It has been a long time since you have heard from me. If I’m honest, it’s because the pain of all of this consumes me in a way that takes me away from myself. It renders me completely unable to engage in conversations about things that I love or things that I miss or want or would like to do. It’s completely soul-altering and sometimes, I need to step back.
I hate myself for it these breaks most of the time. I recognize that my privilege is what allows me to do take them. Michael Brown’s sister can’t take breaks from the reality of her brother’s slaying. Philando Castille’s girlfriend can never unsee her partner dying right in front of her and their child. Trayvon Martin’s mother doesn’t get to pretend her son wasn’t murdered simply for being black. These women don’t get to just pretend the world is what it was before the horror took over. And while I recognize the need for self-care, I took a break for too long.
This past week has been a complete whirlwind of terrifying truths. From Manchester to Trump’s most recent budget proposal, the people of this nation and of the world are left reeling yet again. But neither of those events concern me today. Yes, they are horrific. Yes, they deserve attention. But there is a deeper issue I want to discuss that people are looking away from: the modern day lynchings that American media is avoiding talking about.
I will never forget being a little kid and watching some old movie with my family that involved a lynching. They dragged the father away from his wife and family, tied him to a tree, and burned him alive in front of his children. The screaming, the crying, the woman running to her husbands charred body to try and comfort him, despite the fact that he was gone… it was horrific. It was a nightmare. And I felt a sickness and a fear as I looked around me at the men that I love.
Lynchings were social events only decades ago. The “get over it” crew seems to forget that, but it’s true. It’s also true that, while we are taught that lynchings are part of the same distant history where slavery and Jim Crow also live, they are very much a modern issue – especially in Trump’s America.
The first event of this nature that got my attention was the lynching of Ben Keita. This young Muslim teen was found hanging from a tree in Seattle, Washington. While authorities initially tried to brand it as a suicide, the medical examiner later changed the cause of death to undetermined, triggering an FBI investigation into what is now believed to be a lynching.
The next was Timothy Caughman. I wrote a piece on his murder a few months ago. His devastating slaying is another example of the contemporary lynchings we face with a newly emboldened White Supremacist force that backs men like James Harris Jackson.
And then, this week, we lost Richard Collins III. This 23-year-old second lieutenant in the army and Bowie State student was murdered just days before his graduation. Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student with extensive ties to the alt-right (which forms a large portion of Trump’s support base), has been charged with his murder. In his honor, his graduation robes were laid in his seat during the commencement ceremonies. This photo shattered me. This story shattered me.
I can’t look at these young men and not see my brothers. I can’t look at them and not see my daddy, my cousins, my uncles, or my friends. But the reality is, it doesn’t take that kind of personal connection to this for anyone to know that it’s horrific. And the fact that we, as a nation, have been turning away from the continuous accumulation of black bodies (this list is 98 pages long) as they have been murdered by White Nationalist/Supremacist Terrorists is disgraceful. It is disgraceful that it took us this long to start calling the modern murders of unarmed, innocent, young black people “lynchings” again, period. Philando Castille was lynched. Freddie Gray was lynched. Trayvon Martin was lynched. Eric Garner was lynched. Michael Brown was lynched. It doesn’t matter if a cop did it, if a lone offender did it, or if a group of white terrorist monsters did it. It is happening. It is being done on what seems to be a constant basis. And here we are praying for other nations while wearing blinders when looking at our own.
The 2016 election cycle and the rise of DJT has inspired an incredible number of hate crimes. A 20% uptick is not one that can be ignored. And regardless of what his followers try to say (“Racism was here before Trump! How is he even racist?”), the lynchings since his victory are alarming and they deserve your attention. Even our Congresspeople of color are not immune to the blatant threats from Trump’s support base. White Nationalist/Supremacist Terrorism is still terrorism. I know Fox News isn’t going to cover it, but you have a responsibility to remain informed and to pay attention. Do not let them claim that they were in fear for their lives. Do not let them claim that it was a suicide. Do not let them claim they thought the glue gun was a weapon. As the body count rises, do not let them continue to make excuses and get away with this. Every single one of us should be creating a noise so loud and so constant that it shakes the GOP and their anti-political-correctness, white supremacist bullshit to its core. Because they enabled and empowered this. They have elevated Trump and Trump has elevated this.