This week, Santos Rodriguez and Emmett Till were remembered for the darkest reasons. Two White men murdered Emmett in Mississippi; he was accused of whistling at a White woman. Santos was murdered by an officer of the law who decided to play Russian Roulette with a loaded gun. This is to force a confession from a 12-year-old for the high crime of breaking into a vending machine. Emmett earned his unfortunate place in history in 1955 and Santos in 1973.

Had they not been robbed of their lives, Emmit would have turned 82 this year, as he was 14 at the time of his murder. Santos would have been 62 this year, fifty years after his murder. The court acquitted Emmette’s killers of murder and kidnapping charges. The police officer who killed Santos served two and a half years in prison after being sentenced to five years. In both cases, especially for the Emmett Till family, JUSTICE was never served.

Pero, we can say that both inspired a call to action for civil rights and equal justice for all. Rosa Parks referenced Emmitt as part of the reason for her bus protest. Here in North Texas, the murder of Santos awakened the Hispanic community to push for justice as part of the Chicano Civil Rights movement. On Tuesday, Channel 8 ran a documentary about Santo’s murder and the Fallot after. For quite a few in the Latino community, it was the first time many felt they had to act. They killed a child that could have been any of ours, and in many ways, he was and still is. When you look at the old news clips, you see Raza in the march and Blacks and Whites. His murder ignited outrage in Dallas like had not seen before.

The people that murdered them not only killed them but their families. And for the rest of us, it was a wake-up call. Suddenly, parents had begun warning their children that not all Police Officers were here to protect us. It was both a loss of innocence and an awakening for many in the Latino community. El QUO’ Quo was not just in nightmares but could also be someone dressed in blue or a stranger. This is a sad fact of those times, Pero; the worst part is that 68 years later, for Emmitt and 50 for Santos, this is still a reality and, in some ways, even worse. Because everyone has a gun, and far too many are one road incident away from murder.

The city of Dallas honored Santos by erecting a statue and acknowledging his murder on the plaque after much deliberation. The Chief of Police, Eddie Garcia, apologized to Santo’s mother two years ago, something no other chief would do. Is it because he is the first Latino Chief of Police, or was it because the time had finally come? Quien Saba (who knows), but I am sure Ms. Bessie Rodriguez appreciated that long-overdue gesture. And if you ever visit the part of Dallas still known by most as Little Mexico, you will see a statue of Santos Rodriguez. The building also carries its name as the Santos Rodriguez Center. Unfortunately, it is not operational yet though.

Perhaps equally touching over 2,000 miles away in Seattle, Washington, you can visit Santos Rodriguez Park. They dedicated the park to him five years after his tragic murder, 2,000 miles away in Dallas. Some may say why. El Centro de La Raza, a Seattle organization, viewed his murder as a loss for the entire community, not just a stranger’s death.

Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, were also in the news this week for a long overdue honor as President Biden announced a National Monument proclamation to the memory of Emmett Till this week. The monument also honors Mamie Till-Mobley for seeking justice for her son and other victims. Monuments and plaques will be placed in three locations important to this dark history. They will be placed at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago and the Tallahatchie County Court House in Mississippi. And at Graball Landing outside Glendora, Mississippi, at the riverbank believed to be the site where Emmett’s’ body was discovered.

It should be noted that the memorial plaque was repeatedly vandalized. This led to the installation of a bulletproof plaque in 2019 that would withstand the over 100 bullet holes the last ones had. Those cowardly vandalism acts result from all the division and hate plaguing our country. “God help us all.”

Many would not be reminded of our” Dark History” as some claim it would somehow hurt people’s feelings. President Biden said it best to announce the honor and proclamation at the ceremony. “At a time when there are those who seek to ban books, bury history, we’re making it clear — crystal, crystal clear — (that) while darkness and denialism can hide much, they erase nothing,” Biden said at a ceremony held Tuesday at Washington’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building announcing the proclamation. “…. Only with truth comes healing, justice, repair, and another step toward forming a more perfect union. We got a hell of a long way to go.”

  Reportedly Santos’ last words were “I am telling the truth.” And we all should too.

By A. Govea

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