The NAACP once used a photo of the lynching of a black man in a bid to win support for an anti-lynching bill and possibly to appeal to the humanity and conscious of white America. The photograph they chose was particularly gruesome as it highlighted the attendance of young white children, from the age of four to seven years old. One girl, in particular, is gleefully admiring the lynched body of Reuben Stacey. As a sign of the times, there was little effort, by the NAACP’s flyer, to draw sympathy to the real victims of lynchings. In fact it is the complete opposite. It appears the most effective ploy was to use the white children as some sort of emotional bargaining chip; maybe those crazy white people would come to their senses and realize that lynching was a very bad thing and certainly not an appropriate family day out.
The NAACP flyer focused on the physiological effects of the lynching on the children in the photograph, and tackled the subject as following:
Do Not look at the Negro.
His earthly problems have ended.
Instead look at the seven WHITE children who gaze at this gruesome spectacle.
Is it horror or gloating on the face of the neatly dressed seven -year old girl on the right?
Is the tiny four -year old on the left, one wonders, to comprehend the barbarism her elders have perpetrated?
Rubin Stacey, the negro, who was lynched at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 19 1935, for “threatening and frightening” a white woman,” suffered PHYSICAL torture for a few short hours. But what psychological havoc is being wrought in the minds of the white children?
Into what kind of citizens will they grow up?
What kind of America will they help to make after being familiarized with such an inhuman law destroying practice as lynching?
Unfortunately, even by appealing to Americas’s moral compass, and with the support of President Roosevelt, the Costigan-Wagner Anti-Lynching Bill was not passed. However, the questions raised in the NAACP flyer are as relevant today as they were in the 1930’s. On Christmas eve, an unidentified student at Pleasant Grove High School posted a highly racist and offensive Snapchat video which went viral on social media attracting some 4.4 million views and several thousand retweets on Twitter.
The clips, posted to Twitter, by user @OfficialKhi@ and others around the world, saw the racist rant, and the Elk Grove Unified School District and the Pleasant Grove High School were called upon by community members to take some form of action. What is most disturbing about the student’s social media outburst was her claim that “When the police were killing all those black people, I was so happy because I was like, ‘F**k black people; go die, b**ches,’” she said, smiling.
While some people will recoil in horror at such sentiments, others will inevitably excuse her rhetoric as harmless juvenile stupidity in pursuit of social media infamy. Racist tirades posted on social media seem to have blossomed in 2017 among teenagers and students. As an eagle-eyed spectator of the insane sphere of white supremacists, who inhabit social media, there is something rather unnerving watching a young student celebrating the murder of African-Americans. Some of the questions that could be considered of the young student in this video should be grounded in the very same queries posed by the 1930’s NAACP flyer, but that would still be far from a complete inquiry.
The psychological impact of crime and violence elicit strong emotions and feelings , such as, stress, anxiety, fear and shock. Over the decades the disposition of the girl attending the Reuben Stacy lynching has been the subject of varying psychological profiles. Her countenance radiating something between excitement and delight appears to hardly contain her approval to the casual observer. Becoming desensitized to violence or suffering from some form of dissociative disorder are just two defenses I have stumbled upon when researching the Reuben Stacy lynching in the past. However, I am not sure if I would level the same immunity at the Pleasant Grove High School student without subscribing to the notion that maybe America has not changed much since the 1930’s.
Do we really think about the emotional effects of Trump, police shootings, choke holds, institutional racism, the rise of white nationalism – and its call for Apartheid on people regardless of their color or age. Whilst the great racial divide elicits very different emotions from people of color and whites , one can only wonder how America will be able to heal the widening racial chasm. People of color face sporadic pockets of hostility, danger and widespread institutional racism, whilst 55% of white Americans claim they are the victims of racial discrimination in the absence of any supporting data.
If the future well-being of any budding generations are to be considered with any real thoughtfulness, then it is up to white America to tackle the racism that is inherent in it’s hearts and minds.