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History of Lynching and Racial Violence


The United States is plagued by a dark history of lynchings and racial violence. History can never be unlived or forgotten; however, learning about it can make humans conscious of their future decisions. White Americans terrorized and controlled Black people through vigilante justice in the 20th and 19th centuries. Executions were brutal and violent open acts and entailed images of Black women and men hanging from trees. Furthermore, typical mob justice involved decapitation, desecration, mutilation, torture, and burning victims while alive in extreme cases. Many Black women and men who had committed no crimes were murdered and tortured in the presence of picnicking spectators. People celebrated lynchings and revered those who participated in the act (Holloway, 2021). My outlook on race has changed after engaging with racial violence and lynching history. Racism is not defined by the color of a people rather by the practices and policies they support.

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Doing Nothing While People Are Abused

After engaging with the history of racial violence and lynching, I realized that you could define racism by observing and evaluating the actions of others towards a particular group of people. For example, most people do nothing to help when marginalized groups are mistreated. When Congress turned a blind eye to the brutal and inhumane acts committed against Black persons, it showed us an example of feigning ignorance while Black people are abused. At first, Congress attempted to pass anti-lynching laws during the mob justice era; however, Southern representatives consistently and predictably protested the federal government’s involvement in local issues. Hypocritically, Southern states passed individual anti-lynching laws to show that federal legislation was redundant and failed to enforce them. The number of people convicted due to the murders of Black persons was extremely few (Woodard & Theoharis, 2019). During the lynching era, multiple Black people were traumatized by racial violence and others killed. However, Congress failed to gather sufficient votes to pass any proposed anti-lynching bills (Holloway, 2021). Thus, we can argue that Congress’s actions to undermine Blacks’ rights make them racist.

The murder of George Floyd can show you another example of inaction while a racist incident takes place. The victim was unarmed and was choked by a police officer for nine minutes before he eventually died. Other officers and onlookers watched and made no efforts to prevent Floyd’s death. The incident prompted many people to ask why bystanders and the other police officers did not stop the death of Floyd. The aversive racism concept can explain why race-specific interactions and experiences occur in racial violence perpetrated against African Americans. Onlookers adhered to the bystander effect and socially constructed racist beliefs during Floyd’s death (Murrell, 2020). The failure of onlookers to intervene and prevent Floyd’s death can let you gather that a person’s actions define whether they are racist.

Criminal Justice Disparities in The Present

The disparities in the criminal justice system of the United States show us that our actions define racism. Broad statistics hide the racial disproportion that permeates the criminal justice system, especially for people of color. The U.S. has created and perpetuated policies that enable racial disparities in its judicial system. Blacks have higher arrest and conviction rates than white Americans. Furthermore, African Americans have a higher chance of receiving lengthy prison sentences once convicted than Whites. Blacks consisted of about twenty-seven percent of all people arrested in 2016, although there was no linkage between crime and race (Hetey & Eberhardt, 2018). The impacts of historical injustices for Blacks are many, including increased fatal police shootings and wrongful convictions.

Additionally, African Americans face disproportionate and harsh experiences in incarceration compared with other races in prison. Racial disparities can be noticed among Black youth as depicted by high incarceration rates for African American juveniles. There is overwhelming evidence of disparities in the judicial system since the challenges are ongoing, pervasive, and historically rooted (Hetey & Eberhardt, 2018). When we allow such policies to enable the suffering of persons of color, then we depict racism through our actions.

Violence Against African American Politicians

To understand violent actions that depicted racism, we should go back to the 1870s, when Whites from the South began a campaign to reverse the reconstruction process. Resistance of the Black reconstruction and enfranchisement was violent at local levels. Violence was a portion of the electoral strategy of the Democratic party. The presence of federal security dwindled in the region, making violence an efficient option to acquire political control. The violence meted on various Black officials ranged from murder to death threats. For instance, South Carolina’s George Barber escaped from his home due to death threats from the Ku Klux Klan in 1871. On the other hand, Simon Corker was killed by Democrats in 1876 during the Ellerton riot (Williams et al., 2021). Violence towards Black politicians can enable you to see how racism was used to gain political power.

Past Racial Segregation

The withdrawal of troops from the South created a way for white supremacists to unleash violence in the region, leaving Black persons cemented in inferior political, social, and economic positions. Convict leasing was highlighted by multiple Black prisoners who suffered and died from worse conditions than slavery, which shows us our actions define racism. Ultimately, you can deduce that convict leasing showed how criminal justice helped white Americans establish their dominance and hierarchy in the country. It engineered the legitimization of excessive abuse and punishment of Black women and men. Racial segregation happened in the form of absolute exclusion of Blacks from opportunities, public institutions, and facilities (Kovera, 2019). Black persons failed to enjoy their constitutional rights due to white supremacy, and such actions show us that our deeds can determine if we practice racism or not.

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Action Item

After analyzing the history of racial violence and lynching, I would like to participate in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and other human rights groups. I have learned that Black people are a minority, and joining the movement would help me support its causes. For example, the movement has pressured governments to enact more strict rules regarding human rights abuse, especially among the African American community. The movement focuses on specific reordering of society where Black people are not affected by systematic dehumanization (Clayton, 2018). My husband, I would like to join the cause because the measurable impact of BLM on the legal and political landscape is undeniable.


In conclusion, race or racism is not defined by the color of skin rather by the policies and practices they support. After reflecting on the history of racial violence and lynching, I changed my outlook on equality. We can see from the various arguments that people are racist because of the policies they support or their behaviors. For instance, some people may watch others get killed in racially motivated crimes without intervening. U.S. leaders and citizens have allowed policies that adversely affect African Americans to stay operational in the criminal justice system. In addition, past violence against African American politicians shows how human practices determine their position on race and racism. Ultimately, we can work out that Black people have suffered at the hands of Whites; therefore, there is a need to demand change.


Clayton, D. M. (2018). Black Lives Matter and the civil rights movement: A comparative analysis of two social movements in the United States. Journal of Black Studies, 49(5), 448-480. Web.

Hetey, R. C., & Eberhardt, J. L. (2018). The numbers don’t speak for themselves: Racial disparities and the persistence of inequality in the criminal justice system. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(3), 183-187. Web.

Holloway, J. S. (2021). The cause of freedom: A concise history of African Americans. Oxford University Press.

Kovera, M. B. (2019). Racial disparities in the criminal justice system: Prevalence, causes, and a search for solutions. Journal of Social Issues, 75(4), 1139-1164. Web.

Murrell, A. J. (2020). Why someone did not stop them? Aversive racism and the responsibility of bystanders. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 40(1), 60-73. Web.

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Williams, J. A., Logan, T. D., & Hardy, B. L. (2021). The persistence of historical racial violence and political suppression: Implications for contemporary regional inequality. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 694(1), 92-107. Web.

Woodard, K., & Theoharis, J. (Eds.). (2019). The strange careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and struggle outside of the South. NYU Press.

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