By Ralph E. Moore Jr.
Be careful out there. There are three trials resolving in America these days that remind one of the lynching of the bad ole days: Kyle Rittenhouse at 17 years old took his gun with him driven by his mother to a demonstration. He went to attend a protest against a White police officer in Kenosha, Wisc. involving the shooting of a young Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back seven times. Blake’s three small children saw it from the back of his car when he was shot.
Rittenhouse, in the spirit and tradition of lynching back in the day, grabbed his AR-15 style weapon and he and his mom traveled across state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin. He wandered around the demonstration site in full view of the police and before he went home he killed two men and seriously wounded another. After doing his deadly deeds, like those who performed lynching he was driven back home and had a good night’s sleep in his own bed. He was arrested for his crimes two days after he committed them. Recently Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges and the band of White supremacists played on, no funeral dirges but perhaps songs of rejoicing that “happy days are here again.”
And then, in a separate case near Brunswick in Glynn County, Ga., there are three White men on trial for killing Ahmaud Arbery, in a fit of vigilante (White) justice and therefore in cold blood. They claimed to be taking the law into their own hands, as those who lynch always do, because Arbery looked familiar (he was an occasional jogger through their neighborhood). And because he was Black he must have done something wrong or he likely would steal something from a house under construction that he stopped in a few times to see the progress of the work.
Arbery, age 25, had no weapon, made no threats and was running away from a White man with a rifle and the man’s father, who threatened to blow his head off. Ahmaud ended up dead and three men who lynched him, the shooter, his father, who helped corner him, and the third man driving the truck and filming the murder (as lynchers often did) are all on trial for the crime. They claim self-defense. They provoked a situation, imposing on someone minding his own business and then stated during the trial they were only defending themselves. They know when all is said and done and despite evidence to the contrary that within the white justice system the likelihood is their lies will set them free. And Ahmaud Arbery, sadly, is dead at an early age.
White supremacists are on trial for the outcomes of their August 11, 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va. where hundreds of them carrying torches chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “White lives matter.” And yes, they are entitled to free speech allowing them to spew hatred and insults until the chickens come home to roost. But in this case the chickens stayed and they confronted those opposed to their Neo-Nazi views who were engaged in a counter-demonstration the next day, also on the University of Virginia campus. The original rally was to protest the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue from the college grounds. And now, one of the chicken ring leaders, Christopher Cantwell, is on trial for conspiracy to incite violence which led to one of his allies (James Alex Fields of Ohio) driving his car into the crowd of the opponents of hate. It resulted in dozens of injuries that afternoon and the death of 32 year old Heather Heyer.
Several of the young, White male lynch mob members are being sued for conspiracy to incite violence. Each is being sued for $10,000,000. The goal is to put them out of business by taking away all of their personal and business assets. It remains to be seen how this one will turn out.
Lynching has been part of American life since forever. There was Emmett Till, the 14 year-old boy from Chicago, who during a 1955 visit to his cousin near Money, Mississippi was accused of being flirtatious with a white woman at a convenience store. He was abducted from his great uncle’s home in the middle of the night, beaten, his eye gouged out, shot in the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River to die with the fan of a cotton gin around his neck to insure he would drown. No indictment, no jail time, no lawyers, no trial… just White violence disguised as Wwhite justice.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is sometimes called the Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (opened by civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson). It memorializes the over 4400 such acts of terrorism that have taken place in this country between 1877 and 1950.
Reportedly the atmosphere at lynchings was everything from celebratory to vengeful. Blacks, without the benefit of the doubt, were strung up and choked until they died while Whites looked up, cheered, showed their children and had picnics on the site of the hanging. They took pictures, cheered to rousing speeches and some took home body parts of those they had killed: ears, fingers, even private parts.
The sense of violence in abandon still exists today. That’s what the three trials are showing us. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was lynched on a busy street in broad daylight by a Minneapolis police officer. Derek Chauvin, the “policeman” smirked as he killed Floyd, confident he could get away with cold blooded lynching of an innocent man. Thankfully he was wrong.
But Chauvin’s conviction will not stop other white supremacists from trying. The norm has been unfettered violence inflicted by Whites on Blacks and other persons of color with no repercussions. Notice how the White extremists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 this year brought a hangman’s noose with them? After all their violence and vandalism, blatantly in violation of the law, they all got to go home that night. Not one was arrested. White justice struck again.
That is a very dangerous atmosphere for Blacks to live in, to raise children in, to bring up grandchildren in. The National NAACP ran a campaign, and among other efforts, from 1920 to 1938, the organization flew a flag from its national headquarters in New York that bore the words “A man was lynched yesterday.” Nowadays, it could be a man, a woman or a child. So, keep your eyes and ears open as lynching returns (if it ever left the American scene). And hey, y’all, be careful out here.
Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members! Join here!