Otis Byrd: A Black Man Found Hanging From a Tree in Mississippi March 19

March 19, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Otis Byrd

Otis Byrd

Otis Byrd, a 51 year old Black man, was found hanging from a tree in the woods of Claiborne County, Mississippi on March 19.

No one had seen Byrd since March 2. His family had filed a missing persons report on March 8. Somehow the authorities in Mississippi could not find Otis Byrd, his neck broken, dangling from a tree half a mile from his home. Both the FBI and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) have said they are investigating the “cause and manner” of Byrd's death. The coroner says he can't speak until the reports are in. But the mainstream (ruling class) media have already launched a character assassination, post mortem, of Otis Byrd, saying he spent 25 years in the Mississippi prison system for a murder conviction, as if somehow his alleged criminal past offered an explanation as to why he was hanging from a tree.

The exact circumstances of this brutal death are unknown right now. Otis Byrd's family and friends have not been heard from yet. But some things are certain.

» For years now, this country has been afflicted by a plague of violence against Black people – official, state sanctioned violence, and racist vigilante violence. This is part and parcel of what Carl Dix has called “a slow genocide that could become a fast genocide”.

» Police have murdered dozens of people, mostly Black and Latino, in the less than three months of 2015. The cops who murdered Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others have gone unpunished. A Justice Department “investigation” exonerated the cop who murdered Michael Brown.

» Racists feel emboldened by the relentless criminalization of Black people to act on their vile, hateful, outlook towards Black people, as did the frat boys at the University of Oklahoma; as did George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn, the murderers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, in Florida.

» The oppression of Black people is deeply embedded into every aspect of this capitalist-imperialist system, and it permeates the dominant culture. But there are few places where it so overtly and viscerally defines a place as it does Mississippi. An archive of recorded lynchings in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968 done by the Tuskegee Institute indicates that 539 Black people were killed by lynch mob in Mississippi in that period – the most of any state in the country. Countless other people – people murdered at night when their cabin was burned; people shot and thrown in backwoods rivers; people buried in swamps; people shot by the police; women who resisted rapists – are not included in these figures. Mississippi ratified the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution – which means state lawmakers finally voted to “outlaw” slavery in Mississippi – in 2013! Here's a grim reality: a Black man hanging from a tree is not an aberration in the history of Mississippi.

Less than two weeks ago, Barack Obama spoke from the infamous Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. Obama asked, “what could be more American than what happened in that place?”

Obama was speaking of the civil rights marchers who with great heart stood up to the state troopers, county sheriffs, and racist vigilantes who savagely beat, whipped, and gassed protesters seeking the right to vote – but the reality is that nothing could be “more American” than the brutality those pigs poured on the courageous civil rights marchers; nothing could be “more American” than murder by police of Black and Latino youth; nothing could be more in keeping with the tradition and history of this country than the lynching of Black people.


Listen to what Bob Avakian has to say about lynching in the United States

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