When I thought about the topic for this blog post I had so much that I wanted to write, but as I am sitting here ready to type; I don’t know where I want to start. The last several years have seen race relations in this country go backwards to where it feels like Jim Crow era attitudes and mindsets towards people of color, specifically Black people.
This past year, we saw our country erupt in protests over police brutality and their killing unarmed Black men and women. We experienced a man in the Office of President of the United States who blatantly supported white supremacy and rolled back policies to benefit communities of color. All of these things and the rioters protesting the election results from precincts in communities that were predominantly African-American got me to thinking about where we are with race relations in this country and ensuring inclusivity and equitable treatment for All people in this country, specifically Black people who have been marginalized, oppressed, and inaccurately portrayed across all sectors of society.
This idea for the topic of this blog post, Lynching in America came this weekend as I was watching the movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday. For those of you familiar with Billie Holiday, you know she wrote and sang a song called “Strange Fruit” whose lyrics provided a chilling illustration of the lynchings of Black people that took place in southern states. For those of you that don’t know what lynching is. It’s when White men would hunt Black men and hang them from a noose tied to a tree. Sometimes, the victims of these lynchings would be burned with a burning cross nearby. The majority of the time, White men would cruelly make the children and family of these victims watch. The movie detailed how the United States government came after Billie for singing the song and falsely incarcerated her to get her to stop singing the song because it exposed the cruelty and dirty little secrets of how America was treating its Black citizens.
As I watched this movie I thought about how Black people in this country have been misrepresented and stereotyped so that White people could satisfy a false sense of superiority or supremacy. It wasn’t enough to enslave Black people and degrade and dehumanize them, White people, specifically, White men used lynching as a way to “keep black people in line.” This movie had me thinking that lynching is still going on in America, but has taken different forms. We see lynchings in the police brutality and murders of unarmed Black men and women, and now children. We see lynchings in misrepresentation of images of Black people in the media and the news. We see lynchings in the overrepresentation of Black men in the criminal justice system. We see lynchings in the systemic racism that led to policies and laws that have kept Black people from full social and economic equality and justice. We see lynchings in many facets of our community where Black people do not have access to adequate services, such as in the medical community.
As I watched the movie, I went through so many emotions. There were points where I was sad because Billie Holiday was an abused child who grew into a woman filled with trauma, who needed treatment and not prison. I was angry because this movie that was based during the 1920’s-1940’s could have been today with the hateful, degrading attitudes towards Black people. Then, I became determined to ensure that I use my platforms to continue to advocate for social and economic justice for Black communities so that we can thrive and leave a more prosperous and healthy legacy for our children.
Even as I am writing this post I am struggling with my words because I am filled with such a wide range of emotions. It is time for the history books to be re-written to tell the honest story of slavery and the truth about the history of Black people in this country. It is time for White people to let go of this false supremacy so that we can build a country that is socially and economically just for ALL of its citizens regardless of the color of their skin, ethnicity, religion, language spoken, gender, sexual preferences, or any of the other insignificant things we use to divide one another. Black people, let’s continue to be proud of our rich history in this country that tells a story of resilience, triumph, and victory in the face of obstacles that seem insurmountable. Let’s leave our children with a better country, with a better world than how we found it.
I’m Black and I’m Proud!