“If a Black man can get away with killing a White man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a Black man.”
That statement was uttered matter-of-factly 35 years ago by Bennie Jack Hays, a high-ranking official in the United Klans of Alabama after he learned that Josephus Anderson, a Black man who had been charged with killing a White male police officer in Birmingham during a robbery, was freed on a mistrial.
In Hays’s mind, the reason Anderson wasn’t convicted was due to the fact that the jury had Black people on it. Hays couldn’t stand for this. The Klan couldn’t stand for this. And both the perception and the reality of White dominance in America couldn’t stand for this.
In America, injustice is never supposed to be meted out in equal portion.
The same night that the mistrial was announced, a burning cross was staked into the Mobile County courthouse’s lawn, unintentionally symbolically demarcating the dividing line between the systemic discrimination of the justice system and the historic, violent racism of the White vigilante. In a fashion reminiscent of the previous century, the Klan was informing the court that they “got it from here.” Bennie Hays’s 26-year-old son, Henry, and his 17-year-old Klan member accomplice, James Knowles, took a pistol and some rope and hopped in Henry’s car hunting for a Black man to kill.
They found 19-year-old Michael Donald.
After forcing him in the car at gunpoint, they drove him to another county. Begging and fearing for his life, Donald tried to escape, but was chased down into a secluded, wooded area. He was then beaten with a tree limb more than a hundred times until his body stopped writhing and convulsing.
They wrapped the rope around his neck and then Henry Hays, with his boot firmly planted in Donald’s face, proceeded to choke away whatever oxygen was left in him. And then they slit his throat.
Michael Donald’s battered, violated and bloody body was then strung up and hung from a tree on Herndon Street in Mobile, across from a home owned by Henry’s father, Bennie. After murdering Donald, Henry Hays and James Knowles went to a party being hosted by Hays and bragged about killing him and raising his lifeless body just high enough so it could swing.
In the minds of some right-wing media figures, like a certain bleach-blonde gas lighting air-headed racist, groups of unrepentant murderers is akin to activist groups like Black Lives Matter who walk the streets armed with cardboard placards. This dangerous equivalence threatens the very existence of social rebellion at a time when the very same conservative Republicans who are entering the White House to preside over law and order, are also the same people who regurgitate this rhetoric as common sense facts.
Sheriff David Clarke, a man who has labeled BLM as a hate group while declaring “war” on them, was considered to be the U.S. Director of Homeland Security. And despite so much being on the line and so much to lose, too many Black male celebreties are advocating the coddling of White fragility.
Lee Daniels recently stated that he made the lead character of his new Fox series, Star, a White girl because “the country needed to heal. And I think that this White girl is so fabulous that Black people will embrace her, and White people will embrace her.”
Charlamagne Tha God recently went on Twitter to chastise Black women and other women of color for not emulating right-wing, conservative race-baiting anti-intellectualism.
Trevor Noah recently penned an essay effectively telling oppressed minorities to open their hearts to our oppressors to shield them from the irreparable harm of incivility.
And while they all propagate the idea that coddling White fragility — especially in the form of subjective White female beauty — is a step forward for Black people, they seemingly ignore our present reality of the overt dehumanization of the Black body.
As we struggle to endure the nations latest “Whitelash,” just in the past two weeks, we’ve been exposed to its raw carnage.
This past Monday another mistrial captured the nation’s collective attention, when we learned that Michael Slager, a White male police officer whose murder of Walter Scott was completely captured on video, would not be convicted due to a lone juror’s inability to render a guilty verdict.
— brenda rindge (@brindge) December 2, 2016
It was the culmination of a trial where, once again, the deceased victim was put on trial by the very same people who were supposed to be defending him.
Re: Walter Scott. When DA sounds like the defense, can’t really be surprised by a mistrial. This is incredible.https://t.co/ZWHnM1jAnQ pic.twitter.com/DeRIoNrGSX
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) December 5, 2016
We’ve also been exposed to the murder of former NFL player Joe McKnight who was brutally gunned down by an armed White man who didn’t even spend a single night in jail for executing an unarmed citizen in a fit of road rage. It took the doggedness of activists to finally get Gasser charged.
And beyond those individually popular incidents, Blackness is about to face a calculated attack like it’s never faced before. From an overtly prejudiced assault on voting rights that started last year, to the White House staffing of known racists like Jeff Sessions and the electing of Donald “let’s bring back stop-and-frisk” Trump for president, Black people are finding themselves in a position where we must be more rigid, more conscious and less acquiescent than ever.
If you are a Black male with a large following and you are interested in cementing friendships with the sort of people who propagate your dehumanization, see you as a threat to White society, and wholeheartedly believe that you should either be locked up or shot dead by police because you’re the antithesis of Americana, do you. Feel free to do cute photoshoots, post weird stitched-hand photos on Twitter, and send sugary cupcakes to your #WCW, but what you’re not gonna do is deride Black folks who stand against your crush because we realize the real and present danger presented by her and her ilk.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.