By Chauncey DeVega · 11 Feb 2015
The murder of Jessie Washington is a genius work in white on black violence, far worse than the wickedness of ISIS's acts against Muadh al Kasasbeh:
The white-owned newspapers of the South had long gorged themselves with exaggerated or fabricated accounts of such violence. In the papers' version, the fight between Sam Hose and his boss became transformed into the most enraging crime of all: the rape of the white man's wife.
White Georgians tracked Hose down and prepared for his lynching. Two thousand people gathered for the killing, some taking a special excursion train from Atlanta for the purpose. The leaders of the lynching stripped Hose, chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and soaked everything in kerosene. The mob cut off Hose's ears, fingers and genitals; they peeled the skin from his face. They watched, a newspaper reported, ''with unfeigning satisfaction'' as the man's veins ruptured from the heat and his blood hissed in the flames.
''Oh, my God! Oh, Jesus,'' were the only words Hose could manage. When he finally died, the crowd cut his heart and liver from his body, sharing the pieces among themselves, selling fragments of bone and tissue to those unable to attend. No one wore a disguise, no one was punished.
“Great masses of humanity flew as swiftly as possible through the streets of the city in order to be present at the bridge when the hanging took place, but when it was learned that the Negro was being taken to the City Hall law, crowds of men, women and children turned and hastened to the lawn.”
“On the way to the scene of the burning people on every hand took a hand in showing their feelings in the matter by striking the Negro with anything obtainable, some struck him with shovels, bricks, clubs, and others stabbed him and cut him until when he was strung up his body was a solid color of red, the blood of the many wounds inflicted covered him from head to foot.”
“Dry goods boxes and all kinds of inflammable material were gathered, and it required but an instant to convert this into seething flames. When the Negro was first hoisted into the air his tongue protruded from his mouth and his face was besmeared with blood.”
“Life was not extinct within the Negro’s body, although nearly so, when another chain was placed around his neck and thrown over the limb of a tree on the lawn, everybody trying to get to the Negro and have some part in his death. The infuriated mob then leaned the Negro, who was half alive and half dead, against the tree, he having just strength enough within his limbs to support him.
As rapidly as possible the Negro was then jerked into the air at which a shout from thousands of throats went up on the morning air and dry goods boxes, excelsior, wood and every other article that would burn was then in evidence, appearing as if by magic. A huge dry goods box was then produced and filled to the top with all of the material that had been secured.
The Negro’s body was swaying in the air, and all of the time a noise as of thousands was heard and the Negro’s body was lowered into the box.” “No sooner had his body touched the box than people pressed forward, each eager to be the first to light the fire, matches were touched to the inflammable material and as smoke rapidly rose in the air, such a demonstration as of people gone mad was never heard before. Everybody pressed closer to get souvenirs of the affair. When they had finished with the Negro his body was mutilated.”
“Fingers, ears, pieces of clothing, toes and other parts of the Negro’s body were cut off by members of the mob that had crowded to the scene as if by magic when the word that the Negro had been taken in charge by the mob was heralded over the city. As the smoke rose to the heavens, the mass of people, numbering in the neighborhood of 10,000 crowding the City Hall law and overflowing the square, hanging from the windows of buildings, viewing the scene from the tops of buildings and trees, set up a shout that was heard blocks away.”
Many thousands of black Americans were killed by white lynchers in the United States.
The spectacular lynching was a ceremony (it was not something random or spontaneous; the acts of a few out for black blood possessed insane white people), with distinct practices, that symbolically purged the black body from the white polity in an era of formal white supremacy:
The actual process of lynching was morbid and incredibly violent. Lynching does not necessarily mean hanging. It often included humiliation, torture, burning, dismemberment and castration. Victims were beaten and whipped, many times in front of large crowds that sometimes numbered in the thousands. Coal tar was frequently used to douse the unfortunate victim prior to setting him afire.
Onlookers sometimes fired rifles and handguns hundreds of times into the corpse while people cheered and children played during the festivities. Pieces of the corpse were taken by onlookers as souvenirs of the event . Such was the case when James Irwin was lynched on January 31, 1930. Irwin was accused of the murder of a white girl in the town of Ocilla, Georgia. Taken into custody by a rampaging mob, his fingers and toes were cut off, his teeth pulled out by pliers and finally he was castrated. It still wasn't enough. Irwin was then burned alive in front of hundreds of onlookers (Brundage, p. 42).
No one was ever punished for this barbaric killing. Black victims were hacked to death, dragged behind cars , burned, beaten, whipped, sometimes shot thousands of times, mutilated; the savagery was astonishing. How could ordinary people participate in such brutality?
The rendering of spectacular violence against non-whites paid a psychological wage to white people that helped to create a type of social cement for White America, one that covered up its own intra-group tensions of class, religion, and gender. This racial logic continues in the present with a racially discriminatory criminal justice system, the murder by police of black and brown people, and how white Americans support such unfair treatment.
American politicians and other opinion leaders have denounced ISIS and the death by fire meted out to Muadh al Kasasbeh.
Would they apply the same standards to white Americans who committed mass violence against African-Americans through lynchings, racial pogroms, and other like deeds?
Would they support reparations as a material gesture of apology for such crimes?
Would white folks, on both sides of the ideological divide, condemn their ancestors who participated in such types of violence?
Will white America ever be willing to fully own its historic ISIS-like behavior against African Americans and other people of color, and how such violence created the present, where neighborhoods are hyper-segregated, there exists a huge wage and income gap along the color line, and by almost every measure, black and brown Americans have significantly diminished life chances relative to white people?
Violence is a human trait. ISIS's burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh is an act of barbarism.
However, we cannot overlook how the United States has conducted master classes in violence and barbarism both before, during, and since its founding...and yes, much of this violence was against people of color whose labor, lives, land, and freedom were stolen to create American empire.
Posts by unregistered readers are moderated. Posts by registered readers are published immediately. Why wait? Register now or log in!
"Violence Is a Human Trait"
Really? If we want to evolve we better start overcoming this. However, articles like this are definitely not the way to go. To kind of justify the killing by ISIS because of white Americans burnt Negroes is bizarre. Both are barbaric acts that need to be condemned or do you suggest we should start burning witches again?
Barbarism Is Never Right, Irrespective of Who Practices It
It is barbaric to burn anyone alive, not matter who s/he is or what the circumstances are. However, the author seems to imply that white Americans are hypocrites for condemning the burning by Isis because their forebears were involved in spectacular lynchings. This really doesn't make sense, as I'm sure there is no nation on earth whose forebears were not involved in some kind of atrocity at some stage. To say that I may not criticize anti-Semitism because of my German heritage or Rwandans may not criticize genocide because of their history or Africans may not criticize slavery because of the role of their own ancestors in it is plainly ludicrous. Yes, everyone needs to be aware of and apologise for the sins of our forebears, but how far back does one go? And to whom does one pay reparations if the crimes were committed several generations ago? And who should pay those reparations in that case, too? What if your own forebears were not in the offending country at the time of the atrocity, something that is likely for many people of immigrant origins? Some things will never be fair and some crimes will never be punished - that is just a part of life, unfortunately.