By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
There are two related violent phenomena in that are now getting renewed public attention and research around the world, as well as considerable debate and denial. The twin evils are terrorism and racism.
President Barack Obama’s recent White House Summit on “Countering Violent Extremism” reminded many of us in Black America that violent acts of “extremism” have not been isolated just to the Middle East or to the perversion of one religion. At the conclusion of the White House meeting on extremism, President Obama affirmed the national resolve and resilience of the United States in surmounting and overcoming terrific challenges in the past.
The president said, “For more than 238 years, the United States of America has not just endured, but we have thrived and surmounted challenges that might have broken a lesser nation. After a terrible civil war, we repaired our union. We weathered a Great Depression, became the world’s most dynamic economy.”
It is undeniable that the United States has made progress for more than two centuries toward a “more perfect union” with promises of liberty, equality and justice for all. But for millions of Black Americans, however, the contradictions of racial inequality, racially motivation violence, disproportionate mass incarceration, and numerous other forms of institutionalized racism and extremism are all still realities that we face daily. That, too, is undeniable.
After the White House summit, a larger gathering of international governmental leaders, civil society groups, diplomats, religious leaders and others convened at the State Department. Again, President Obama reiterated his call to action for a more coordinated global effort to courter violent extremism.
He stated, “We come together from more than 60 countries from every continent. We speak different languages, born of different races and ethnic groups, belong to different religions. We are here today because we are united against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism.”
It was a welcomed display of a growing, diverse international coalition of governments and organizations emerging to make public their collective intention to work together to confront violent extremism wherever it exists. Given the changing demographics fueled by the “browning of America,” the extremist violence attacking Black Americans and other people of color should be on a decline. On the contrary, there appears to be a national resurgence of racial violence against people of color inside.
Black America has had to challenge and endure centuries of violent acts of extremism in the forms of domestic terrorism and racism. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) even to this day claims to be a Christian organization. But no one refers to the KKK as Christian extremists or terrorists. Within a week, there will be the 50thanniversary recognition of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., where violent law enforcement “extremists” attacked unarmed civil rights marchers who were nonviolently demanding voting rights for Black Americans in 1965.
It is ironic that a new study concerning the systematic lynching of Black Americans was recently released. The study, produced by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), was titled, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.” The findings of the EJI report documented that there were at least 3,959 lynchings of Black Americans in 12 Southern states between the Reconstruction Era and World War II: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas.
And those were just the documented cases. There were many others that were never documented or reported in the news media because during that period, racist lynchings were the socially accepted norm and not the exception in the South. That type of extremist terrorism against Black America was commonplace. Yet, there were no international commissions or conferences by major powers to end the practice.
Lynching was the impetus for the creation of the NAACP. As it states on its Website, “The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln.”
Among the founders were W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell along with a group of White liberals, including Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard. The founding of the NAACP was predated by the DuBois-led Niagara Movement of 1905.
The “Lynching in America” report concluded that “lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.”
Today, the lynching and terrorizing of Black America is also done via the rope of the so-called criminal justice system. Prosecutorial misconduct in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in New York are contemporary manifestations of lynching. Racially-motivated lethal violence by police officers is another form of extremist terror and violence against Black America that must be stopped – now!
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.