New Emmett Till memorial sign to be bulletproof because people won't stop being racist a-holes

Emmet Till was a fun-loving 14-year-old, always joking and pulling silly pranks. In 1955, while visiting with family in Mississippi, he allegedly flirted with a white woman in a grocery store. Four days later, the woman's husband and half brother broke into Till's uncle's house, kidnapped the boy at gunpoint, beat him severely, gouged out one of his eyes, and then shot him in the head. Using barbed wire, they tied a large metal fan to his neck and threw him into the Tallahatchie River.

When Till's body was found three days later, his face was unrecognizable and a monogrammed ring he wore had to be used to identify him.

The two men who kidnapped him were arrested, and three weeks later they stood trial. After less than an hour's deliberation, the all-white, all-male jury acquitted the men of all charges. After brutally murdering an innocent child, they walked free.


Till's mother insisted on her son's remains being placed in a glass-topped casket so the world would see what racism and white supremacy had done to her only child. The images from his funeral served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement that followed.

Such a clear-cut story of racial violence should easily bring all Americans to the same page, right? We should all agree that such a heinous act and gross miscarriage of justice should be treated with some level of reverence and respect. We should all agree that the scene of such a violent, tragic crime against a child should be considered a sacred place. That should just be a given, shouldn't it?

Apparently it's not a given for the people who can't stop defacing the memorial sign marking the spot where Emmett Till's body was found. It's not a given for the people who stole the original memorial marker in 2008 and threw it into the river. It's not a given for the people who shot 317 bullets through the second sign, nor for the people who shot up the third replacement sign barely a month after it went up.

It's not a given for the three Ole Miss frat boys who posed in front of the bullet-riddled sign holding shotguns and rifles just recently, either. Till's memorial marker has had to be replaced four times in a little over a decade because some people apparently can't stop being racist a-holes.

I mean, really. How sick do you have to be to desecrate a place where a tortured, murdered child's body was found? How brazen do you have to be to shoot holes in a memorial for a child that was killed by being shot in the head? How heartless do you have to be to think there's anything okay about posing with guns and smiling at the camera in front of a sign that describes how a child was brutally murdered?

The marker will once again be replaced, this time by a 600-pound, reinforced steel, bulletproof sign. The fact that a child's memorial marker needs to be made bulletproof should send a chill down everyone's spine.

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I hear people try to say that racism isn't really a thing anymore, as if the passage of the Civil Rights Act magically removed centuries of racism from every American heart. I hear people say racism would disappear if we stop talking about it, as if the word "racism" somehow conjures racial injustice to appear out of thin air. I hear people say stories like this one perpetuate the issue, as if describing something that happened somehow causes things like it to happen.

I hear people talk about "white supremacy" only in the context of Neo-Nazis, as if white supremacy hasn't been the default of our nation since its founding.

Racism is intertwined with America's foundation like a root system, and uprooting it is a messy and arduous process. The civil rights movement may have cut down the most visible weeds of white supremacy at the surface, but it didn't uproot the whole system. If we don't dig deeper down, if we don't get the dirt under our fingernails and constantly strive to pull those weeds from the root, they'll never really be gone. Racism will keep on cropping up in ugly ways.

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Things like shooting up Emmett Till's memorial marker is an ugly, visible weed of racism that keeps cropping up, but it's not the whole problem. Let's condemn such horrific actions, absolutely. But let's also recognize that racism exists in degrees that all of us need to constantly weed out if we ever hope to rid ourselves of it once and for all.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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