Lynching—An All-American Sport

January 30, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

An effigy of a Mexican man has continually hanged from the second floor balcony of Main Street, at the center of its public square, in downtown Placerville (aka Hangtown), California—a city that is a favored tourist stop-over between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. This is a reflection of California state history where at least 163 Mexicans were lynched between 1848 and 1860 alone.

The largest mass lynching in American history took place in the fall of 1871: between 17-20 Chinese (some reports say including children) were systematically tortured and lynched by a mob of 500 whites (which was more than 10 percent of the population of Los Angeles at the time), including members of the upper classes and law enforcement. This incident was covered up for over 140 years.

The history of the lynching of African Americans have barely been excavated and exposed in popular literature and mass consciousness in the recent decades in America, through books like Without Sanctuary (2000) and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) landmark report on lynching (2015). But the bulk of this American crime is still hidden and buried along with  thousands and thousands of its victims in the South—the deep Southern states as well as states south of the Canadian border.

The EJI report “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” was able to document over 4,000 mob killings of Black people between 1877 and 1950 in just 12 Southern States. This is only a fraction of the actual numbers brutally murdered given that many, maybe even most, had gone unreported or covered up.

As viscerally spoken to by Bob Avakian in his talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, and What It’s All About, in the chapter “postcards of the hanging,” these violent depraved actions were public events, often mass celebrations advertised ahead of time, tolerated and often encouraged if not assisted by federal, state and local officials and law enforcement. Most of the time, no one was convicted and jailed if they were even arrested and tried in court.

Historians Cleve Webb and William Carrigan’s 2015 book Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States 1848-1928 documents for the first time this little known aspect of how much lynching has been embedded in the national culture of U.S. history to terrorize whole segments of its population.

It is relevant to the unfolding of Trump regime’s fascist program, whipping up of a lynch mob hysteria with his Nuremberg-like rallies and now executive orders. In a New York Times piece (2/20/2015) titled “When Americans Lynched Mexicans,” Webb and Carrigan observe that in those 60 years after the 1846 U.S. invasion of Mexico seized over 55 % of Mexico’s land, mobs had murdered untold thousands of Mexicans, even though they were only able to positively and fully document less than 600 due to lack of accurate and detailed historical accounts.

Some of the sickening incidents they documented in their New York Times article were:

» July 5, 1851, a mob of 2,000 in Downieville, Calif., watched the extralegal hanging of a [pregnant] Mexican woman...

» November 3, 1910, a mob snatched a 20-year-old Rock Springs, Texas… bound him to a mesquite tree, doused him with kerosene and burned him alive...thousands turned out to witness the event...

» January 28, 1918, a band of Texas Rangers and ranchers rounded up nearly two dozen [Mexican] men, searched their houses, and marched 15 of them to a rock bluff near the village and executed them.

The website California’s Forgotten Lynchings has an insightful observation that “[g]iven the local approval and enjoyment of the killing spectacle, lynching clearly was not just an issue of the American Southeast, but rather a deep-seated national trait....For context, the...Mexican-American War was waged [for] the ideal of Manifest Destiny, namely the belief that it was America’s God-given right to take over the entire continent...President James Polk...declared war, citing that ‘[Mexico] has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil.’” They also note that “Mexicans with long-held land-grants were driven from their claims and portrayed as mongrels and bandits....”

Trump has the perfect smirk and swagger of the all-American lynch mobster.


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