I’m certain that some will disagree, but since I get asked to talk about the violence in Mexico and I get asked hard questions, I thought I’d share some thoughts on this article from [the] NYTimes. It reports on a new study of lynching in America from reconstruction through the 1950s….nearly 4000 documented cases of lynchings of African Americans–700 more cases than previously recorded. The worst place was Phillips County Ark. where 237 people were lynched in 1919 during the Elaine race riot. The rest of the worst places are in Louisiana…my home state.
I am often asked how to explain the extreme violence of the killings in Mexico. The only way I can explain many of these actions–whether they come from directly from the state or from criminal entities sanctioned by the state–is that they are acts of terror designed to control the population.
The Guardian reported on the Equal Justice Initiative study also quoting Bryan Stevenson:
“I also think that the lynching era created a narrative of racial difference, a presumption of guilt, a presumption of dangerousness that got assigned to African Americans in particular – and that’s the same presumption of guilt that burdens young kids living in urban areas who are sometimes menaced, threatened, or shot and killed by law enforcement officers.”
Note the similarity with the Mexican practice of criminalizing all victims of violence (90 percent at least)… Note the similarity to the narrative of the murdered students in Iguala–portraying them as radicals, criminals and hooligans in order to justify their murders. The idea that the people killed in Mexico are all narcos or malandros and thus deserving of their violent deaths.
I read Bryan Stevenson’s book [Just Mercy]a couple months ago…and I can’t recommend it enough. But this new report is so important and shows the need to keep the record and to reclaim the truth of the terrorist history of our own country. I am also struck by the parallels to the current Mexican and Central American violence and forced migration…
“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.
The terror in Mexico has already claimed more than 150,000 lives and the official narrative continues to criminalize the victims. -molly