The not so uncommon product of slavery, discrimination, racial inequality, protest, and ultimately oppression, is violence. Anti-black violence to be clear. In fact, it’s proven itself in history as an almost instinctual act of authority, an implicitly accepted strategy to impose one’s beliefs, yet hidden behind the false notion of protection, safety, and security.
This is systematic racism in action.
The History of Lynching
“the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me…” - MLK
Lynching: a mob killing of an alleged criminal, typically by hanging, that goes unjust, our without legal implications.
The keyword of that definition is “alleged”. Keep that in mind as you continue to read throughout this article. It will show its importance later.
Dating back to the beginning of racially-charged, anti-black violence, the mid 1800’s into the start of the 20th century were some of the most fatal years. According to the NAACP, due to the rise of tension within the United States, 4,743 lynchings took place between the years 1882-1968. Of that, almost 73% were African American. It’s worth mentioning that while these numbers seem large, many lynchings went un-recorded. Additionally, of the additional 27% of other lynchings recorded, the vast majority were related to whites that took a black’s side, in other words, were “anti-lynching” at the time.
It’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of lynchings that took place during these times were anti-black violence cases.
The Colfax Massacre
Said to be the bloodiest event of racial violence in that era, the Colfax Massacre unfolded in 1873 due to political tensions and resulted in an estimated 150 African American murders that went without discipline or prosecution. In other words, the murders were forgotten, the terrorists weren’t lawfully pursued, and history yet again failed in the face of black men and women alike.
The wake of the 20th century was when lynching and anti-black violence seemed to be at its peak. Without any rhyme or reason to justify their actions, false allegations of African Americans seemed to be the loophole for those eager to inflict violence on people of color. In the early 1900’s, rape was the most common of allegations. What would unfold time and time again after such allegations would be mass lynchings, vandalization of black-owned property, fires, systemic displacement & ethnic cleansing, incarcerations --- all without justice.
Black Wall Street
A historic example of false accusations and allegations towards the black community resulting in death and displacement took place in 1921. The riot was marked in history as the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Black Wall Street was a thriving black community that turned a vacant area of nothingness into a prosperous, peaceful, and affluent community. Upon striking oil and becoming economically independent from the rest of the United States, tensions began to boil from the jealousy the whites held towards the positive growth this black community was experiencing.
Through accusations, conspiracy with the government, and false narratives created by the anti-black society (police authority, government, societally racist white folk, etc.), what ensued was a 48 hour massacre that was nothing short of a one-sided war. Swarms intruded upon the black community, and ultimately murdered an estimated 300, whilst displacing almost 10,000.
Like much of African American history, this anti-black violent event was smothered and suppressed, leaving the real truth unexplained for over a century.
1995. 14 year-old black boy was accused of an alleged “cat-call” towards a white woman. He was tortured and killed. Justice? An all-white jury unanimously vindicated those responsible and nothing more was said.
“How do you console my mom or give her light support, telling her, her son's on life support? And just imagine how my girl feel, on the plane, scared as hell that her guy look like Emmett Till…” - Kanye West, Through the wire.
The family of Emmett Till decided to have an open-casket funeral in protest of the brutality inflicted upon the innocent young boy. This is where the Kanye West lyric brings context.
Police brutality: the unwarranted, excessive, and often illegal use of force against civilians by police authorities.
More relevant than ever, in light of the recent murders of innocent black men and women throughout the Country, police brutality is a prominent force with regards to anti-black violence in modern society.
Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.
Saying these names should explain it all…
While police brutality has been around for the years totaling African-American history, today, the same issue persists. Racial profiling, public policy targeting marginalized groups, and an overwhelming majority of crimes being attributed to blacks, it can be argued that this controversial policing strategy is, in fact, encouraged.
What we see today is, yet again, a repeat of history. While protests typically hold the intention of solution, peace, and unity, it is often exacerbated by the tensions between races, an abuse of power, and an excessive use of force via the militarization of police forces across the U.S.
The viscous cycle of oppression - protest - riot - violence - injustice - repeat. It needs to end. Unity needs to be the default in society. Now, more than ever, we are divided. We must continue to educate, advocate, and act on what is right. Until then, meaningful change isn’t going to come.
I will leave you with this quote by Malcom X:
“I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”