Racism comes in many forms


One example: a Memorial Day speech by a veteran in Akron, Ohio. It wasn’t the speaker who was at fault; he was trying to tell the story of the first Memorial Day observance, by freed slaves in 1865. The organizers cut his mic to prevent him from being heard.

What at first blush appeared to be a short audio malfunction at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony in Markillie Cemetery turned out to be anything but.

A ceremony organizer turned off the microphone when the event’s keynote speaker, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, began sharing a story about freed Black slaves honoring deceased soldiers shortly after the end of the Civil War.

The microphone was turned down for about two minutes in the middle of Kemter’s 11-minute speech during the event hosted by the Hudson American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464.

Cindy Suchan, who chairs the Memorial Day parade committee and is president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, said it was either her or Jim Garrison, adjutant of American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, who turned down the audio. When pressed, she would not say who specifically did it.

There had been some previous email back-and-forth between Kemter and Suchan/Garrison in which the organizers objected to including the mention. I might have given them some leeway if the speech had been excessively long and needed substantial cuts, but that isn’t the case for an appropriately brief 11 minute speech. Suchan and Garrison admitted that they’d turned off the sound, but haven’t said why they thought Kemter’s words were objectionable.

We can all guess why, though. Of the thousands of Memorial Day speeches that were given all across the country, Garrison and Suchan have succeeded in making this one newsworthy, and have called attention to themselves in a negative way. Smart move!

Comments

  1. DLC says

    I have visited Hudson, OH. For a better look at this story, here’s the local paper’s website: https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/2021/06/02/veterans-audio-cut-when-he-discusses-blacks-role-memorial-day-speech-hudson-ohio/7508217002/
    The Audio tech says Garrison cut the sound. I think it ironic that the two of them, Garrison and Suchan, are both too cowardly to take responsibility for their misdeed. They were wrong, know they were wrong, and refuse to own up to it. Typical coward behavior. I bet they wear full hoods at the Klan meeting too.

  2. whywhywhy says

    The Streisand Effect strikes again!

    I did not know about the origins of Memorial Day until now.

  3. says

    Cindy Suchan, who chairs the Memorial Day parade committee and is president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, said it was either her or Jim Garrison, adjutant of American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, who turned down the audio. When pressed, she would not say who specifically did it.

    Almost had the courage of their convictions, there. Almost.

  4. says

    This was telling:

    “Suchan said organizers wanted this part excluded because it “was not relevant to our program for the day,” and added the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.” ”

    The history of why we have a Memorial Day is not relevant??? Really?

  5. tedw says

    The newly freed slaves in Charleston performed their act of compassion to honor Union soldiers; do the organizers of that event not know which side Ohio was on in the Slavers’ Rebellion?

  6. Randall Slonaker says

    This is especially ironic considering that Hudson, part of Ohio’s Great Western Reserve, populated by transplanted New Englanders (especially those from Connecticut) was a hotbed of abolitionism and a John Brown once lived in Hudson, and his father was the abolitionist Owen Brown. This story hits close to home, as I grew up in Akron (home of the John Brown Home, National Historical Site) and currently reside near Akron and Hudson in Kent, Ohio, where John Brown Tannery Park (site of Brown’s failed tannery business) lies on the Cuyahoga River, next to our city’s downtown, which is next to the Kent State University Campus.

  7. Randall Slonaker says

    This is especially ironic considering that Hudson, part of Ohio’s Great Western Reserve, populated by transplanted New Englanders (especially those from Connecticut) was a hotbed of abolitionism and a John Brown once lived in Hudson, and his father was the abolitionist Owen Brown. This story hits close to home, as I grew up in Akron (home of the John Brown Home, National Historical Site) and currently reside near Akron and Hudson in Kent, Ohio, where John Brown Tannery Park (site of Brown’s failed tannery business) lies on the Cuyahoga River, next to our city’s downtown, which is next to the Kent State University Campus.

  8. chrislawson says

    I love that they think refusing to divulge which one of them turned off the mic is a clever tactic instead of a clear admission that they’re both at fault. This is Baldrick-level cunning.

  9. Matt G says

    Liberal: “Black people exist.”

    Conservative: “Why do you hate white people”?

  10. Allison says

    I suspect that these two people would insist they are not racist because it wasn’t done out of hatred for Black people. It’s just that any discussions about race make “people” “uncomfortable.”

    Of course, when they say “people,” they only think of people like themselves, i.e., white people. (I’ve heard a number of well-meaning people unthinkingly use “we” in situations where it only makes sense if “we” doesn’t include non-white people.)

    And we know why white people would be “uncomfortable.” They’d be reminded that there’s a whole segment of the population who does not enjoy the privileges they (the white people) do, and if they actually thought about that, they’d have to recognize that it’s not an accident — that there are mechanisms in our way of life which privilege white people and “un-privilege” non-white people, esp. Black people. Which would challenge their self-image of being “good people.” My mother would have complained, “it’s ugly. Why do we have to talk about ugly things?”

  11. Allison says

    To follow up on my own comment: this is an example of white fragility, which is a component of structural racism.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    Racist and stupid too. Did the organizers of this event really think that censoring this speech wouldn’t look bad?

  13. springa73 says

    Right wingers accuse left wingers of trying to “erase history” when the left wingers want to take down statues of Confederate leaders, but when anything related to slavery or racism comes up, they suddenly object to even mentioning it, on the grounds of “we can’t dwell on the past, we have to move forward”.

  14. imback says

    Another “rogue” speech, this time a valedictory speech by Paxton Smith in Texas. She ditched her administration-approved speech and instead spoke about the recently passed Texas abortion law. It is an excellent speech IMO.

  15. birgerjohansson says

    OT, but a sweet case of *ssholes getting their just desserts.
    Rick Wiles, the anti-vaccine dude , has got covid. And now back to the thread.

  16. says

    The irony is that now thanks to Garrison and Suchan the entire world now knows about the racism of the Ohio American Legion and many more people now know about the true origins of Memorial Day.

  17. robro says

    The Charleston event is an important story of local Black people honoring Black soldiers who made a major contribution to the success of the Union cause, a contribution that has often been suppressed. Unlike White soldiers fighting for the Union, Black soldiers faced summary execution if they were captured. There are several documented atrocities committed by Confederate troops on captured Black soldiers.

    However, the story of “the true origins” of Memorial Day is more complicated than that. That event did happen as did other reburials and decorating solider’s graves events in the years after the Civil War. In fact, decorating solider graves predates the Civil War, and there was a decoration event in Virginia for the first solider killed in action, a Confederate officer, in 1861. Many of these were one time events.

    The first more or less formal and recurring observances were Confederate Memorial Days. The head of the Grand Army of the Republic, Gen. John Logan, started “Decoration Day” in 1868 for Federal troops which was eventually observed in many states, particularly the Union states. This is the observance that was changed to “Memorial Day” and set on the last Monday of May by the US Congress in 1971. The extent to which Logan was inspired by the events in Charleston and other places, or Confederate Memorial Days is not known.

    Some make a case for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in November, 1863, a year after the battle, to be the first Memorial Day observance.

  18. magistramarla says

    As soon as I read that it was an American Legion event, I was not at all surprised at the racism.
    My husband is retired military, and so we were receiving invitations to join the American Legion several years ago.
    We were already members of AARP, but my husband wanted to see if there were any other benefits to be had by joining the American Legion. Soon after we sent in our check, we received the official magazine. In it, there was an article telling us that our dollars were being spent to lobby against the ACA, as well as some other Republican causes.
    Realizing that the American Legion is just another fund-raising and lobbying branch of the GOP, we immediately cancelled our membership.
    We’ve moved to another state, and so we received a new invitation to join the American Legion recently. I sent them an email, telling them just what we think of their organization.
    AARP does a fine job of providing us with some nice benefits and of lobbying for the benefit of all older Americans, not just the white ones. They have our support.

  19. Matt G says

    There’s an American Legion in the (very) small town in upstate NY where my mother grew up. It’s been a low-class drinking club for decades. A few years ago, I happened to see a sign advertising the AL at a bus stop in Queens (one of the most diverse places on the planet). It was a photo of a bunch of well-dressed people around a bar (naturally), including a black guy and a white woman. The caption was something to the effect of: we’re not your dad’s American Legion anymore. Yeah, right.

  20. davidw says

    Two additional things, based on the article about the event on cleveland.com: First: “Suchan says she reviewed Kemter’s speech and asked him if he could take out specific parts. Kemter said he didn’t see Suchan’s suggestions in time to rewrite the speech and said a Hudson public official told him not to change anything.” Okay, let’s see those suggestions! (But I’ll bet that, like Trump’s taxes, they’ll never be released. And of course, they can always be produced after the fact.)

    Second, Kemter’s comment: ” ‘I find it interesting that [the American Legion] … would take it upon themselves to censor my speech and deny me my First Amendment right to [freedom of] speech,’ Kemter tells the Akron Beacon Journal, which first reported the story.” He’s making the same mistake that a lot of RepubliQans are making: AL is a private organization and not a governmental one, so it can violate your free speech rights at will. Whether they SHOULD have done that, though, is a different story, and I hope the two AL folks involved get terminated. You just don’t DO that shit…

  21. blf says

    American Legion official who silenced speech about black history steps down:

    […]
    The head of an American Legion post in Ohio stepped down on Friday, amid criticism over a decision to turn off a retired officer’s microphone while he was speaking about how freed black slaves honored fallen soldiers just after the civil war.

    American Legion leaders in Ohio also suspended the post’s charter and took steps to close it, amid intense backlash over the decision to censor retired Army Lt Col Barnard Kemter.

    [… Adjutant of American Legion Post 464, Jim] Garrison resigned a day after the state organization demanded he do so, said Roger Friend, department commander for the Ohio American Legion. Garrison has been asked to drop his membership altogether, Friend added.

    “The American Legion department of Ohio does not hold space for members, veterans, or families of veterans who believe that censoring black history is acceptable behavior,” Friend said.

    He said the censoring was planned by Garrison and [the chair of the Memorial Day parade committee and president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, Cindy] Suchan.

    “They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up,” Friend said.

    […]

    The decision to silence [Kemter] disrespected all veterans, the Hudson mayor and city council said in a statement on Thursday.

    “Veterans have done everything we have asked of them during their service to this country, and this tarnished what should have been a celebration of their service,” the statement said.

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