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Black People and the Impact of American Tradition

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A Target on their backs : How American Practices changed the fate of the American Black man

“ Racism has been for everyone like a horrible, tragic car crash, and we’ve all been heavily sedated from it. If we don’t come into consciousness of this tragedy, there’s going to be a violent awakening we don’t want. The question is, can we wake up?’- Anna Deavere Smith ( “Racism Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 12 Apr. 2017). Everyone, regardless of their background has experience racism in someway, shape or form. For centuries the hardest position to be in was that of the american black. Beginning with slavery, one only counted as ⅗ of a person and when they weren’t a fraction they were property. Once abolished in 1865 the connotations of slavery loomed over black people much like a dark storm cloud, rather ominous and unpredictable. Even today, the average black american can not live without being associated with the past at some point in time, both positively and negatively

“Although rooted in an older and broader tradition of vigilantism, the term “lynching” is primarily associated with the killing of African Americans by white mobs in the period from the civil war to the middle 20th century…After the civil war, lynching spread rapidly and became a systemic feature of the southern system of white supremacy” (Encyclopedia of African American culture and History 1669)

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Lynching resulted in the unjust deaths of thousands of african american individuals and was practiced up until the end of the civil rights movement in 1968. “ Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched. That is only 27.3%.”( “The First Chartered Branch of the NAACP.” Boston Branch NAACP) Lynching became less of a practice, less of a form of justice and more of a mundane practice for “the average white supremacist” living in the american south, post the abolition of slavery. Essentially the practice of lynching became a form of retaliation for White Americans because they were no longer the “top dog” of American society. Change was coming and they were not ready for it and unwilling to accept it, everyone is starting to get rights and this displeases them. On August 24th, 1955 after allegedly “wolf whistling” at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman thus intimidating her. Till’s body was found seven days later decomposing, floating in the Tallahatchie River. He was shot behind the ear, naked and severely beaten to beyond the point of recognition . Infact his body was only identifiable due to a ring he was wearing on one of his fingers Upon the request of his mother Till’s funeral was open casket revealing the mutilation his body received for all to witness. Ultimately Till’s murderers were acquitted by an all white, all male jury. (“Emmett Till.” Contemporary Black Biography, vol. 7, Gale, 1994. Biography in Context, ) On January 27th, 2017 well over 50 years later, Carolyn Bryant admitted her claims against Till were false.

Reporter, Daily Mail. “Oprah Says the Shooting of Trayvon Martin Is the ‘same Thing’ as the Torture and Murder of Emmett Till in 1955.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 06 Aug. 2013. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.

On February 12th of 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded (better known as the NAACP). In part the organization was founded in response to the practice of lynching but transcended past it and still is in recent years. They combatted the injustices done onto black people and campaigned for equal opportunities for them through rallies and peaceful protests. The NAACP is the largest and oldest recognized grassroots civil rights movement. The NAACP was founded by various prominent figures( such as, Ida B.Wells, W.E.B DuBois, Mary White Ovington and many more. ) as a response to the lynching epidemic.

“African American Odyssey: The Booker T. Washington Era (Part 2).” African American Odyssey: The Booker T. Washington Era (Part 2). Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

A separate organization known as the United Negro Improvement Association founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914 (better known as the UNIA) Garvey believed that in order for people of color to advance they must focus on themselves and be separated from their white counterparts was well as their discriminatory culture “Where is the black man’s government?” Garvey asked himself. “Where is his King and his kingdom? Where is his President, his ambassador, his country, his men of big affairs? I could not find them,” he said, “and then I declared, ‘I will help to make them.’’( PBS. Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 05 Apr. 2017) Unbeknownst to Garvey his efforts for social reform was less of a change and more of three steps forward and four steps backward. Instead of unifying black people as he had hoped, the UNIA created a great divide among black people. The NAACP welcomes all (Despite race, religious affiliation, sexuality, etc) while the UNIA is strictly by black people for black people, without any exceptions.

However in recent years their efforts have been proven futile. On February 26th, 2012, an unarmed, black, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by biracial police officer, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted in 2013 on grounds of self defense. Four years later, justice for Martin still remains unserved. Why is this? There’s so many organizations like the NAACP and the UNIA and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement that makes various attempts at moving us forward, but why are we taking three steps forward and four steps back. Racism isn’t one thing or another it is more systematic than anything. It works as a wheel, it can only move if we make efforts to put it in motion. American practice such as lynching basically fueled the fire for prejudices to continue. It made reason of what people then believed was wrong. Today we as a society are not only faced with the aftermath from practice such as lynching but racism has become extremely mundane. Most of the time one is unaware that they are being racist, or have experienced racism first hand because it has become that average. As a society we need to open our eyes. We need to own up and stop denying various event that have pushed as back. Once we own up, we then look within ourselves and make a change there. Finally we let the process continue and spread to various others in an effort to make a change. Racism can not disappear in a matter of minutes, days or years, but with a certain amount of effort change can be made. Only with change, we can improve. Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.- Ban Ki-moon (“Racism Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.)


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