A Lynching Happens Every 40 Hours


A Lynching Happens Every 40 Hours

By David J. Leonard // Huffington Post


Throughout the early part of the twentieth century, African-American activists fought to thwart the systemic scourge of lynching. Faced with a silent and complicit populace, particularly the media and political establishment, African Americans forced the nation to bear witness to the depravity of American racism. Between 1882 and 1968, close to 5,000 lynchings (73% of the victims were black) took place on American soil, and that is of course an estimate that does not account for the countless unknown souls who lost their lives at the hands of White supremacy. According to Richard Perloff, racial lynchings had become commonplace in part because of the media’s failures to bring the injustice to light. He quotes a white resident of Emelle Alabama, who questioned a reporter’s inquiry into the killing of an African American: “A few White residents who had been on hand when the men were killed refused to talk about the events to reporters from The Tuscaloosa News. “What the hell are you newspaper men doing here?” asked a White man who had been part of the vigilante group. ‘We’re just killing a few negroes that we’ve waited too damn long about leaving for the buzzards. That’s not news'” (Raper, 1933, p. 67). The silence from the mainstream media about blacks victims burned to death, hung, and dismembered, embodied the normalization of white supremacist violence.

Activists and Black journalists responded to American media that often downplayed the practice of white-on-black violence and/or named African Americans as deserving of torment and murder. According to Perloff, writing in The Journal of Black Studies, “It is next to impossible to locate a newspaper article that does not identify the victim as a Negro or that refrains from suggesting that the accused was guilty of the crime and therefore deserving of punishment. For example, The New Orleans Picayune described an African-American who was lynched in Hammond, Louisiana for robbery as a ‘big, burly negro’ and a ‘Black wretch'”.

Amid this silence and sanctioning of White-on-Black violence, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and others within the Black press not only documented each and every lynching, but in providing the graphic details, they challenged the very fabric of American racism. From displaying signs announcing “A Lynching Happened Today” to the publication of various pamphlets, activists worked to force America to come to grips with the contradiction between its purported creed and the ongoing violence perpetuated within its boundaries

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The history of racist violence, of lynchings, of state violence, or a complicit media and systemic injustice, all of which define the era of Jim Crow, remain a reality despite our purportedly post-racial moment. A recent report from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) entitled “Report on Extrajudicial Killings of 110 Black People” elucidates the contemporary struggle against lynchings. In the first six months of 2012, the police, security guards, and self appointed agents of “justice” have killed 110 African-American men, women, and children. Since its publication, there have been 10 additional killings in total, 2012, which means that in 2012, there has been 1 killing every 36 hours.

Of those who lost their life at the hands of a police or security officer, 47 did not have a weapon at the time of their killing. Another 40 were said to have a weapon (including a cane, a BB gun and a toy gun), although witnesses have disputed these purported facts. A small number of those killed, 21 people, were armed at the time they were sentenced to death. None were afforded the presumed right of innocence until proven guilty.

Many of these deaths are the consequences of stop and frisk policies, racial profiling, and a culture of White racist stereotyping of African Americans as criminals and suspects. According to Rosa Clemente, a member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and former vice-presidential candidate of the Green Party, “Nowhere is a Black woman or man safe from racial profiling, invasive policing, constant surveillance, and overriding suspicion.” In the press release, she notes “all Black people – regardless of education, class, occupation, behavior or dress – are subject to the whims of the police in this epidemic of state initiated or condoned violence.”
The study showed that 43% of those killed on these streets, prior to any legal proceedings, were stopped because of “suspicious behavior or appearance” or because of traffic violations. Another 10% were not involved in criminal behavior at all, with another 18% resulting from 9-1-1 calls, including several from family members seeking assistance with individuals suffering from mental illness, only to see them killed in the streets. With only 33% of those killed resulting from an actual investigation, we must begin to ask protecting and serving whom?

Among its victims are: Rekia Boyd, an innocent bystander shot and killed in Chicago; Dante Price, who was shot 22 times, while trying to pick up his children; and Travis Henderson, a “a suicidal man sitting in a church parking lot with a gun. When he got out of the car, he allegedly pointed the gun at an officer and was shot.” An Orange County Sherriff killed Manuel Loggins, a former marine and father of two daughters, in front of his children. The “sheriff initially said he feared for his own safety and later revised his story to say he feared for the girls’ safety.” And there is Anton Barrett, “who was allegedly driving without headlights and running stop signs when a DUI Saturation Patrol signaled him to stop. According to the report, “he led the officers on a high speed chase, when his tires went flat, he fled on foot. One officer confronted him in a darkened alley and shot him multiple times, claiming he thought he saw him pull a ‘metallic object’ from his sweatshirt pocket. After Barrett was shot, he attempted to rise and a second officer tasered him. He was cuffed and died at hospital. Police admit they mistook wallet for gun.” The history of state violence, of the consequences of systemic racism, a story often imagined as a concluded chapter in American history, remains a grave problem of the twenty-first century.

In the spirit of Ida B. Wells and other freedom fighters, this report continues the tradition of baring witness to the atrocities of state violence. Under a cloud of silence, denial, and denied accountability, the death toll rises. While the media, political “leaders,” and citizens alike ignore and justify these killings by blaming the victims, MXGM and this report make clear that African Americans continue to live “without sanctuary” in America, demanding that we not only “bare witness” to these ongoing atrocities but join them “in demanding that the Obama administration implement a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to stop these killings and other human rights violations being committed by the government.”

A lynching happened today;

One happens every 36 hours;

Will another happen tomorrow?

As Ida B. Wells-Barnett powerfully reminds us, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

To read the report visit www.mxgm.org. For information on the petition visit

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Playing Dead: The Trayvoning Meme & the Mocking of Black Death

Playing Dead:

The Trayvoning Meme & the Mocking of Black Death

by Lisa Guerrero and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The more things change, the more they stay the same. While new media and social networking is “transforming” our society, in certain ways, bringing people closer together, if only seemingly so, its “newness” seems only relative to its potential as a new frontier in which to deploy and recycle the same old narratives and tropes, to continue a history of injustices that define the American experience. As the technologies of communication appear new, the technologies of oppression are anything but. However, as we see with “Trayvoning,” the trend that has White youth posting pictures of themselves as if they were part of the Trayvon crime scene, the marriage of communication innovation with racist stagnation does constitute something new, though not improved, in the history of the system of racism in the United States.

“’Trayvoning’ is when you get a hoodie, Skittles and Arizona iced tea, and pose like you’ve been shot in the chest.” The Facebook page instructs participants in go through the following steps:

1. Get hoodie

2. Get skittles

3. Get Arizona

4. Wear hoodie

5. Go to Florida

6. Get shot 🙂

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American male who was unarmed and got shot by a raciest [sic] Mexican American.

During Step 7, participants are instructed to post their pictures on the Internet, which has led to widespread circulation of these disgusting and dehumanizing images.

In response to reports about “Trayvoning,” Jasiri X asked on Twitter: “Trayvoning? Really? Why is our pain, suffering & death, always mocked for laughs?” This question gets to the heart of not only the efforts to recreate and disseminate representations of the Trayvon case, but it is also a means to communicate pleasure in the murder of Trayvon. “Trayvoning” recasts and performs injustice by turning someone’s pain and suffering into a spectacle of white pleasure that further denies the humanity of black people. This is reflected not just in “Trayvoning” but with the Orlando businessman who has sought to capitalize by selling Trayvon shooting targets, the media that continues to criminalize and blame Trayvon, and those who have disparaged, mocked (see here for picture of someone who donned blackface), and made light of a dead young man.

The disregard for Black life, and the disparagement of Black death is nothing new; the pleasure and joy garnered from Black suffering and dreams deferred has been central to White supremacy throughout United States history. Evident in minstrel shows, the history of lynching, and jokes about racial profiling or the war on drugs, whites have always found joy in the violence experienced by African Americans.

The history of American public discourse is one marred with both the erasure of black and suffering, and efforts to find happiness and pleasure in the suffering of the OTHER. We saw this during Hurricane Katrina where the sight of African Americans wading through water in search of food or medicine, or stranded families clinging to life on roof tops elicited reactions of shock and horror as well as pleasure and joy at the knowledge that could never happen to White America. Dylan Rodriguez describes Katrina as a “scene of white popular enjoyment, wherein the purging/drowning of black people provided an opportunity for white Americana to revel in its entitlement to remain relatively indifferent to this nearby theater of breathtaking devastation.”

Such joy isn’t simply an outgrowth of the denied humanity of Black people or the refusal to witness and see Black pain, but it is also a celebration of, or at least the solidification of, White humanity, White power, and the protective armor that whiteness provides each and every day. This is the story of race in America, from lynchings to Katrina, from slavery to Trayvon Martin.

But the examples of racialized disregard that have surrounded Trayvon Martin’s death, most recently exemplified in the commodification and “meme-ification” of the tragedy by various White people. This marks a startling new mechanization of racism wherein there has been a complete evacuation of humanity…on both sides, that of people of color and other marginalized groups, the dehumanization of which is, sadly, no longer surprising, but also that of dominant groups who willfully participate in acts of oppression like “Trayvoning” whose humanity becomes increasingly and insidiously taken over by consumption and performance. The joy historically, as well as contemporaneously, taken by many Whites in the violence against and suffering of African Americans has become nearly indistinguishable from the joy of consuming.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Playing Dead: The Trayvoning Meme & the Mocking of Black Death.