Saturday, July 28, 2018

Vigilante Justice - Lynching and Stand your ground


The practice of lynching pervaded the United States from the late 19th through the early 20th century. A type of vigilante justice, lynching was also a form of racialized and regionalized brutality that emanated from a wellspring of hatred, bravado, anger, fear, and vengeance. 

The Ku Klux Klan , often abbreviated the KKK , who wanted to restore white supremacy expressed themselves through terrorism. Beginning in 1866, the Klan attacked Blacks and their White sympathizers, killing political leaders, the heads of families, and the leaders of churches and community groups. Masked men shot into houses and burned them, often with the occupants still inside. They drove successful Black farmers off their land. 

They killed thousands of men, women, and children and intimidated voters with impunity because a large percentage of KKK members (often in leadership positions) were government officials, lawmakers and members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). And because The Supreme Court determined it had no jurisdiction over the Ku Klux Klan because it was considered to be “a private club.”

The Lynching of Mary Turner
A vengeful white mob, unable to find the Black man suspected of killing a white plantation owner, killed other Black people instead, including a man named Hayes Turner. His wife vowed to swear out a warrant against the murderers. So they came for her.

Mary Turner was maybe 20 years old and eight months pregnant.  They strung her up by her ankles in a tree. They doused her with gasoline and motor oil. They set her afire. 

Life still lingered in her burned body... a man stepped towards the woman and, with his knife, ripped open the abdomen. Out tumbled the prematurely born child. Two feeble cries it gave — and received for answer the heel of a stalwart man, as life was ground out of the tiny form. They then riddled the body of Mary with bullets.
‘..... you ought to’ve heard the nigger wench howl!’ a member of the mob boasted.

According to the Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 - 1968, 4,743 people were lynched in the United States: 
3,446 Negro and 1,297 white. 
Two hundred anti-lynching laws were presented to Congress over the years. Three bills passed the House but were defeated in the Senate. In 2005, the Senate finally passed a resolution apologizing for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation. Two months later, Florida passed the first “Stand Your Ground” legislation, another endorsement of vigilante justice. 

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Apparently, vigilante murder had the stamp of approval of the twenty senators (19 Republicans and 1 Democrat) who refused to endorse the bill: 
Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 

Robert Bennett (R-UT) 

Christopher Bond (R-MO) 
Jim Bunning (R-KY) 
Conrad Burns (R-MT) 
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) 
Thad Cochran (R-MS) 
Kent Conrad (D-ND) 
John Cornyn (R-TX) 
Michael Crapo (R-ID) 
Michael Enzi (R-WY) 
Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 
Judd Gregg (R-NH) 
Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 
Trent Lott (R-MS) 
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 
Richard Shelby (R-AL) 
John Sununu (R-NH) 
Craig Thomas (R-WY) 
George Voinovich (R-OH) 

     Southern trees bear strange fruit
           Blood on the leaves
               Blood at the root
               Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
               Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
               Pastoral scene of the gallant south
               The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
               The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
               Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
               Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
               for the rain to gather
     for the wind to suck
     for the sun to rot
     for the tree to drop
     Here is a strange and bitter crop

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