In the Line of Fire

The book is called Bombingham because in Birmingham "bombings were so common" that blacks gave it that name. Grooms writes, "The Birmingham Klan was too sophisticated to toss a rope over a tree limb." Contrary to the comments of one of the elitist commentators, who was burdened with the task of filling up time during the week of September 11, terrorism on American soil is not rare. The Klan, which was in its infancy a Confederate guerrilla movement, has waged a terrorist campaign against black people since the end of the Civil War. Blacks in Tulsa and Philadelphia have been bombed from the air.

Nowadays the Klan's rhetoric has been co-opted by talk show hosts. Why on earth does the Klan need its Web site NiggerWatch (which gets a lot of its material from the mainstream media) when it has the Don Imus show? Shelby Foote, the country's leading celebrity historian, has even compared the Klan to the French Resistance. Its message is being used by well-funded think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (which supported Dinesh D'Souza's The End of Racism, compelling conservative Glenn Loury to resign from the institute). Moreover, Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, which preaches the Klan's theory about black intellectual inferiority, was praised by The New York Times.

Anthony Grooms redresses popular culture’s omission of black soldiers’ experience.
photo: J.D. Scott
Anthony Grooms redresses popular culture’s omission of black soldiers’ experience.

Details

Bombingham
By Anthony Grooms
The Free Press, 304 pp., $24
Buy this book

In Bombingham the heavy is played by Bull Connor, the oafish chief of public safety whose brutal treatment of the demonstrators provoked worldwide outrage and sympathy for Dr. King's cause. "Bull Connor looked much less like a bull than he did a hog." It's ironic that the nonviolent strategies of the civil rights movement are being mimicked by nonviolent institutions and individuals—among them the above-mentioned shock jocks and think tanks—that preach the Klan's ancient message. They are more subtle than Connor and, unlike the man whom Grooms calls "the archenemy himself," capable of influencing public policy.

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