Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fun and Lynching

I have been thinking again about anti-racist/imperial struggle and its relationship to whiteness. In particular, I am revisiting the manner in which whiteness erases much of its brutal history in contemporary terms.

I like many remain stuck at this juncture.

But I cannot forget. Because not forgetting is a form of struggle resistance that is powerful. When the memory of racism is invoked the value-free individuality of contemporary whiteness is unavoidably reduced. Remembering is an important step to linking modern racism to its roots.

It is therefore important to tell the bigger story of whiteness when confronted with its enduring excesses.

I am reminded that many whites attended lynchings in the south as a form of family and community fun. For this reason, parents would dress their kids smartly and go down to the site of a lynching. Once there they would pose next to the lynched bodies for photos. Some of the photos that have survived show children and adults laughing and eating candy close to the lynched bodies. Many of these photos ended up as postcards. Others were treasured as family mementoes.












This is a postcard picture of Jesse Washington who was lynched in Texas in 1916. Washington was taken from a court room where he was being tried for the alledged rape of a white woman. He was burned alive in from of City Hall in Waco Texas. Thereafter his remains were hung on a telephone pole. It is said that 15 000 people watched this horrible scene. This number represented half the population of Waco in 1916. See here for a more detailed discussion.












This is the back of the Jesse Washington postcard. It reads in part: "This is the barbecue we had last night ... "


This postcard captures a man who was lynched in Texas (1920). Notice the young boys with the spellbound look on their faces.










Laura Nelson was lynched in Oklahoma (1911) off the side of a bridge. Her son was lynched alongside her too.




This picture captures a framed postcard and hair from one or both of the men who were lynched (1930).

The writing on the postcard says: "Bo poitn to his nga."


This Texas postcard from 1920 reads in part: "Burning the negro who killed Jim Mitchell ..."

There are hundreds more of these postcards and they all depict a very sad reality that cannot simply be forgotten or casually acknowledged. There is a dehumanization that must be confronted. A dehumanization that whiteness created and sustained. And a dehumanization that has carried into the present under different terms but for the same racist purposes: domination and privilege.

It is instructive to note that these lynchings were not carried out as an act of the state. Though the state did not stop the lynchings, they were carried out by white communities acting as private citizens. Lynchings were thus a kind of community event where the values of whiteness and racism were made to be normal.

The indoctrination value and the inducement of fun came together seamlessly and brutally.


For more information and picture sources click here and here.

Also see this book: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000).

11 comments:

Eugene said...

Man oh man! It's in the DNA the memories of all the crap. People like to forget. It is easier to enjoy their privilege that way I would guess. Like the lynchings of your folks, they also massacred us Indians left and right in this area.

In Jacksonville, I believe it was three years after its founding, good Americans saw fit to hang some 30 Indians up and down the main street. A pastor who found a lost Indian boy asked some folks if they could help him out with the boy. They said yes, and the pastor didn't know what they were doing, and they strung him up along with the rest. But let's pretend that didn't happen.

There were also two good size massacres in the Silverton area I just recently found out from a friend of mine who lives in the area. Two groups of peaceful Indians hanging out on their land and whitey was just tired of seeing them, so a bunch of them got together and killed about 50 in each massacre.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment Eugene. We need to make these brutal events known and known again.

I am tired of white people who want to sweep these massacres under the carpet.

This many do while preaching to us about the 'genocide' in Darfur, for example.

I would like to know more about the lynchings you mention.

Also, I read your thoughts on the HBO movie "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee." I was still in South Africa when you wrote it and it got me really riled up.

Then the other night I caught it on HBO in PDX. From the start I could see you were absolutely right.

It was revisionist nonsense at best. Made, as you point out, to make white people more comfortable about the massacre.

I did not see too much of Dee Brown's book in that hogwash.

What I did see was a racist fictionalized rendition that does not convey the living agony of Wounded Knee.

But this is not only usual in white revisionism, it is also quite common place.

The need to reduce, even erase, brutal acts by white people is a pathological reality. A reality that many of our own are part of.

In these terms we can't but forget ... keeping our memories alive is justice. And it schools our generations in struggle consciousness.

Whiteness must be kept permanently on trial if we are going to survive its relentless onslaught.

Peace and struggle my brother,
Ridwan

Eugene said...

OK, just read a FEW of the comments about the "Pedal Voyeurism," and the only skin color crackers are concerned about are obviously there own. Where are there PRECIOUS FUCKING COMMENTS NOW!?

Seeing some of the photos of what "[really] made this nation great" and their voices are FUCKING GONE!

And riding around naked on a fucking bike is a "political statement." PLEASE YOU CRACKER MOTHER-FUCKERS! You wanna know about political statements, study the fucking Irish Republican Army, mother-fuckers. Or the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, the Suffragist Movement, the Union Movements!

Saying that your cracker peckerwood fucking asses naked on bikes is a poltical fucking statement...WHAT THE FUCK!

And your voices aren't even on this thread, are they peckerwoods? Where your voices now YT's, now that we are talking REAL issues of race, mother-fuckers?!

"Come out, Come out, Wherever You Are."

C'mon, Peckerwoods. Defend these actions taken by your brethren. Defend the actions of ICE at Del Monte. C'mon, mother-fuckers! I'm calling your peckerwood naked asses out!

Eugene said...

C'mon, whitey. C'mon and tell me how racist I am. Look at your brave kindred in those photos. They bravely attacked unarmed black men and hanged them. And you won't even come out and talk about this. You won't even try to call me out on MY racism, as you all usually so proudly elicit when I call you folks whitey. But tell you that riding bikes naked is not a political statement, and you all defend it with a ferocity. But the fact that your voices aren't heard HERE is not racist, right? Racism comes in many forms.

Ridwan said...

Eugene we recognize that whiteness and racism are one and the same things. Most people who identitfy as white would argue that racism is not an inevitable part of being white.

But that is simply incorrect.

Historical whiteness is not about culture, language, religion, etc. It is about domination through racism. And it is a relatively new phenomenon.

There is no such thing as being white if the concept of race, and the outcome of racism, is delinked.

White people have to be more than just traitors to their race. They have to disown it entirely and not just pick through its content.

But this is hard to do. Because it poses a severe identity crisis.

So, instead of seeing the structure of racism, it is better to live in denial ...

Onward,
Ridwan

Tom said...

Thank you for posting these horrible things for us to remember.

Ridwan said...

Tom thanks for looking in here. And thanks you for your comment.

Peace,
Ridwan

REG said...

I WAS BORN IN THE US, MY ANCESTORS DID NOT SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY OR SEE THE NEED TO RETURN HOME. THE INJUSTICES WILL CONTINUE AGAINST THOSE OF AFRICAN DESCENT IN THE US, BLACKS IN THE US ARE AFRAID TO PROCLAIM WHO THEY ARE. THEIR IS A DESPERATION HERE IN THE US FOR THE GREATER MAJORITY OF BLACKS TO BE ACCEPTED BY THE DESCENDANTS OF THEIR SLAVE MASTERS. I LOVE MY AFRICAN SELF. I AM IN THE PROCESS OF DOING MY TRACE WHICH WILL PIN POINT WHERE I COME FROM EXACTLY IN AFRICA. I HAVE LIVED HERE IN THE US ALL MY LIFE AND LOOKING AT THE LYNCHING PHOTOGRAPHS FUELS ANGER IN ME TO THE POINT OF TEARS. IT IS OFTEN SAID IN THIS COUNTRY BY THOSE WHO HAVE TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF THEMSELVES THAT BLACKS HERE IN THE US ARE DOOMED. HOW CAN YOU MOVE FORWARD IF YOU ARE AFRAID TO PROCLAIM WHO YOU ARE..THAT SHIT IS SHEER MADNESS. REGARDLESS OF THE ISSUES IN AFRICA IT IS AN WILL ALWAYS BE HOME TO ME....
PRD2BAFRICAN LOVING MY SUNKISSED SELF.....



Churchgoers made the grisly discovery on the morning of June 7, 1998. It was the dismembered body of a man, later identified as James Byrd Jr., 49. The horrific details soon emerged: Byrd, who was black, had been chained to the back of a pickup in the East Texas town of Jasper and dragged to his death. As the world recoiled at the news, three white men were arrested. All three were tried and convicted in 1999 -- two sentenced to die, the third to life in prison.

This site gathers all Houston Chronicle coverage since James Byrd Jr.'s death. It also includes the latest developments.





The Town | The Killing | The Victim | The Reaction | The Accused | Credits


G IN THE US

REG said...

PLEASE UNDERSTAND IT IS NOT ONLY WHITE PEOPLE THAT SWEEP LYNCHINGS AND ATROCITIES AGAINST THOSE OF AFRICAN DESCENT. IF A CONVERSATION IS STARTED ABOUT CRIMES WHITES HAVE AND STILL COMMITT AGAINST BLACKS, YOU ARE LABELED AS A TROUBLE MAKES BY THE LARGER MAJORITY OF BLACKS. IT IS AS IF SPEAKING OUT WILL CAUSE MASS MURDERS OR HYSTERIA. BLACK FOLKS HERE FEAR TRUTH. BLACKS SAY SLAVERY IS PAST HISTORY. BULLSHIT IT PERPETUATED ON A DAILY BASIS HERE IN THE US. WHEN DON'T ACCEPT TRULY WHERE YOU COME FROM YOU ARE SCREWED

Anonymous said...

Wow, blacks bitching about things once again. What a surprise!

Ridwan said...

'Wow, a comment under a white sheet of anonymity once again. What a surprise!'

Instead of living in denial why don't you confront the past.

If you knew the history of lynching you will know that whites who were anti-slavery were lynched too.

Lynching is a brutal part of American history that needs more than just a flippant anonymous comment from you.

Onward!
Ridwan