Lynching and Other Racial Acts of Violence Should Not Be a Surprise

When you remove only the top growth of mature weeds, a weed problem will not be resolved. The mature weed’s root is larger, stronger and deeper, and most likely the top growth has already gone to seed. Therefore, unless the whole weed is removed before it has an opportunity to go to seed, it will continue to grow and seed year after year.

And, so it is with racism. Although we have come a long way legislatively to combat racial abuses against each other, it is only the top growth. The deeper causes, its roots, remain and continue to seed.

Those racist roots are entrenched in Mississippi. For instance, although the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the US Constitution abolishing poll taxes was ratified by my state of Massachusetts in 1963, it was not until 1989 that Mississippi repealed segregationist era poll taxes. And on March 16, 1995, Mississippi symbolically ratified the US Constitution’s Thirteenth Amendment that in 1865 had abolished slavery. It was not until 2009 that the Mississippi legislature finally passed a bill to repeal discriminatory Jim Crow laws that had been enacted in 1964.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to read of the alleged lynching in December 2010 of Fredrick Jermaine Carter in Greenwood, Mississippi, which is about 12 miles from Money, where in August 1955 one of the most infamous lynching’s in U.S. history took place: Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy visiting relatives for the summer, was lynched. Neither was it a surprising when I read of the recent killing of James C. Anderson, an African-American, by a group of teenagers on a white-power mission in Jackson, Mississippi.

In Mississippi Still Burning, Marcia Alesan Dawkins writes . . . “Mississippi’s racially violent past could predispose its population to racial violence today. Couple that with a case of historical amnesia about lynching in the South generally and Mississippi specifically-and the fact that most lynching of black men went unpunished-and we get an environment in which acts of racial violence can be committed without much fear of retribution.

“Now the effects of lynching are clearer to see: a reduced population of African-American men, an increase in broken African-American families and a shroud of silence from black communities. We can see all of these at play in the case of Anderson, whose family has chosen to remain silent. We can also hear lynching’s message to African-Americans and to all groups that are perceived as a threat to the status quo: Don’t expect more than the privileged are willing to give. Don’t offend “white power” with increased economic and political status, interracial fraternizing or romance or perceptions thereof. Don’t even take up space in public. Keep America “clean,” “pure” and racially and economically divided.”

In the sixties, I travelled extensively throughout the Deep South. The blatant, in-your-face racism by whites against blacks was appalling. That is why some fifty years later it is no surprise to me that the roots of racism remain in Mississippi. For America’s southern states need to work harder at removing its racist roots, and to one extent or another so do we all. You see, once that whole weed with the root and its top growth removed, with each generation there will be less and less of them.

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