Thursday, February 12, 2015

A lynching every week for 73 years

It has been long known that lynching was not the uncommon occurrences in the US post the Civil War, as some people try to paint it as, but now the Atlanta Blackstar has an article, that tells us that lynchings were even more widespread than we had realized.

New Report Compiles A Devastating Count of Nearly 4,000 Lynchings of Black People in the US, Showing This Form of White Terrorism Had Profound Impact on American History
There were 3,959 Black people lynched in the United States between 1877 and 1950—a number that is 700 more than previously known—and Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana had more lynchings than any other state in the country. These revelations are contained in an astounding new report by the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative that attempts to place this horrid form of American racial terrorism in its proper historical context as a tool of white supremacy that had a profound impact on the nation.
The report, called “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” ties lynching to a broader picture of white social control, showing how lynchings affected African-American migration patterns, effectively turning many Southern communities from predominantly Black to overwhelmingly white virtually overnight and sending millions of Black people to the cities of the North to escape this terrorism. It is a significantly more nuanced view of how whites used lynching to serve particular purposes—and how lynchings were a seldom-discussed driver of the Great Migration of Black people to the North.
A summary of the report can be found here (pdf).

So, after investigating lynchings, the report found that there had been 3,959 lynchings over 73 years. That is an average of more than 54 lynchings per year, or put differently, it means that there was, on average, one lynching per week for 73 years!

This is an horrifying thought.

After having posted about this on facebook, one of my facebook friends wrote:
When you hear about lynching now, it's cast as some sort of anomaly, somehow separate from the main stream of US experience. But Kristjan's average really puts it in perspective: anything that happens once a week for 70+ years is Normal with a capital N; it WAS the US experience. It barely rated news coverage, just as these days black deaths in the inner cities barely rate a mention on any but the local news.
That is a great way of putting it. When we are talking such numbers, we are not talking anomalies - we are talking routine. This was the daily life of people living back then.

Remember this, when people try to dismiss the concept of institutionalized racism or downplay how bad racism was in the past.

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