A Time For Joy, A Time For Horror: Rebirths and Picnics

Spring is just around the corner and I am extremely excited; are you?! With spring comes Easter and rebirth, a time to see the world around us come alive with growth, color, and the sounds of nature. As T.R.H.T. continues going forward and starts events outside again I think of picnics and rebirth. I am reminded of how picnics during the turn of the 20th century (1890-1920s) were violent sites of death and celebration. My thoughts turn to how my ancestor’s pain and prosecution occurred at white hands for pleasure. So titillating to see Black people pain and maimed, that there was a rebirth for the K.K.K. in the United States. We wonder, how much more pain will you make us suffer through for your entertainment, your pleasure, and your rebirth?

As an aspiring historian, I read the newspapers and twitter updates that show another Black or Brown person shot and killed and am reminded of the late 1800s and early 1900s. “Between 1880 and 1930 at least thirty three hundred African Americans were murdered by mobs. During the 1890s and early 1900s two or three Blacks on average were hanged, burned, or otherwise killed every week.” Today Black folks are shown being killed on a seamlessly endless loop on social media and news stations. Like the turn of the 20th century our collective pain is being shown as entertainment and a time for white families to come together. Instead of social media hashtags and news stations, white America shared postcards of their whole communities coming together to watch a Black person lynched.

The disgusting history at the turn of the 20th century, I would argue, was a battle about re-establishing the human hierarchy that had been created in the United States. Emmett Till was murdered because a white woman falsely accused him of cat calling her. The right to stay on the sidewalk was a battle ground between white and Black people. With the power of the white community and government we know who came away victorious. As TRHT Lansing enters year three I think of those everyday battles on sidewalks and in grocery stores. I think of how team members are craving more ways and tactics to dismantle racism nationally but especially in their everyday lives. Find your sidewalks, fight to ensure that everyone has a place to walk, speak up in places where BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) aren’t, use the Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla F. Saad.

Similar to the turn of the 20th century, we have a chance to reset the hierarchical structure in America, but this time so that there is no false belief in a human hierarchy. While the reemergence of notions of white supremacy seem insurmountable, we must remember that at every corner, every sidewalk, every public pool, and every section of our lives there were wars waged to create a system that excluded and harmed BIPOC. In order to be rid of this harmful system, we need our allies to step up and be consistently consistent and persistently persistent in every facet of their lives to dismantle, disrupt, and destroy destructive systems.

“A new America still needs to be born. Let us be the midwives.” -Vincent Harding

For Continued Learning and Reading:

Me and White Supremacy Workbook

Photographs and postcards of lynchings in America.

‘They Say’: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race

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