In (U.S) American history, the ethnicity at the head of cultural institutions and dominant over society is the white Anglo-Saxon protestant immigrant that colonized the new world. The first North American colonies were Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Jamestown, Virginia. Arriving on their shores came many African slaves held under control by fear of whip and musket. This dichotomy between two ethnicities set the stage for a future class struggle based on racial and ethnic identification since even before the founding of the nation of the United States and so many other countries that now populate the whole continent of America. (North and South America). What prompted the creation of this article was the famous court case decision in Minneapolis, Minnesota, state of Minnesota V. Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts. Derek Chauvin is the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck while he was facing downwards against the concrete for about eight to ten minutes. Cases like this are not uncommon in the United States and this is a particular case including an officer. Cases involving police officers deserve their own category but there are many more examples of racial violence in the U.S. I will analyze three cases involving racially-based civilian violence and three cases of officers on civilian violence focusing on where these ideas originated from inside social institutions.
One American horror story that involves a lynching is the story of the young Emmet Till. He was a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago visiting his extended family in Money, Mississippi, in 1955. Many African-Americans fled North not just during the time of slavery but during a time remembered as “The great Northward migration.” When over six million African-Americans left the South to live in Northern cities during 1916 and 1970. Emmet Till was doing what many of us would consider an extended family visit, what was supposed to be a wonderful time ended in tragedy. Two men, Roy Bryant and J.W Milam abducted the boy a few days after he had complimented a white woman. Emmet Till was brutally mauled, mutilated, and executed with a headshot by Roy Bryant and J.W Milam. They both escaped justice. Till’s mother had insisted on an open casket burial so the world could see what they had done to her son. This attack is grounded on the ideas of slavery, the white men that killed him did so because with one small gesture Emmet had challenged what was the status quo in the Jim Crow era.
Ahmaud Arbery was another young African-American man who was out jogging when he was stopped by a local with a shotgun. Then for no real reason, he was attacked, and while attempting to defend himself he was shot point-blank in the chest. Arbery was pursued by three white men, Travis McMichael his father Gregory, and another man named William. Travis McMichael was the one who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery. This behavior is quite strange, to see an African-American man jogging implies to some folks that he is in criminal activity and then they reason that it’s ok for them to arm, pursue, and attempt to detain through a citizen’s arrest. How can someone reason that they can go and hunt someone down, for it to be socially acceptable for a group of people to do this is only possible through learned behavior by authority. The police disproportionally target minorities specifically African-American males. In Ahmaud Arbery’s case, the perpetrators were convinced that what they were doing was acceptable behavior. I argue that’s the example that was set by police which led to the actions of Travis McMichael and others.
Trayvon Martyn, a seventeen-year-old who was followed by George Zimmerman for several minutes before he was confronted by him. In this conflict, Trayvon Martyn was killed. This incident is unique to others because George Zimmerman is a Hispanic man. Why that’s important is because there is always a link in racially based attacks, the correlation between them, is simple, its ideology. The ideology that all African-Americans are criminals, and an existential threat to public safety. This ideology is radicalized because it creates vigilante murderers who perceive they are doing societal justice. Behavior like this is widely accepted in the GOP, alt-right media contributes to the belief of the armed American to uphold second amendment rights, support police all the time, and seek out vigilante justice against African-Americans. Make no mistake, that is still a lynching.
Elijah McClain, in August of 2019, Colorado, was stopped by police officers because he was acting suspiciously. He was an African-American man walking down the sidewalk with a ski mask listening to music. Colorado is cold so I understand wearing a ski mask and good music can often make someone dance. That’s the “suspicious” behavior. Officers placed him in a chokehold because he wasn’t complying but the police in question have no reasonable grounds other than “suspicious.” Placed in a chokehold and sedated with a drug by police he was declared brain dead three days later and taken off life support. This behavior is once again grounded in the stereotype that all African-Americans are criminals, which is simply not the case. McClain was a beautiful person as many of his quotes were shared on social media and I found them captivating.
E.J Bradford, killed in Hoover mall, Alabama when police responded to a shooting. E.J Bradford was in the armed forces and his father served as a police officer as well. Bradford carried a weapon like many people in the United States, when the shooting began many folks took out their weapons in self-defense, Bradford was one of them but upon police arriving at the scene they see Bradford with a weapon and mistake him for the shooter, he is quickly killed by police. The second amendment is highly regarded as a spiritual-moral practice unless it’s an African-American with a gun. Several US states after the emancipation proclamation banned African-Americans from owning weapons, and they are still viewed as an existential threat to African-Americans with guns because in the racial-based institutions of the United States they still see armed slaves which were always met by the government with a violent response.
Robert Howard, this is an incredibly brutal, violent, and depressing story. Howard was shot and killed by police officer Patrick Ferguson in a first-degree murder count. For an officer to receive a first-degree murder charge on an African-American is rare. The reason for this verdict here is because Ferguson himself confessed to murdering Robert Howard without cause. It was straight, blunt, and plain he killed him and tried to hide the evidence. I cannot tell if it was fear of discovery or a disturbed mind but Ferguson confessed to the murder. This case is particularly disturbing because there is no real reason or cause for this. It makes me believe that there are many mentally disturbed officers that kill African-Americans with impunity. There are many more cases across the United States. I have discussed six racially-based attacks done by civilians and police officers on African-American males. Please remember to never judge a book by its cover.