Whose House? Our House.
American people are inherently good people, though it’s not always apparent. Dr. Ossian Sweet, a black man, moved into a white neighborhood in Detroit in 1925. A white mob (52 people) descended upon his house and terrorized people in the home in efforts to drive The Sweet Family out of the neighborhood. During the conflict one member of the mob was shot and killed. Dr. Sweet and 10 others were tried together for murder and the case ended in a hung jury.
In a second attempt to convict, the prosecution made the decision to try the defendants separately with Henry Sweet (Ossian’s brother) being tried first. Defense attorney Clarence Darrow, a white man, brilliantly painted a portrait of Black American Life in the 1920s as well as discussing housing discrimination and the type of daily prejudices that led to the fatal conflict. To summarize the closing arguments, Darrow expressed the right to defend oneself and one’s home, and in a stroke of genius compelled 12 white jurors to set aside race and do the right thing. Henry Sweet was acquitted and charges were subsequently dropped against the remaining 10 defendants. Darrow once said, “Prejudices do not rest upon facts: they rest upon the ideas that have been taught to us.”
Dick Gregory, writer, activist and standup comedian was born just six years after Henry Sweets landmark civil rights case concluded. It is truly fitting that Gregory transitioned on August 19th 2017, the same day a massive white supremacist counter protest took place in Boston, MA. In a tweet posted by Ava Duvernay, Gregory stressed many changes have come during his time in the civil rights movement. He went on further to say that the fight is not over and radical change begins at home. The food we eat, the water we drink or don’t drink and the information we consume pose a larger threat than things that are beyond our control.
Americans are representative of both positive and negative spaces in the larger composition of the world. Eight days ago Mark Heyer and Susan Bro lived every parent’s nightmare. Their daughter Heather Heyer was murdered by a domestic terrorist who plowed his vehicle into a crowd of white supremacy counter protesters. In a heartbreaking speech Susan Bro spoke of people coming together and settling their conflict through communication instead of violence. Bro ended her tribute by saying, “I’d rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we’re going to make it count.” America’s house has stained glass windows of many colors, all generating their own unique reflection when sunlight beams through. That house belongs to all of us.