of that group. Meanwhile, some were meeting secretly trying to insure white control of a predominantly black commission.

Such actions are not regarded as racist because of the double standard in Dallas County. Black efforts, however, to counter these efforts are viewed as racist. In similar vein, I was told 12 years ago that the all-white make-up of the commission was not racist, but my efforts to add blacks was racist.

Naturally, certain low-profile, officious and undistinguished blacks agreed with that double standard and denounced me. One of those black critics has a large and beautiful pencil sketch of Martin Luther King hanging over her lovely fireplace. The picture cost more than some houses.

When Martin wee risking his life in the streets of Selma, this critic called him everything except a child of God and publicly invited him to go home to Atlanta. Now, after Martin is dead and buried, she hangs his picture in her home.

This black critic is also a member of the little group who secretly tells the white editor of the Selma newspaper how much they disapprove of my weekly column.


J. L. Chestnut is an Alabama trial lawyer and writer.