As Anti-racism activist Jane Elliot says: “We wouldn’t have to have Black Lives Matter if we didn’t have 300 years of Black Lives Don’t matter.” These series of quick lessons hopefully will start to explain this, one detail at a time.
The first piece of information to make this clear is about lynching. Most everyone knows about the horrors of lynching. Many though think it was a southern phenomena that happened from the late 1800’s up to the 1940’s to hundreds of people. Unfortunately nearly 6,500 lynchings have been documented. it happened in Dec 1961 when David Jackson, a Black male was lynched in McDuffie Co. Georgia. “There exists a photograph of his death taken by members of the crowd to share proudly as souvenirs.” And it happened right up until 1981. Also of note is that many happened in Northern states.
For those who use the internet if you go to this page you can see a link to a map where you can choose the distinction that makes sense to you. https://tools4racialjustice.net/map-of-lynching/ Clicking on any of the orange dots will bring up information on the particular incident such as: “Robert Lewis Black male lynched in early Jun 1892. Port Jervis, Orange Co. New York. He was lynched in a spectacle before some 2000 people. When the mob discovered he was still alive, they hanged him a second time.” Or Frank Viles Native American male lynched in Aug 1896 Asotin, Washington. Or the story of Beulah Mae who is best known for filing a civil lawsuit against the United Klans of America after her youngest child Michael was found hanging from a tree in Alabama in 1981. Michael was the youngest child of Beulah Mae. At 19 years old, he was walking home from his sister’s home when two members of the United Klan kidnapped him intent on killing. Despite his attempts to escape, the Klansmen lynched Michael and then slit his throat to ensure he died. That was in 1981. Or, although not technically a lynching, the story of James Byrd Jr. an African-American man who was murdered by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King dragged him for three miles behind a pickup truck along an asphalt road. Byrd, who remained conscious for much of his ordeal, was killed about halfway through the dragging when his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and head. The murderers drove on for another 1+1⁄2 miles before dumping his torso in front of a black church.
Above is an image of part of Northern states, each orange dot is a lynching, the bigger the dot, the more lynching.
Sit for a minute and Imagine living with the terror that this could happen to a loved one at any time.
This is why we need to be clear that Black Lives Matter. This is why, as a Friend I’ve keenly felt what was shared from Faith and Practice in Meeting for Business 7/25 “as the living experience of the inward Light became a reality to the first followers of George Fox they found that the many forms of social injustice witnessed around them "struck at their Life" and could no longer be tolerated. It was from this central experience that they sought a new order of human relationships.
thanks for listening,
To Recap and answer to a question:
Last week I shared the history of nearly 6,500 documented lynchings, that it happened until 1981 and also occurred in the North. I was asked how often it was prosecuted. The answer: To this day, there is no Federal anti lynching law. Since at least 1900, members of the House and Senate have tried to make lynching a federal crime. The bills are consistently blocked. On June 4, 2020 the bill was considered by the Senate, but Senator Rand Paul by unanimous consent preventing the bill from passing. This means that it was up to State and localities to prosecute the crime. This means that almost no lynchings were ever prosecuted because the same people who would have had to prosecute and sit on juries either participated or were generally on the side of the action or related to the perpetrators in the small communities where they lived.
There is always more to learn. One thing I just found out about is regarding one of the last lynchings in the North, in Marion, Indiana. It was the basis for Billy Holliday’s song Stange Fruit and the postcard of the event is widely circulated. It took place in Grant County and what I didn’t know was that at the time Grant County had a very large Quaker population (see below). For more information on Quaker involvement in the KKK. For those with internet access see https://tools4racialjustice.net/daisy-douglass-barr/. This site has very complete information https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/
Our educational material continues this with examining Black Codes, Slave Patrols and Policing Today. For those with internet access see :https://tools4racialjustice.net/black-code/ . Black codes were laws enacted through the South both during and after slavery that governed slaves and free people of color. They included things such as teaching or attempt to teach, any slave to read or write, he or she shall be sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes on his or her bare back. Different States had different Black codes but most were designed to restricted black people’s right to congregate, own property, conduct business, buy and lease land, and move freely through public spaces. After emancipation a central element of the Black Codes were vagrancy laws. Enforcement was done by the police.
So since enforcement was done by police, how were the police organized? The common knowledge is that American law enforcement started in the early 1800’s as night watchmen systems moved into centralized municipal police departments beginning in Boston and soon cropping up in New York City and elsewhere. These were white, male and focused on disorder and controlling a “dangerous underclass” that included African Americans, immigrants and the poor. However that is only half the story. The other half is that policing in southern slave-holding states evolved from slave patrols made up of white volunteers empowered to capture runaway slaves as well as use vigilante tactics to enforce laws related to slavery and also to prevent further escapes by any means necessary including torture.
Knowing this history makes it easy to understand the situation of today’s policing in communities of color. The reasons unarmed people in these communities are killed today are as simple as Ronell Foster fatally shot by Vallejo, Calif., police Officer in 2018 after being stopped for riding his bicycle without a light. Sandra Bland for a broken tail light, Eric Gardner for selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps, Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, George Floyd suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill, Dreasjon Reed running from a police officer, Breonna Taylor, sleeping in her own bed, the list goes on and on. But then there are the children; Police have killed more than 100 children since 2015 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, 12- year-old Tamir Rice, 13 Year Old Tyre King, then there was the killing of Kameron Prescott, 6 Year Old and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7 Year Old, finally there is the killing of elders, 68 year old Eurie Stamps and 92 year old Kathryn Johnston. We don’t understand these victims as real people who had lives, loves, interests and family. Another thing about all these killings and the thousands of others is we don’t talk about the ripple effects of the trauma of the families and communities that have lost loved ones, nor is any attention given to the ones who aren’t killed but are disabled by such encounters. See https://tools4racialjustice.net/mapping-police-violence/ and https://tools4racialjustice.net/dragon-panel-project/
There were only 27 days in 2019 where police did not kill someone. Imagine if this was the environment and reality that you and your children faced every minute.
Given the above, what is our spiritual responsibility?
thanks for listening,
In the 1st unit of educational material on why Black Live Matter, on July 25th we covered the history of nearly 6,500 documented lynchings happening up to 1983 and in northern states as well as the south. On August 3rd we covered Black Codes, Slave Patrols and Policing Today, That was some very heavy material! I am really proud of the Meeting for slogging through it and deciding to continue! I continue to beamed and impressed by how you individually and collectively make love real!
This 2-3 part unit we are going to gently ease back into the material by beginning with some basic definitions. As we move forward in both understanding the context of the issue and what ordinary people can actually, practically do to change the dynamics of race in this country, it is important that we all have some common understanding of how terms are being used. (For those who use the internet the links is here: https://tools4racialjustice.net/beginnings/definitions/ and https://tools4racialjustice.net/common-definitions/)
So some of the questions I will be addressing are: What is racism or white privilege? Why is white supremacy relevant to us and the nice community groups we occupy or with which we interact? How is the attitude that "I don’t see a person's color/race and live MLK Jr. axiom to judge people only by the content of their character” problematic? But wait, I’ve had a very hard life, I’ve been very poor, or discriminated against because of my gender or orientation, am disabled, etc., how could I possible be privileged?
The basic, commonly used definition of racism is prejudice with the power to enforce it. However, there are differences in what this actually means and there are a host of other terms used in this work. Like the picture above that portray a wide range, a palette of colors (used in ceramic glazes); definitions are nuanced. Just as you see many colors of green, there can be many definitions for “racism” and often the different definitions have distinct uses.
In the summer of 2020, 22 year old Kennedy Mitchum sent an email to Merriam-Webster not expecting any results. “I kept having to tell them that [the then current] definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice, it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.” While no racial group is immune to being or experiencing prejudice, bias or discrimination, racism is any attitude, action, or institutional practice backed up by institutional power that subordinates people because of their skin color. This includes the imposition of one ethnic group’s culture in such a way as to withhold respect for, demean, destroy or co-opt the cultures of other races.
What is meant by institutional racism? Systemic racism and institutional racism is organizational policies and practices at the structural level that indirectly target communities of color and maintain white privilege. This includes racism in the criminal justice system (e.g., police profiling based on race); racism in the educational system (e.g., all-white authors on a course reading list, “masters” in the arts or science all being of European descent), etc.
What about reverse racism? Since the term racism is defined as prejudice with the power to enforce it, and people of color in the US and other countries where European people colonized, don’t have institutional power, they can be bias but not racist. But what about black police officers, or judges or even a President? While they might have more power as an individual then other people, they still actually don’t have control over institutional power. Institutional power exists in the context of who and how it was created, who it was designed to advantage, promote or protect and the stakeholders, people who have to power passively or overtly, to hold other’s accountable for violating the organization’s or institution's norms.
For example, as we learned in the 1st unit session on Black Codes, Slave Patrols and Policing Today, since the police departments were put in place to catch runaway slaves or protect the white male owning class assets, there is a culture that is still imbued with these attitudes and assumptions. Therefore a police officer of color often can act in even more discriminatory ways then their white counterpart in order to prove they are a legitimate member of the team. Even a President is accountable to the political institution that promoted them, their funding sources and the shadow power of hidden stakeholders. (For those who use the internet the links is here: https://tools4racialjustice.net/the-legacy-of-jim-crow/ which has a video I produced soon after President Barack Obama was elected. The video ends by saying: “The legacy of Jim Crow will not be over with the election of a man of color who is the best and the brightest. The legacy of Jim Crow will only end when average people of color have the same access, opportunities and privileges as average white person. Only then will we be able to create a peaceable world and fulfill our mandate as spiritual beings.” (hint: turn up your sound) More on that in the next session.
In closing I want to share one of the streams of historic Quaker experience of the Divine with the following quote from George Fox: “let not prejudice boil in any of your hearts, but let it be cast out by the power of God, in which is the unity and the everlasting kingdom;" 1658 Epistle. Yet many throughout Quaker history right up to today find it too disruptive to dislodge racism in themselves and our Society. The message has come to me strongly again and again over decades that we are all connected and are part of the same ecological system, that hurt done to others effects everyone’s souls. Immediately following this message comes the query “What does love require of thee”.
Thank-you for being part of this journey,
(added Sept. 6, 2021)