Last week, the central Florida newspaper that gave me my start in journalism ran a story based on a 1950s reminiscence I wrote for a well-known online publication.
My column recounted how, as a cub reporter, I witnessed the every-weekend mass and indiscriminate arrests of African-Americans by a posse of sheriff’s deputies from Volusia County, aided by local cops from the town of DeLand, where I ran the county seat bureau.
Back in those days, law enforcement departments operated on the “fee system.” That means they got a slice of the fines they collected, and that determined their annual budgets.
I wrote about men and women being arrested during these sorties into “colored town,” jailed without access to lawyers, eventually given court-appointed lawyers who showed up unprepared, or who were so hung over from their weekend revelries that they were incoherent or slept through their clients’ hearings.
Here’s a link to the story written by reporter Ron Hurtabise and published by the Daytona Beach News-Journal on April 7.
And here’s a link to my original March 18 story.
What intrigued me most about this trip down memory lane were the comments posted by readers of the News-Journal’s article. These remarks tell me that racism is still alive and well on what is often called “The Redneck Riviera” – but that, unlike my experience there half a century ago, there are many who have refused to drink the Klan’s Kool-Aid.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the reader comments:
A guy named Dan wrote, “Why don’t you put this crap on black month and get over it!!!!!!”
And Dan had more than his share of cheerleaders. One, identified as “whitey”, opined: “The liberal media will do anything, anytime, to stir the white/black pot. That's how many liberals make their living. I guess nobody called in any news to the Journal. So not being able to find their way around the streets of Volusia County, the News Journal crew went to their library to see if they could dig up some really old news. Well they did. Does anybody wonder why Rush Limbaugh labeled them all as ‘The drive by Media’? That's exactly what they are.”
Then there was Joe from Daytona, who wrote, “It’s interesting when you read the original article. With easy facts being wrong, such as 1952 being more than 45 years ago, rather than the 56 it really is. With his comments that Black people are directed to the wrong polling places (because of racism). With his failure to mention that Volusia was one of the first integrated Sheriff Departments in the state. With his implications that racism is still institutionalized here, while providing no examples. With all those things, it makes everything he wrote questionable. It almost seems like his memories are crafted by Hillary Clinton. Did he see any snipers?”
And “WhiterNU”, who wrote, “What you need to do is tell that to a ‘big, black, young-buck’. He'll remind you just how much you fear black people. I hope that you get a black president. When he's elected, I'll be laughing at you! LOL LOL LOL!!! Redneck garbage is what you are. I'll take black families as neighbors every time over white trash like you. Your momma should have aborted you. But that would have reduced her welfare benefits, thus necessitating, turning tricks again.”