Ropeless Lynching: A Changing Definition for Trayvon Martin and Emmit Till

Was Trayvon lynched? No, you’re right, no rope was used.  And, you’re right again, no mob was employed but I would say, for Emmit and Trayvon along with many others, it was a lynching just the same.

Trayon is not the first but, today, as we stand wanting to forget the black mark that slavery, fear and racism have left up on our country (at our own hand I have to add) how much better are we today?  And, the question has to also be asked…who is next?  Could the fear the shooter felt toward Trayvon now envelop anyone who is different?

Black boys get killed in the United States.  It’s a quiet part of our history. We cannot back pedal and pretend it does not happen because, let me just say, it is irrefutable.  It is a fact.  We have been doing it for centuries at least.  It is not a well advertised part of who we are as Americans but it is a true part of who we have become.

We can trace it.

We can document it.

We can face it.

Trayvon Martin is not the first.  And, as apparent and appalling as it may be, he will not be the last.  Names like Hezekiah Dee, Charles Eddie Moore, Emmit Till, and James Chaney all came before Trayvon.  And, let’s be honest…these are just the headline names I am giving you.  There are more.  There are certainly more.  There are bodies that have yet to be uncovered to this day.  And though they were all killed by different methods, they were all essentially lynched.

There are many definitions of lynching.  Surprisingly, there is even a definition, for legal purposes, for “second-degree” lynching.  I advise you against traveling over to Wikipedia to look up “lynching” because the pictures to document the word are hard to handle.  But, then again, it is our history.  Perhaps everyone should see the pictures just so you can remember who we have been so we do our best not to travel back to that darkness.

For me, I believe the word “lynch” is defined too narrowly.  Yes, when you hang someone in a tree with a mob and a rope that is a true definition of the word.  But, for me, I would also lift up the idea that Hezekia Dee and Charles Eddie Moore were lynched.  Let’s call it a “ropeless lynching”.  Simply because when you tie two young men to a Jeep engine block and throw them into the Mississippi River when they are still alive, well, in my book that is just as much of a lynching as a man tied and hanging from a tree.  And, I would also venture to say that a young boy of 14, Emmit Till, who flirted with a white woman was also lynched.  After his flirtation, young Emmit was taken to a barn, beaten and his eye gouged out in the process.  He was then shot in the head and tied to a cotton gin fan and thrown into the Tallahatchie River.  I call this a ropeless lynching as well.  I am okay with forgoing the rope to relax the definition because in all these cases, the intention and result are the same.  Fear and hatred precede a violent and premature death for these black men.

And, I would go so far as to say, with a gun in the hand of a stranger and a hoodie on the boy’s head, young Trayvon was also lynched.  I believe that even though the man shot Trayvon alone, a gun in his hand makes him a mob.  Fear and hatred led to Trayvon’s premature death.  Though no rope was present, no mob seen and no paper can prove the premeditation, he was certainly lynched.  Perhaps the premeditation was created through years of pervasive racism?  I am not familiar with the shooter but I am concerned for my two boys who rather consistently wear hoodies with the hoods up to warm their ears.  And, I wonder, with my autistic son being verbally impaired, would he be mistaken for a dangerous young man with his hoodie up, skin color hardly noticeable, and the inability to communicate clearly?

There is a lot to think about, discuss and to wonder about.  It is a tragedy for all involved.  I am sorry for Trayvon’s mother that her son’s name will be a headline name from today forward instead of being just another mother’s source of joy and love.  I am sorry that he has to be a lesson for the rest of us rather than a young man unfolding his life to his family.

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One response to “Ropeless Lynching: A Changing Definition for Trayvon Martin and Emmit Till

  1. Pingback: Saturday Night Video – Rachel Maddow and Bob Herbert Discuss Trayvon Martin « polentical

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