Wells-Barnett also speaks on how the American government, one that eventually freed all Black and African American slaves, was not able to protect them afterwards. Essentially, while they cut the chains holding past slaves from freedom, they still lived in constant fear and oppression as freed-people; slaves to society. The ever-present lynchings, beatings, harassments, and oppression of Black/African American citizens was another form of slavery. These lynchings were handed to Blacks/African Americans for nearly any crime or suspicion of crime as well as for warnings and for recreation. White men, whom had no governmental or police affiliations, took it upon themselves to decide the fate of those whom they deemed less worthy of life.Although Black and African Americans were free, they were not free from the constraints of white supremacy. According to chapter two of The Red Record, African Americans were lynched on the basis of attempted, alleged, and suspected crimes, insulting whites and being “too saucy”, as warnings, and for no offense at all. Black and African Americans lived in constant fear of their lives throughout this time and to this day as well and that is not free.
Wells-Barnett chronicles the many lynchings of African Americans and Blacks in the late 1890’s and a common theme she found for them was that many of the trials were for “no offense” (Wells-Barnett 48). These crimes committed in result of the lynchings were not of “enough importance to ascertain the causes for which they were hanged” (Wells-Barnett 48). At this time, those who did not identify as Black or African American were targeted at any cost. If the minority were as much as in question of the crime, they would be prosecuted. This can be seen in ESPY files in which capital punishments are chronicled. From the years 1843 to 1903, Black men dominated capital punishments; many of the chosen methods of execution were hangings (lynching) (ESPY.com).
During the height of Black/African American-based hostility, capital punishments also served as entertainment. During executions, crowds of passersby and townspeople would flock to watch the slashing, stabbing, and hanging of the minorities. In the case of CJ Miller in Bardwell, Kentucky, a crowd of thousands had gathered to watch the man being pulled into the air by his neck, then let go, causing him to break his neck. They repeated this barbaric act of execution numerous times, shot his dead body, and cut of the appendages of his feet and hands. He was hung for viewing and photographs for hours after his death then set on fire until nothing remained (Wells-Barnett 43-46). This instance could be related to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.
In The Lottery, a town and its members conduct a lottery to see whom shall be the next to be stoned to death. Children collect rocks to be used as weapons to kill and it is a spectacle; every townsmember is expected to participate and/or attend. Once the name is drawn, a woman, she is killed quickly by the stones. It is almost as though it were a ritual. The town becoming mind-numbingly used to the disregard for human life (“The Lottery”).
Sometimes thousands of people would stand to watch the brutal killings of those they felt to be inferior. Edward Coy was lynched with an audience of 15,000 around him. It seems as though white people (stated since much of the audience was indeed white) treated lynchings as some sort of circus and Blacks were some sort of freak-show show runner; parents brought their children as a human being was killed. There was no regard for human decency and human life at this time when it was concerning an African American.
Although Black folk had been freed from the confines of slavery on plantations and the like, they continued to fight slavery in society in trials for crimes such as “being too saucy” and “race prejudice”. What Wells-Barnett states at the beginning of the piece of America being a white man’s government, is incredibly accurate. Although Blacks were now freed, they could not be prejudice to a congregation of people that for the majority are prejudice to them (Wells-Barnett). There were rules and codes put in place that worked in White peoples’ favor rather than for all despite America being the land of the free and an inclusive country.
This ideal remains true today as in the current social climate of the United States, African American and Black Americans are demonized to be perceived as incredibly dangerous and murderous to white people. This, however, is not the case. In numerous studies conducted by the FBI as well as the Department of Justice, violent and nonviolent crime is often intraracial. This meaning that crimes perpetrated by one race are often confined to their own race: “Regardless of the race of the victim, the rate of violent crime was higher for intraracial victimizations than for interracial victimizations during 2012-15” (Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders 2012-15).
However, with the current rise of multiple incidences white-on-black police brutality and declining crime rates across the country, Black people still are societally to blame for many white deaths. Blacks are still currently chained to their roots in slavery in the United States. Although we are able to walk the streets side-by-side regardless of skin color and ethnicity, those with darker skin tones unwillingly take the blame for societal assumptions by the misinformed and the uneducated.
Today instead of lynchings as punishments, African Americans serve time in jail for crimes they either did not commit or are given excessive sentences compared to their White counterparts. They are stopped by police more often. They are stuffed into confined, poverty-stricken areas of metropolitan areas without access to proper healthcare and employment. All of this essentially is a form of slavery despite America’s belief in its “freedom”.
What American claims as freedom for its citizens is concentrated on what freedoms are most accessible by White people. These ideals have been deeply rooted in the country’s functions and government ever since its conception. From the enslavement, victimization and demonization of Black and African Americans to the current state of society, it seems as though they will never escape their ties to societal-constructed inferiority to White people.