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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

Litany of Horror

Asante, Molefi Kete: Litany of Horror: A Survey of Newspaper-Reported Lynchings
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 43 [Spring 2004] p.116-123

Molefi Kete Asante
Litany of Horror: A Survey of Newspaper-Reported Lynchings

THE UNITED STATES was born with a political defect from which it may never recover. The enslavement of Africans, while simultaneously expressing the value of liberty, created a duality in the American soul that is maintained in the split between the Wilderness and the Promise. Overcoming this aspect of the American passage from the Wilderness to the Promise may mean the end of civil duality. But this cannot be accomplished until there is a common store of information about the Africans' presence in this nation.

What is necessary from whites, it seems to me, is a political commitment to end racism, or at least to begin the process of attacking racial prejudice. So much racial prejudice against Africans has been built up because of the social, political, and economic structures of American society that many whites believe such prejudice is natural. "I thought we had ended racism years ago during Martin Luther King's time," said a well-dressed white woman who was asked what she thought about the racism against African Americans.

In fact, television talk shows and interview programs consistently demonstrate that there are religious Americans who teach religion to their children, who preach Christianity and other religions in their communities, yet who are bigots against African Americans and others. And these examples of blatant Skinhead or Ku Klux Klan-type arguments and statements are only the visible parts of the racism. Therefore, when politicians speak about controlling the anger and frustration of Africans they miss the point: Righteous anger is often seen as a measured response to the persistence of the doctrine of white supremacy, often operationalized as racism.

Racial anger with its outpouring of violence, as in the case in Los Angeles, may not be the response preferred by the perpetrators of racism, but it is a crucial response, and, as Frantz Fanon knew, whenever the oppressed respond to the conditions of disrespect, the response is a therapeutic action. So whatever else we can say about the outbreak of urban violence in Los Angeles, it represented one of those small revolutions that Thomas Jefferson, the second president of the United States and a slave owner, once said was necessary from time to time


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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