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Lynching: A Big Deal

Why hate crimes are an American issue



To some, America is the best place to live in the world based on our freedoms, values, belief system and opportunities for upward mobility. While many people who live in America would disagree with this sentiment, it is not actually the country itself, but what America represents that is desirable. American culture is so beloved that it is often cobbled together, packaged and exported to other countries in many forms of popular culture. Many are unaware of the on-going conflicts that occur here on a daily basis, because of America's legacy of racism, discrimination and inequality that often appear to be on the brink of extinction. One can point to several examples of progress in race relations in the United States, but it is extremely difficult to undo problematic ways of being and thinking in fifty years, when it took hundreds more to create.

Nonetheless, people of all races, classes, genders, sexual orientation, political views and religious doctrines are interested in and invested in continuing and promoting racial equality in this country. Unfortunately, there are some insidious, loathsome people, who are not. I call them "throwbacks," people that want to go back and wallow in the perverted nostalgia of a time when whites were legally empowered to control the lives of blacks in this country. These people want to go back to a time when you could snuff out a black man or woman, without punishment, for any real or imagined "crime." As black teenager Emmett Till and many others found out, you could lose your life for allegedly looking at or whistling at a white woman, and nothing would be done about it. Those who were perturbed by freed blacks could take out their frustration on them through murder. The preferred method of choice was lynching, a barbaric, sadistic practice that involved a mob, a black man or woman, some form of heinous torture, and a noose.

The recent re-emergence of the noose as a form of intimidation against African-Americans that dare to exercise their freedoms, like researching, writing and teaching about social justice at any ivy-league institution, servicing black populations at majority white state universities or sitting under a tree on school property, is alarming. The fact that these incidences would occur in academic settings is telling about how little learning is going on within these walls. A reader wrote to me stating that he thought that blacks made too big of a deal about nooses in relation to the Jena 6 case. For him and for those out there who do not understand why nooses are problematic for all Americans and lethal to our culture and society, let me clarify.

It is not necessarily the noose in and of itself that is the problem; it is what the noose represents (violence and hatred) and the way in which it was used, primarily against blacks, during slavery and post-reconstruction. Most of the lynchings were by hanging and were of a hideous nature. Lynching involved dismemberment, castration, burning at the stake, and other brutal methods of physical torture. For example, pregnant women that were lynched were cut open so that there fetus would hang out, in order to communicate that whites had dominance over current and future black lives. Lynching therefore was a cruel combination of racism and sadism, which was utilized primarily to sustain the caste system in the South.

According to Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States: 3,437 "Negro" and 1,293 white. The largest number of lynchings occurred in 1892. Of the 230 persons lynched that year, 161 were "Negroes" and 69 whites. Lynching is a big, fucking deal and nooses are a problematic symbol of a time when blacks and some whites, were terrorized by mobs of whites, including women and children, often for no reason at all, and mostly in the South. This was not a Hollywood movie, with fancy editing and a banjo laced soundtrack to present a sanitized version of this hateful act. This was real-life and in Technicolor, which is why pathetic people, like those involved in these hate crimes, choose a noose, as a form of intimidation to evoke terror in their targets. They certainly are not choosing a necktie.

Everyone should be appalled about these nooses because contrary to popular belief and popular culture, lynching was not a crime committed exclusively against black people, although blacks were most often the victims of such crimes. If whites were caught helping blacks in any way, they could be lynched in the same way, which is why it is perplexing as to why people see this as a black issue. The same idiots that are hanging nooses on trees and doors in order to terrorize blacks, are the same people that will do it to other whites and non-whites, whom they "feel" they can no longer control. No, it is not rational, but neither is lynching. Silence is often mistaken for compliance, so when all Americans fail to address these heinous acts in an energetic and meaningful way, these losers actually win.

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