RACISM & Confronting the Legacy of Lynching as Racial Terror

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Many people know that Marion, Indiana was the location of the last lynching of a black man in America. In some ways as a response to this deplorable history, a university with a strong and unwavering advocacy for racial equality has emerged. Yet many people do not understand that lynching was used to terrorize African Americans, resulting in what this article describes as ‘terror lynchings’ that ‘fueled the mass migration of millions of black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West during the first half of the twentieth century. Lynching created a fearful environment where racial subordination and segregation was maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America.’ To understand the necessity of both spiritual and racial reconciliation, not only residents of Marion, Indiana but all of our students, friends and colleagues must grasp more accurately the modern-day ramifications of such terroristic behavior. Therefore I urge you to read this important to report on the legacy of lynching in America.”

Lynching in America: Confronting the legacy of racial terror (report summary)

By the Equal Justice Initiative, www.eji.org, 2/15/15

Introduction

Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism. “Terror lynchings” peaked between 1880 and 1940 and claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children who were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaided.

Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in America and shaped the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African Americans in ways that are still evident today. Terror lynchings fueled the mass migration of millions of black people from the South into urban ghettos in the North and West during the first half of the twentieth century. Lynching created a fearful environment where racial subordination and segregation was maintained with limited resistance for decades. Most critically, lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America. The administration of criminal justice especially is tangled with the history of lynching in profound ways that continue to contaminate the integrity and fairness of the justice system.

This report begins a necessary conversation to confront the injustice, inequality, anguish, and suffering that racial terror and violence created. The history of terror lynching compli- cates contemporary issues of race, punishment, crime, and justice. Mass incarceration, ex- cessive penal punishment, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color reveal problems in American society that were framed in the terror era. The narrative of racial difference that lynching dramatized continues to haunt us. Avoiding honest conversation about this history has undermined our ability to build a nation where racial justice can be achieved.

The Context for this Report

In America, there is a legacy of racial inequality shaped by the enslavement of millions of black people. The era of slavery was followed by decades of terrorism and racial subor- dination most dramatically evidenced by lynching. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s challenged the legality of many of the most racist practices…

Download the entire report here … http://www.eji.org/files/EJI%20Lynching%20in%20America%20SUMMARY.pdf