All through history, there have been groups of human beings who share specific or comparative attributes that have subjected them to brutal, inhuman and barbarous treatment. The main distinction has been portrayed as a racial one. Because of this, subsequently, it is proper to characterize this brutality, which is executed on grounds of skin color, ethnicity and nationality, as racial violence. Racial violence contrasts from other types of brutality. This is because the underlying drive has to do with the presumption of predominance and abhorrence of other individuals who are esteemed to be second rate due to their personality, ethnicity, nationality, or birthplaces. The underlying drive also has to do with their appearance and physical qualities (ex. skin color, dialect and dress). These are common and ordinary qualities, and any assault on them is an assault on the very center of one’s substance as a person and as an individual from humankind. Racial violence shows itself from multiple points of view. It can be something so simple like pushing, spitting, ridiculing, prodding, or teasing through jokes. But, in more crucial cases, it includes physical striking, fire related crime, wounding, assault, killing, attempted murder, slaughtering and genocide. (“Racial Violence”)
One case of such crime can be found in “A Ballad of Birmingham,” which was written by Dudley Randall. “A Ballad of Birmingham” is poem that was written as a response to the 1963 bombing that took place at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. In the poem, Dudley Randall describes an African-American mother and her daughter having a conversation about the “Freedom March,” which was going to occur in the streets of Birmingham. The young child wants to participate in the march, but her mother does not want her to because of the dangers associated with going to freedom marchers. The mother describes those dangers as a way of scaring her daughter out of going to the march. In her description, she says,
‘No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.’ (5-8)
One may wonder what do dogs and guns have to do with children going to the march? It is clear that the mother’s fear shows that anyone who participates in the marches would be at risk of police brutality, even if they were as innocent as a child. She does not want her daughter taking any risks going to the march, because there were plenty of children attending marches in the past and a large number of them had to face police brutality. So, instead of going to the march, she is sent to church, which is depicted as the safest place away from home. An explosion is heard after the daughter leaves the church. Unfortunately, it is discovered by the mother that her daughter’s life has been taken from her as a sufferance of a violent act of racism in the church. Due to a combination of prior knowledge and the aftermath of reading that poem, a big question has been brought about. That question is who are the victims of racial violence in America? According to research, racial violence is a global phenomenon and trade-mark of racism that has caused methodical and authorized types of prejudice, which utilized severe power and viciousness, against Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, and, more specifically, African-Americans.
In the year of 1866, the first branch of a social club known as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded by a group people, including many former Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee. This group’s purpose in society was to reverse or minimize the improvements and rights that African-Americans received as a result of the Reconstruction Act. Under the provisions of the Reconstruction Act, “the South was divided into five military districts, and each state was required to approve the 14th Amendment, which granted ‘equal protection’ of the Constitution to former slaves and enacted universal male suffrage”. (“Ku Klux Klan”). The Ku Klux Klan did not agree with the fact that African-Americans were going to have the same rights that white people had. They did not like the idea of African-American males being able to vote and run for office. They also disagreed with former slaves having the opportunity to be free and leave their plantations. (“What were the aims of the Ku Klux Klan when it first formed?”).
In 1867, due to their obvious hate, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated themselves to developing ways to switch, minimize, and take away policies of the Reconstruction Act. These actions caused “an underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and voters (both black and white).” Their strategies included threatening individuals that they would lose their jobs, telling individuals that they would kill them if they exercised their new rights, and several others. One may question who are these individuals that they would do such a thing to? According to history.com, between the year 1867 and 1868, there was roughly ten percent or more black legislators elected in constitutional conventions that became victims of violence. In that percentage, seven of them were killed. As time progressed, there were Ku Klux Klan branches in almost every southern state and they all had the same motive, which was to minimize Reconstruction given rights and restore white supremacy in the South. Because their branches expanded, their activity began to flourish in the regions of the South, which was where blacks were a minority. One of the Ku Klux Klan’s most infamous activities took place in South Carolina. In January of 1871, the Union County jail was attacked by 500 masked men (KKK). Those same masked individuals lynched eight black prisoners. (“Ku Klux Klan”). That action brings the paper to its next subtopic, which is the lynching era.
The lynching era sparked as a result of the eight lynchings conducted by the Ku Klux Klan in 1871. What is lynching? Lynching is a punishment performed by informal groups (ex. mobs) where they put people to death by hanging them. This was their way of penalizing an individual or intimidating a group of individuals for an alleged offense with or without a trial. It is important to note that racial tensions had grown in America during the time of lynchings.The racial tension was more evident in the southern parts of America. This was because the people who were in the South at that time were “blaming their financial problems on the newly freed slaves that lived around them”. In order to solve their so called “financial problems,” lynchings were being used. It was their way of resolving some of the anger that was associated with the whites to the free blacks. (“History of Lynching”).
One should note that the number for lynchings seems large, but not all lynchings were actually recorded. From 1882-1968, in America, 4,743 lynchings occurred and were recorded. 3,446, which can be calculated as seventy-two point seven percent, of those people lynched were black. Were there any white people lynched? According to some research, Out of the 4,743 only 1,297 out of the 4,743 people that were lynched were white people, which is only 27.3%. Most of the white people were only lynched for helping the blacks or being against lynching. (“History of Lynching”). The Hose and the Welly lynchings are two examples of this southern lynching being discussed. The Hose lynching took place in Coweta County, Georgia on April 23, 1899. It was stated that a black man named Sam Hose allegedly “killed his white employer and raped the employer’s wife.” Because of this, Hose’s ears, fingers, and genitals were cut off, his face was skinned, he was stripped of his clothes, chained to a tree, and burned at stake surrounded by two thousand people. People said this was the way of showing how they must protect their southern women. On the night of September 3, 1900, the Welly lynching took place in Thomas County, Georgia. Another black man whose name was Grant Welly had gotten into a fuss with a white man who cut his neck badly. In result of the cut, he was taken to the physician by his friend, Joe Fleming, and then taken to Fleming’s home. When it reached nighttime, a group of white men fired into Fleming’s home, which killed Welly and wounded Fleming. After trying to hide, Fleming was pulled out and threatened by the white men. They said if he left his house or told anyone about the situation, they would kill him. (“Doing Violence, Making Race: Southern Lynching and White Racial Group Formation”). Because of this, one may ponder and question themselves. The question is was lynching necessary? Was it?
As lynching was being brought to a halt, the Civil Rights Movement was taking its peak. The Civil Rights Movement began in the late 1950s and won African-Americans basic rights that were “long denied to them, inspired other discriminated groups to fight for their own rights, and had a deep effect on American society.” (“The Civil Rights Movement”). With this movement, there was a lot racial violence. The first racial violence during this movement occurred in 1955. At that time, a male known as Reverend George Lee was vice president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership and NAACP worker. He was shot in the face and killed for encouraging blacks in the Mississippi Delta to vote. The governor at that time refused to get investigators to figure out what caused the tragic incident and who did it even though individuals saw a bunch of whites drive by and shoot. Because the governor refused investigation, the authorities failed to charge anyone. Another racially violent act took place that same year, but in the month of August. In this incident, a sixty-three-year old farmer and World War II veteran by the name of Lamar Smith was shot. This occurred on the crowded courthouse lawn in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Turn outs, just like Reverend George Lee, Lamar was also killed for encouraging blacks to vote. In his case, he did not receive justice either. The killer lived freely. Six years later, on September 25, “farmer Herbert Lee was shot and killed in Liberty, Mississippi, by E. H. Hurst, a member of the Mississippi State Legislature.” Herbert Lee was murdered due to his “participation in the voter registration campaign sweeping through southwest Mississippi.” Just like the other two incidents, authorities never charged Hurst with the crime. Two years after that, the NAACP State Director Medgar Evers was gunned down in his driveway by “white Citizens Council member Byron De La Beckwith from Greenwood, Mississippi.” (” On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi”). During the next year, the most notable incident occurred. On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan performed their most horrific attack, which was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. (“Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism”). This attack killed four young girls.
Through all these setbacks, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was developed. This act banned “discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Because of this, there were angry segregationists, sit-in protests, racial attacks that motivated riots, etc. (“1964 Civil Rights Battles”). It is indisputable that racial violence played a major role back then. But, has it gotten any better? Does racial violence still exist today?
Black Lives Matter is evidence that racial violence still exist today. Black Lives Matter is an activist movement that was enraged by the death of Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was only seventeen-years-old when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. (“Trayvon Martin’s death sparked a movement that lives on five years later”). Due to his death, Black Lives Matter originates in the African-American community and campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black individuals. Though this movement is very strong, there has still been an increasing number of unarmed blacks being murdered by members of law enforcement. Some of the males are as followed: Malcolm Ferguson, Prince Jones, Orlando Barlow, Ousmane Zongo, Sean Bell, Shem Walker, Derek Williams, Raymond Allen, Eric Garner, Philip White, and more. Some of the females include the following: Alberta Spruill, Tarika Wilson, Aiyana Jones, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd, Sharmel Edwards, Malissa Williams, Kyam Livingston, Miriam Carey, Sandra Bland, and many others. Both lists of individuals are very lengthy. Majority of those individuals did not receive justice. The police responsible for their deaths did not receive indictments. Instead, they live freely and claim they shot for “self defense.” (“Armed and Dangerous? An Examination of Fatal Shootings of Unarmed Black People by Police”).
Statistics from research have proven that racial violence is a serious issue. This issue has been around for centuries now and it still exist today. It may not be as bad as lynchings and church bombings, but it still exist today. Racial violence seems to be a strategy or method of the “superior” in efforts to make poor and minorities feel threatened. Although there are various ethnicity groups that have encountered racial violence, research shows how African-Americans are the center of it all. “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.” (Quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.)