The Deadly Disease of Racial Injustice

What is Racial Terror and Lynching?

Racial terror and the horrendous lynchings of innocent African Americans are both two institutional tools that assist in the preservation of white supremacy. Lynching is the act of killing someone, mostly by hanging them for an alleged offense. Festus Claudius Mckay, a Jamaican writer, and poet, who lived during the Harlem Renaissance wrote many pieces that shed a scintillating light on racism. One, in particular, is called “The Lynching” where Mckay states “All night a bright and solitary star (perchance the one that ever guided him, Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim) Hung pitifully o'er the swinging char. The day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view The ghastly body swaying in the sun”. Mckay utilizes the event of an African American man who has been lynched to demonstrate racial terror and gruesome lynchings. Violence against African Americans has occurred since slavery and although we are free, 400 years later the fear of being another victim still exists.

Emmett Till

On August 24, 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy, accepted a dare from his friends and cousins to ask the white woman in the store for a date. Emmett Till then entered the store to buy some candy and when exiting he said “Bye, Baby” to the woman. On August 28, 1955, he was lynched after being accused of offending a cashier in a grocery store. Carolyn Bryant’s husband, the Caucasian woman who Emmett Till allegedly flirted with, and his accomplice J.W. Milam abducted and beat Emmett Till to death, gouged his eye out, shot him in the head, and sank his body in Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River. Bryant and Milam were arrested on August 29, 1955. They stood trial for Emmett Till’s murder in September and were acquitted by the all-white jury. The case was reopened twice, once in 2004 where the U.S. Department of justice and the FBI attempted to identify any potential co-conspirators, and in 2018 after Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony. This event proves that white people are allowed to kill African Americans and can expect to be acquitted by the justice system.

How does the history of racial and economic injustice and/or narratives of racial difference continue to impact our society today

On March 13, 2020, an innocent African American woman named Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own home. In recent years, police brutality and police killings of countless African American people have gained national attention. A year has passed since Breonna Taylor’s tragic death and still none of the officers who fired their weapons a total of 32 rounds have faced any criminal charges directly to Breonna Taylor's murder. Justice has not been served and the cycle of racial injustice continues. Breonna Taylor’s murder is more than another African American being murdered, it is a modern-day lynching. While they are not exactly the same situation, Emmett Till's and Breonna Taylor's murders and the subsequent attempts by their families to receive justice in court showcase horrendous racial injustices.

How racial and economic injustice impact my life

I am an African American young woman and the fact that people who look like me are being treated unfairly is heart-wrenching. I could, one day, be in a situation where I don’t receive the same rights as a nonperson of color. Tamir Rice’s murder scared me the most due to the fact that he was only 12 years old. Timothy Lohmann, the 26-year-old Caucasian police officer who murdered Tamir Rice resigned from his job but has not been formally charged.. It’s almost as if he didn’t murder anyone and African Americans are not considered worthy of justice. I still don’t comprehend how he isn’t in jail. Is it because of persistent economic disparity in African-American society? Is it that African Americans cannot buy justice? The income gap between White Americans and African Americans has always existed. My mother always told me that I had to work twice as hard as a White person. She explained they have privileges that we don’t and as a young girl, I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Learning about the history of racial injustice and viewing it in real-time has led me to fully understand how racial and economic injustice impacts my everyday life. I know what to do if I ever get pulled over and I know that the system of white privilege and white supremacy will allow White Americans to easily persist and African Americans to fall behind.

Myths of how minorities are treated

There is evidence that portrays that racial minorities, not just African Americans, are much more likely to be arrested and or incarcerated compared to White Americans, while other criminal justice data shows the disproportionate representation in the successive part of the criminal justice system. While it would be erroneous to say that racism does not exist in the US criminal justice system. The idea that minorities are violent and dangerous has been interlaced into our society since slavery. To this day, minorities are treated as vicious animals that need to be locked up in chains. The United States has a long history of oppression and stereotyping. The way the media depicts race and crime plays a gargantuan role in the stereotyping of African Americans as violent and dangerous.

Remembering Emmett Till in Art (or Art as Activism- Remembering Emmett Till)

“How She Sent Him and How She Got Him Back” is a 2012 painting by African-American artist Lisa Whittington that immortalizes Emmett Till’s swollen face. Why is it important that we remember Emmett Till? The brutality of his murder and the fact that his murders were acquitted demonstrate how racism ran and still runs our justice system and our everyday lives. Civil rights leader, Aaron Henry once stated that the most surprising thing about the Till story was not its horror, but the fact that white people even noticed. Back men, boys, women, and girls had been lynched for decades before without impunity. Emmett Till is more than just an innocent African American young man who was murdered, his face revealed what white supremacy and white privilege truly mean.

How can this history be overcome to change the United States for the better?

Do solutions for a future free of racial injustice exist? Confronting the real issue is a critical step in the right direction, which is that people should not be legally allowed to discriminate or harm people. Claiming that you are not a racist or saying that we live in a ‘free country’ is equally absurd if individual actions prove otherwise. The justice system must take a firm stance to prosecute individuals who deny a person their constitutional rights due to their skin pigmentation. The most important action that has to be taken is to allow the families of innocent African American women and men who have been murdered to receive the justice that they truly deserve. If the table were reversed, and White Americans were treated in an unjust manner, they would want justice. Understanding that systematic racism goes beyond police brutality, discrimination, and racism also involves taking action and utilizing your voice to speak up about how African Americans are treated. I was 9 years old in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick kneeled. Now that I am 15 and have educated myself, I fully understand and agree with what he did. His protest was a step in the right direction. Systemic racism perpetuates the myth of white supremacy. As Professor Derrick Bell once said, “Education leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. Empathy foreshadows reform”. Systemic racism and white supremacy must be dismantled to change the United States for the better. The disease of racial injustice must stop in order for all of us to be “equal”.

29 April 2022
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