Williams on What the Black Lynchings Numbers Don’t Reveal

Kidada Williams writes:

“First, the magnitude of so many killings can render them incomprehensible. Thousands of lynchings in aggregate threaten to overshadow the individual ones. Indeed, numbers this large seem unfathomable and make lynching actually more difficult for people to grasp. This, combined with the span of years since the golden age of lynching, might be why some Americans find it easy to rail against the recent atrocities committed by the Islamic State and be blind to the U.S.’s participation in and tolerance of similarly barbarous acts, and then outraged when people like President Obama remind them of it.

Second, the numbers don’t show the human costs behind the nation’s legal and political failings of its Black citizens. Victims of lynching often lost their identities in death. They went from being fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and sisters and brothers—human beings who inhabited the world—to generic “lynching victim.” Consequently, people trying to understand this violence shift from learning more about the individual victims’ deaths and lives and the impact their killings had on their families to what the composite deaths mean for the nation, White supremacy, Black subjection, and the nation’s legal or creative culture.

This erasure of victims’ identities and humanity happened during the era of the killings, and has left a historic mark on present day understandings of this violence. Evidence of this is seen in the persistent academic and popular focus on White perpetrators, state actors, legal proceedings, press coverage, famous anti-lynching crusaders, and the cultural products that emerged. In other words, too many discussions about and writings on lynching focus on everything but the actual Black victims and their families…”

Read the rest: What the Black Lynchings Numbers Don’t Reveal | Dame Magazine.

 

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