Genocidal Realities: Then and Now

February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


1877 to 1950: 4,000 Lynchings

“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.”
From Lynchings in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror

A recently released report sheds further light on the horrific history of lynchings of Black people in the United States. The report, Lynchings in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), is a result of five years of extensive research and documents 3,959 lynchings of Black people in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. This is at least 700 more lynchings than had been found in any previous reports. In other words, lynchings were an even more widely used form of terror against Black people than previously thought.

Rubin Stacy lynchingThe body of 32-year-old Rubin Stacy hangs from a tree in Fort Lauderdale, FL., July 19, 1935. Stacy was lynched by a mob of masked white men who seized him from the custody of sheriff’s deputies for allegedly attacking a white woman. White families came to visit the gruesome murder. AP photo

The researchers confirmed that many victims of lynchings were murdered without being accused of any crime—like 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed for whistling at a white woman. As the EJI study notes, "Racial lynching was a tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation—a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing the entire African American community, not merely punishment for an alleged perpetrator of a crime."

Many of these lynchings were made into public spectacles, involving savage torture of the victims, gruesome treatment of their bodies, and the selling of postcards of the murderous events. From the EJI report: "Large crowds of people, often numbering in the thousands and including elected officials and prominent citizens, gathered to witness pre-planned, heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and/or burning of the victim. White press justified and promoted these carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim's body parts collected as souvenirs. There killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a message that African Americans were sub-human, their subjugation was to be achieved through any means necessary, and whites who carried out lynchings would face no legal repercussions."

As the authors of the EJI study point out, there is today an "astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching"—even as many of the very places where the lynchings took place "have gone to great lengths to erect markers and monuments that memorialize the Civil War, the Confederacy, and historical events during which local power was violently reclaimed by white Southerners."

2013: Police Kill 461 People

Comparison of people killed by police to police killed

As protesters filled the streets from New York to Ferguson to Seattle to Atlanta in a national eruption of protest against police murder, the powers-that-be struck back. They seized on the killing of two New York police on December 20 to make it seem like the problem is people killing police. That’s not what’s happening.

According to statistics compiled by the pro-police National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 27 police were killed as a result of “felonious acts" in 2013. Their same report found that “firearms-related fatalities [against police] reached a 126-year low.”

And according to the FBI, U.S. violent crimes, including murders, fell 4.4 percent in 2013 to their lowest number since the 1970s. (Chicago Tribune)

Police murder Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, WA, Tuesday, February 10

But while reported crime and killing of police are at record lows, the number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year—461—was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report. And it is known that these numbers are way low, as they rely on local police departments submitting data to the FBI, which many major police departments do not do.

Missing from these official statistics is the vastly disproportional police violence and murder aimed at Black and Latino people. But even based on their own statistics, do the math: The problem is police are killing people, not the other way around.

Mass Incarceration

Over two million people in prison, vastly disproportionally Black and Latino, are part of a slow genocide that can become a fast genocide. Above: Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, LA. Photo: AP

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