On June 13, the United States Senate approved by voice vote an apology for refusing to outlaw lynching. The following article was published in the June 16 issue of the Black Commentator.
The political establishment encouraged racist lynchings by groups like the KKK to maintain class rule.
Photo: John Pineda
Why are some Black folks so happy to hear an apology from people who don’t mean it?
There are nearly a million African Americans in prison—one out of eight inmates on the planet—a gulag of monstrous proportions, clearly designed to perpetuate the social relations that began with slavery. We demand an end to those relations, not an insincere, risk-free “apology” that sets not one prisoner free.
It is appropriate that the great anti-lynching leader, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), who documented the murder of nearly 5,000 Blacks at the hands of white mobs in the terror-filled years that followed the death of Reconstruction, be verbally honored by Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. Yet both Senators supported laws that will impose draconian equivalents of post-Civil War “Black Codes” on inner city youth, who will now be designated as criminal conspirators if they congregate in groups of three or more.
No thank you, Senators Landrieu and Allen—the crime you committed against us in May vastly outweighs your weak apology in June. You have guaranteed that hundreds of thousands more young Black people will be interned in your gulag—a crime against humanity. And both of you are determined to commit more crimes. Should we ask for an apology in advance?
There can be no absolution for those who continue to profit from past crimes, and plot new ones. Lynch law was the effective law of the South—and, truth be told, the rest of the United States—and the “lawful” authorities sanctioned it by refusing to pass 200 anti-lynching bills. The terror of lynching created the social relationships that resulted in white households accumulating ten to twenty times as much wealth as Black households—our collective national inheritance. An apology will not do.
Is that what our movement has been about all of these generations—to get an apology from people who became rich on our backs? There is a method to this racist madness, an assumption that African Americans can be bought by a simple nod from a few white people. Some of these racists will not even give us a nod—the twelve or sixteen senators who did not join in the anti-lynching vote, all but one of them Republicans. The Republican Senate Leader made sure that no member would have to go on record against lynching. However, are we supposed to be grateful for a non-binding resolution that admits thousands of murders were committed with the complicity of the United States government, but that does not redress the wrongs in any way?
Where is the sense of justice in this apology? What do the descendants of the terrorized class expect? That wrongs be righted, or that those who have profited gain absolution?
Lynching was genocide
The United States Senate did not ratify the Convention on Genocide until 1988, 40 years after African Americans circulated the petition, “We Charge Genocide,” in an effort to make international law applicable to the U.S. By this time, most of the former Dixiecrats had become Republicans, and felt safe in blaming their former party for their own crimes.
The United States, controlled by a Republican majority and feckless minority of white Democrats whose greatest fear is their Black constituents, is now engaged in a grand venture to export the ideology of white terror, planet-wide. They have not learned a thing. Having never practiced democracy on their own shores, they claim a copyright to the concept. The fact that nobody believes their claims does not faze them, because they are marching to the tune of Manifest Destiny—the white man’s right to rule. It is that belief that drew tens of thousands of whites to the lynching fields of Georgia and Indiana, for the sport of Negro-killing. Now they are in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming moral authority.
Prisons are a modern form of racist terror against Black people.
Photo: Reuters/Richard Carson
The march of civilization goes on, leaving the United States behind. The bubble of news communication fools only those inside. The rest of the globe sees its own interests and recognizes white arrogance intuitively.
This intuitive knowledge, born of gruesome experience, also informs Black Americans. Although surrounded by the same bubble of misinformation as the rest of Americans, Blacks smell the lie. The vast bulk of us see the “apology” for what it is—a scam, with no substantial benefits, and less good faith. But there is a class that is paid to say “Yes sir,” on command. Most of us pay them no attention.
Lynch law was no law at all. It was pure white power—the right to declare oneself a higher form of being and reduce the “other” to charcoal. The current rulers of the United States are spreading lynch law to the far reaches of the planet. They claim the right to “pre-emptive” warfare, and reject all other people’s rights to live under collectively accepted rules. They wage war against the concept of international law, just as they violated every law that did not enshrine white privilege.
Nothing has changed, except the world. We will not tolerate such criminality anymore. In fact, we have collectively called the behavior that white folks in the United States routinely engaged in, criminal. It’s far too late for the U.S. Senate to pass a non-binding resolution announcing some vague objection to lynching, when they pass legislation that makes it a crime to be Black and a youth, vote billions to fund a military machine that seeks to enslave the planet, and rejects the authority of the World Criminal Court. In doing so, they have made themselves outlaws.
We will not forgive, or accept an apology that does not come with a change in power relationships. And we will reject any so-called Black leadership that makes its own deal.
BlackCommentator.com publishes weekly commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African-Americans. Its co-publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are currently writing a book on Barack Obama and the Crisis of Black Political Leadership.