Wednesday, March 4, 2015


"This cry has had its effect. It has closed the heart, stifled the conscience, warped the judgment and hushed the voice of press and pulpit on the subject of lynch law throughout this "land of liberty." Men who stand high in the esteem of the public for Christian character, for moral and physical courage, for devotion to the principles of equal and exact justice to all, and for great sagacity, stand as cowards who fear to open their mouths before this great outrage. They do not see that by their tacit encouragement, their silent acquiescence, the black shadow of lawlessness in the form of lynch law is spreading its wings over the whole country."
The above is my favorite quotation (or maybe just one of my favorites) from Ida B. Wells "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases" publication. The "cry" referred to in the first sentence references the aspect OC was talking about during the later half of her talk...the image of the helpless white woman. Not even just helpless, but a white woman that needed protection, therefore justifying the brutal murders of black men whose goals in the eyes of white dominated society were to ravage white women. It's true, pointing fingers to the helpless white woman image allowed for an emotional disconnect between the persecutors (white majority) and the (oft innocent) black men. I appreciate how Wells was able to acknowledge that. Without emotionally connecting to the issue and realizing that white men could also be a problem allowed for this kind of stuff to go on easily because there was no speck of guilt.
I also appreciate the middle section of that quotation because it acknowledges the fact that many white men maintained their high stature regardless of their behavior. Oh the joys of white privilege! What Wells writes about lines up with one of my central beliefs, a bystander is a perpetrator. Not saying anything about the unjustness of a situation is as equally bad as partaking in the action. Wells comments on this saying, "...stand as cowards who fear to open their mouths before this great outrage. They do not see that by their tacit encouragement, their silent acquiescence, the black shadow of lawlessness in the form of lynch law is spreading its wings over the whole country." It's true, if everyone was too afraid to speak up, the chances for progress were slim. 
This is why I appreciate Wells. Despite having two strikes against her, being a woman and being black (amongst more), she wrote and spoke about what she truly thought was important. I feel like most notable progress is made that way. However, it is much easier to do that with more people on your side. Take for example, feminism! It's much easier to overthrow social norms together. 

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