A Brief History of Racial Violence.

cross-posted at my place

A commenter at Ezra Klein’s blog writes:

All those people worried that crazed black people are going to riot if Obama loses should really be worried about the crazed white people rioting when Obama wins.

Very few white Americans are aware of the tremendous amounts of violence directed towards successful black businesses and communities during the Jim Crow eara.  It’s one of those things which isn’t talked about in high school history classes, but is incredibly relevant to any discussion about the lack of accumulated wealth in the African-American community.  In short, when a black community or black business became sufficiently successful — and was in close proximity to a relatively unsuccessful white community — there was a fair chance that the neighboring white community would target those successful African-Americans with violence and intimidation.  A fair number of lynchings, for example, were directed towards successful black business owners.  Brad of the Infamous Brad, writes about this in detail:

And the terrible, but fascinating, bit of secret history turned out to be the immediate aftermath of over half of those lynchings. Over half of those lynchings turned out to involve black men who owned their own successful farms and/or businesses. And the day after the lynchings, those farms and businesses were sold to white neighbors, in closed auctions, for pennies on the dollar, and the surviving real heirs were run out of town. And in a terrifyingly large number of those cases, historians were able to show one or more of the following facts. The buyer was the person who made the initial accusation against the victim. And the buyer was a relative of one or more of the following: the mayor, the chief of police, the local minister and/or the municipal judge.

Furthermore, there were a number of modestly successful black towns – most famously the town of Rosewood, Florida and the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma – which literally burned down by economically jealous whites, often under the pretext of “protecting womanhood.”  A good deal of racial history in this country, is this history of whites lashing out against successful black people, and particularly successful black men.  Considering that, Ezra’s commenter is absolutely correct; we should be a lot more worried about resentful whites lashing out if Obama wins, then disappointed blacks (and remember, blacks weren’t expecting Obama’s rise, and if he loses, they won’t be terribly surprised) rioting if Obama loses.

(photo from flickr user Jeff Wignall)

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5 thoughts on “A Brief History of Racial Violence.

  1. ladyfresshh October 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm Reply

    so…i should worry about angry white hipsters you say?

  2. designatrix October 8, 2008 at 3:58 pm Reply

    Rosewood was an excellent example. Also, take a look at the documentary “Banished” by Marco Williams. He traces the histories of towns that ran Black residents out of town, and what their descendants are doing to try to reclaim their property.

  3. bitchphd October 8, 2008 at 6:48 pm Reply

    This is one of those “omg” facts about lynchings that just really blows people’s minds, including mine when I learned it. Presumably it’s something that a lot of people have known about all along, but the general population doesn’t? Or is this one of those “resurfaced” facts that really just somehow got written out until historians really started doing some decent work on the subject?

  4. scott October 9, 2008 at 9:20 am Reply

    Clearly Ezra Klein didn’t read Fatimah Ali’s 9/2/08 column on philly.com where she said that “if McCain wins, look for a full-fledged race and class war, fueled by a deflated and depressed country, soaring crime, homelessness – and hopelessness!”

  5. quadmoniker October 9, 2008 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Scott: Ezra Klein didn’t say that, a commenter on his blog did.

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