by Bukata & C5Damani (old head of the movement)
With news of Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, effectively ended the already slim chance he had at nabbing the nomination, Joe Biden is now the winner of the Democratic Presidential Primary. With this news, and the finality it brings to the Dem primary, many people rejoiced while many others complained. Bernie-ites (supporters feeling the Bern) reacted to the news with hashtags of #NeverBiden and #DemExit or shouts of “rigged primary” or bemoaning the “Dem Establishment” or slander like “our rapist is better than your rapist”. The last reaction being a reference to the allegations of sexual assault of Tara Reade, a former intern, by Joe Biden coupled with the silly quip of choosing between the lesser of two evils of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. You can read about Tara Reade’s allegations here and here and here.
Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault surfaces a very particular response and rationale by majority of Black folks and specifically Black men. This Black response, for lack of better phrasing, is distinctly different than the majority of white folks and specifically white progressives. When these allegations came to light, there were instantaneous calls by white progressives for Biden to resign from the race. There were #MeToo and #BelieveWomen supporters who said that the only right thing to do was for Biden to drop out of the race immediately.
The Black response, for the most part, was sober statements of “investigate it.” There wasn’t instant outrage or desolate resignation to the airing of these allegations. It was straightforward and direct. Which for some may have come across as callous or uncaring but this directness was born out resilience… a resilience crafted over eons, born out of tragedy with no closure, meticulously constructed due to dealing with the oftentimes horrific and unjust aftermath of being Black in America and ACCUSED. Black folks have had to gather the obliterated remnants of being Black and ACCUSED without any assistance from white folks. Black folks have had to muster the strength to resume pedestrian existences after being Black and ACCUSED without solidarity from our white brethren. Black folks have had to move forward with tears staining on our cheeks after being Black and ACCUSED without any recompense from our white counterparts.
Lynching of Black folks became commonplace in America starting in 1830 in the post-slavery times and following the Civil War. Lynching in the South, differing in its heinousness from other regions in the country, took on a notoriously brutal nature especially when the victim was Black. The lynching most times included burning the body, riddling the body with bullet holes, cutting off extremities and genitalia, beheading the body, and leaving the dead decaying body hanging for days as a warning sign to others. It was not simply an individual act of white vigilantism but more of a sophisticated, celebratory communal act of white terrorism against Black folks. Sometimes this celebration would garner 15,000 people as was the case for the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas for the alleged rape and murder of a white woman (photo below). For more examples, read the following excerpts from the “Lynching in America” Report from the Equal Justice Initiative*:
In 1906, Edward Johnson, a black man, was convicted of raping a white woman and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His attorneys appealed the case and won a rare stay of execution from the United States Supreme Court. In response, a white mob seized Mr. Johnson from the jail, which had been vacated by the sheriff and his staff, dragged him through the streets, hanged him from the second span of the Walnut Street Bridge, and shot him hundreds of times. The mob left a note pinned on the corpse that read: “To Justice Harlan. Come get your nigger now.”Mr. Johnson used his last words to declare his innocence. Nearly a century later, he was cleared of the rape.
White terror groups also focused intense energy on imposing “their own vision of a righteous society,” which usually meant targeting black men for perceived sexual transgressions against white women. Charges of rape, while common, were “routinely fabricated” and often extrapolated from minor violations of the social code, such as “paying a compliment” to a white woman, expressing romantic interest in a white woman, or cohabitating interracially. White mobs regularly attacked black men accused of sexual crimes and historians estimate that at least 400 African Americans were lynched between 1868 and 1871.Lynching in America Report, Equal Justice Initiative
This, being Black and ACCUSED, became an all too familiar situation with the associated savage consequences in the post slavery, post Civil War and Jim Crow South. Many of these lynchings were preceded by no trials or sham trials lasting as little as 30mins with execution coming shortly thereafter. If a trial was allowed and execution was stayed in an attempt to gather more information, as in the example of Edward Johnson above… the execution still happened. Even if you were trying to find justice through the proper channels NOTHING – no United States Supreme Court rulings, no local judges, no sheriffs, no jail guards, no supportive white allies – stopped the unjust sentence of execution by white mob lynching from occurring. There were no thorough investigation of the facts and appeals. Simply the accusation, most times by a white woman, or the perception of transgressing against a white woman by her white husband or brother or father or friend or community members.
Emmett Till was a mere 14 year old Black boy from Chicago in 1955 when he visited his relatives near Money, Mississippi. Emmett was ACCUSED of flirting with 21yr old Carolyn Bryant. Bryant, a white woman, was the wife of the store owner where Emmett was shopping. Three days later, Bryant’s husband and his half brother, hell bent on “avenging” her name and honor, went to where Emmett was staying, abducted him, beat him, mutilated him, shot him in the head, strung barbed wire and a 75-pound metal fan around his neck, and sank his body in the Tallahatchie River. No Trial. No Investigation. Executed. Black and ACCUSED.
Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, inconsolable at his funeral back in Chicago, was left to grief-strickenly gather the shattered remnants of her life without her precious 14yr old son and she had to do this without any justice. Carolyn’s husband and half brother were acquitted after a farcical trial. (Carolyn’s husband and half brother would later admit to Emmett Till’s murder in a 1956 interview. Decades later in an 2008 interview, Carolyn would admit to fabricating her encounter with Emmett that led to his murder. Carolyn was never charged for her role in Emmett’s murder.)
More excerpts from the “Lynching in America” Report about one of the main “causes” or “reasons” of lynching Black folks in the Jim Crow South:
In 1889, in Aberdeen, Mississippi, Keith Bowen allegedly tried to enter a room where three white women were sitting; though no further allegation was made against him, Mr. Bowen was lynched by the “entire (white) neighborhood” for his “offense.”
William Brooks was lynched in 1894 in Palestine, Arkansas, after he asked his white employer for permission to marry the man’s daughter.
General Lee, a black man, was lynched by a white mob in 1904 for merely knocking on the door of a white woman’s house in Reevesville, South Carolina.
In 1912, Thomas Miles was lynched for allegedly writing letters to a white woman inviting her to have a cold drink with him.
In 1934, after being accused of “associating with a white woman” in Newton, Texas, John Griggs was hanged and shot seventeen times and his body was dragged behind a car through the town for hours.
Racial terror lynching was a tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation—a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing the entire African American community, not merely punishment of an alleged perpetrator for a crime. Our research confirms that many victims of terror lynchings were murdered without being accused of any crime; they were killed for minor social transgressions or for demanding basic rights and fair treatment.
We found that most terror lynchings can best be understood as having the features of one or more of the following: (1) lynchings that resulted from a wildly distorted fear of interracial sex; (2) lynchings in response to casual social transgressions; (3) lynchings based on allegations of serious violent crime; (4) public spectacle lynchings; (5) lynchings that escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community; and (6) lynchings of sharecroppers, ministers, and community leaders who resisted mistreatment, which were most common between 1915 and 1940.
Of the 4084 African American lynching victims Equal Justice Initiative documented, nearly 25 percent were accused of sexual assault and nearly 30 percent were accused of murder.
Black. and. ACCUSED.
This lethal combination of words have caused thousands of Black folks and specifically Black men to see their futures, their family’s fortunes and their community’s opportunities torn asunder under the accumulated weight of what those two words together mean in the American context.
The Central Park Five... (“When They See Us” documentary trailer)
and many, many more such instances have occurred in these United States. Some publicized because of the well known individuals involved in the case but countless others happened without notoriety, publicity or recognition. The Innocence Project, an organization freeing wrongly imprisoned people via DNA exoneration, has freed 367 people since 1989 with 61% (221) of those freed being African American. Two hundred, twenty-one African Americans have been exonerated for the offenses of someone else after being ACCUSED. Two hundred, twenty-one Black people were put on trial and convicted beyond a reasonable doubt for felonies they didn’t commit simply because someone ACCUSED them. Two hundred, twenty-one African Americans, Black folks, were incarcerated, physically spent time in jail cells for transgressions not their own because they were ACCUSED.
Black. and. ACCUSED
When Black folks and especially Black men say investigate, it is with the preponderance of historical documentation of being Black and ACCUSED that we say so. It is knowing that no other conditions of “being” – Black and ACCUSED – when fused sequentially produce nullification as quickly. “White and ACCUSED” gets you the Presidency (Trump), a slap on the wrist as not to ruin the rest of you life (Brock Turner, Convicted, free now) or a cloak of invincibility to rise through the ranks of Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, recently convicted). Matter of fact, for the most part, being White and ACCUSED alters your life’s trajectory negligibly. In some cases, it might actually provide some rationale for your ascendancy i.e. Trump’s base said “grabbing women by the pussy” was locker room talk and boy-ish utterings that increased his likeability, relate-ability among his highly toxic white male base. It was like those other white males were wishing they were him having such manly freedoms vis-a-vis their female counterparts. Even some of his white female supporters wore shirts that stated “Grab Me” with an arrow toward their vaginas.
Black folks and specifically Black men saying investigate accusations of sexual assault or rape are not without deeply valid and firmly rooted reasons. This doesn’t mean we don’t #BelieveWomen nor we are ill-aligned with our #MeToo comrades. What is means is that we are openly reminding White America of its reckless past in relationship to the Black community, confidently speaking truth about the relentless pressure that envelopes one when Black and ACCUSED and humbly encouraging White America not to continue it’s regrettable legacy of killing (figuratively and literally) innocent people solely because said person was ACCUSED.
When it comes to the allegations of Tara Reade against Joe Biden. Black folks are saying investigate it.
Let the facts be aired.
Then judge and act in accordance.
Truthfully, deep down, we desperately wish our forefathers and ancestors would have been given the leeway for investigation rather then the hangman’s noose. We are simply wishing White America would have done back then (investigate for the facts and act accordingly), what we are advocating for now. We are mournfully petitioning White America, on behalf of the thousands of Black folks (their families and communities) whose lives and voices were snuffed out purely due to being Black and ACCUSED, for the privilege of innocent until proven guilty. Shit… Frankly, we’re just asking to be treated as if we were “White” and “ACCUSED”.
*for more information about the racial terror lynching and it’s legacy, see this report by the Equal Justice Initiative: https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/