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Mar 11 2013

This surprises me

I guess I wasn’t aware of how deeply down a people could be held.

In her fearless defense of lynching victims and African Americans’ right to due process, Wells often bucked the backward conventional wisdom of the era. When she began her campaign against lynching in the late 19th century there wasn’t consensus among African Americans that lynching was worthy of a national social justice movement, nor was there agreement about the terroristic sexual politics that motivated white lynch mobs.

There wasn’t a consensus to oppose lynching? It’s a good thing Ida B. Wells was there to fight the fight.

17 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    I understand the website “A Voice for Lynching” was still trying to attract talented young photoshoppers to provide content at the time, but yes, those radical anti-lynchers were a minority fringe then.

  2. 2
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Part of me can actually, partly, in a small way, understand this. Among oppressed groups, there is a major goal (among many others, obviously) — don’t be noticed, don’t incite the ire of the ones with the guns. If someone from your oppressed community does get noticed (positively or negatively) it can mean that the whole community gets noticed. And when the whole community gets noticed, bad things will happen to the entire community. Getting noticed can get the ones in charge angry. Perhaps by tacitly accepting the correctness of extrajudicial killings, the oppressed community, in this case an African American community that had many members who still remembered slavery, hoped to avoid that same anger and fear coming down on the entire group. These were the trouble makers (whether they did anything wrong or not was immaterial — they attracted the notice of power) and, possibly, were viewed as a sacrifice to keep the community ‘safer’? Sort of, better him than me? Better someone from that troublemaker family than someone from my good family? I have no idea if this is correct. This is one of millions of glaring gaps in my historical knowledge. Sorry.

  3. 3
    sinned34

    Look at any woman that supports fundamentalist Christian or Muslim “roles” for females. Abuse perpetuates abuse.

  4. 4
    mythbri

    Why should this surprise you?

    I’m not trying to fall into the meme of relating every kind of social justice issue back to the one that most affects me, but just to use it as an example:

    There are plenty of women who don’t care to question rigid gender roles, and indeed don’t see the need for any kind of organized movement to try to break down gender barriers. There are plenty of women who are (consciously or unconsciously) complicit or seemingly accepting or apathetic in their own marginalization, world-wide.

    When you are historically told than you are “less than,” questioning that at first seems akin to questioning reality.

  5. 5
    Crissa

    People tend to think of themselves as powerless. And as though everyone is as they are. But that anything bad is unique and not generally worthy of different action.

    I have a useless comparison: Once, found out the series of ATMs in a hotel were overcharging on transactions by 50¢. Sure, that’s not alot. But there were two thousand people in the hotel over a weekend, of which I contacted a couple hundred. I found dozens who had used the ATM and not a one would even sign a petition saying they had – but I got back a dozen replies saying I was stupid to even try. Turns out this ATM had been saying it was charging $1 when it was really charging $1.50 for six months. That’s thousands of transactions and probably thousands of dollars stolen. But since it was only in 50¢ increments, I could get no one to care.

    Lynching was the same: Someone else’s problem, I bet people get lynched all the time elsewhere. If they weren’t doing [insert behavior] they wouldn’t have gotten lynched. Etc. Without a group identity, without deciding to work together, each time was ‘just one person’ and they’d have known of no other incidents involving people they knew. So why expend capital on it?

    It’s stupid, but that’s how people seem to work.

  6. 6
    Crissa

    Re: 2 Ogvorbis 11 March 2013 at 2:17 pm (UTC -5)

    There’s got to be a name for this; it’s like the inverse of the tragedy of the commons. Basically, the situation sucks for any one individual that sticks their head up, so collectively, necks are out. Even though as a group, they could do something about it.

  7. 7
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Crissa #6 – The closes I can think of is tall poppy syndrome, but a special case along what Ogvorbis #2 said, where noticeable stand-outs are likely to get the whole field being mowed.

  8. 8
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    There’s got to be a name for this; it’s like the inverse of the tragedy of the commons. Basically, the situation sucks for any one individual that sticks their head up, so collectively, necks are out. Even though as a group, they could do something about it.

    I’m not sure what to call it. I’ve seen it in action. If one of us did something to call attention to me, if I did anything that was noticed, I got to do things with the scout leader. And the rest of the den, the rest of the cub scout pack, was relieved that it was me and not them. And I felt the same way when it was someone else. Better him than me. And I suspect that, at some level, this may have been happening in the African American community.

    I’m not trying to fall into the meme of relating every kind of social justice issue back to the one that most affects me,

    I find myself doing the same thing. I know so little about social justice issues (though I am trying to learn) other than in European history context (some of it, anyway) that using my personal experience can illustrate a point. We all here that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the nail that sticks out the most gets pounded the hardest, the kid who attracts attention

    Sorry. Gotta stop.

  9. 9
    rnilsson

    Ida said, Wells B. done!
    But that would be a cruel and unusual Pun-ish-meant.
    And this is a serious matter, indeed.
    Not even finished, yet. So I shall be silent.

  10. 10
    Pteryxx

    There’s got to be a name for this; it’s like the inverse of the tragedy of the commons. Basically, the situation sucks for any one individual that sticks their head up, so collectively, necks are out. Even though as a group, they could do something about it.

    I don’t know, either. Bystander effect? Scapegoating? Don’t rock the boat? Penguin shoving?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad%C3%A9lie_Penguin#Behaviour

    Certain displays of their selfishness were commented upon by George Murray Levick, a Royal Navy Surgeon-Lieutenant and scientist who also accompanied Scott on his ill-fated British Antarctic Expedition 1910, during his surveying of penguins in the Antarctic: “At the place where they most often went in [the water], a long terrace of ice about six feet in height ran for some hundreds of yards along the edge of the water, and here, just as on the sea-ice, crowds would stand near the brink. When they had succeeded in pushing one of their number over, all would crane their necks over the edge, and when they saw the pioneer safe in the water, the rest followed.”[6]

  11. 11
  12. 12
    brucegee1962

    #2 Ogvorbis,

    If you read Booker T. Washington’s “Cast Down Your Bucket” speech, it’s essentially all about appeasement. Essentially, he’s saying we’ll stop asking for higher education and advanced degrees, we won’t bring up anything about civil rights or demand the vote, separate but equal sounds just dandy — with the unspoken subtext, so now could you please lay off with the lynchings? I used to explain to my students that, in a modern context, the speech sounds insane — but if you realize there were something like 3000 lynchings a year in the south when he made the speech, it all makes perfect sense.

    Of course, the white power structure immediately fell all over themselves to make Washington the Official Spokesman for all Negroes. And of course his proposal didn’t work in any significant way to quell the violence. I knew about Dubois calling him out on it, but it’s good to learn about others like Wells as well.

  13. 13
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re Ogvorbis:

    The Japanese aphorism: “The nail that sticks up will get hammered down”. Just stay silent and don’t be noticed (either for good deeds or evil actions).

    But given this, I can see why they might be silent, but advocating doesn’t follow that “rule”.

    ho hum, people are too complex…

  14. 14
    Ichthyic

    Could it also be similar to the sentiment expressed by the “anti-A+” folks, who constantly whinge that the “movement” shouldn’t get “sidetracked” with social justice issues?

    maybe there was a large contingent who thought that lynching was rare enough to be a side issue?

    If so, I wonder what THEY thought the major issue of the day should have been??

  15. 15
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Nobody’s mentioned learned helplessness yet; I think that’s another key. If you know nothing but oppression all your life, you come to think there’s no other way to live.

  16. 16
    beergoggles

    Umm how do we even know there was no consensus among AAs at the time? I’m pretty sure anyone who could be falsely accused of raping white women would have had rather strong opinons on the matter (crazification factor excluded). All the mainstream media was owned by white people who didn’t even have the wrongness of lyching on their radar. For all we know the news media probably reported that ‘both sides do it’ and fought tooth and nail to keep minorities from upsetting white sensibilities by pointing out the brutality they were subject to.

  17. 17
    Samantha Vimes

    “For all we know, the media might have…”?!

    Do you realize that the media in those days was newspapers, and those newspapers carefully had issues stored for future reference and we– meaning anyone who cares to do a bit of research– actually have very good knowledge of what was reported back then? I mean, this is not evolutionary psychology stuff– this is recent history. You can get oral histories, too, recorded interviews from people who lived through those times.

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