Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Black history you'd rather not know but should

I used to have this notion of lynchings as rogue affairs, carried out furtively in the dead of night by small groups of men. That is, I assumed there was some level of secrecy and shame attached to the act. How naive I was. Turns out that lynchings were well-attended public events. Apparently onlookers sometimes brought food. And their kids.

I learned an additional horrifying fact today: the lynchings were often photographed and the photographs were printed as postcards. Yeah, postcards. You know, in case you wanted to let your buddy or your grandma know that you'd been there. Heck, one imagines that there would have been t-shirts too, if t-shirts had existed in this era.

Anyway, a gentleman named James Allen collected these postcards and recently published them in a book titled Without Sanctuary. The photographs, and a flash movie based on them, are online here:

If you're a white person living in this country, you should look.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Words of wisdom from Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Likewise, I think in my best writing here, in the writing that really matters, I've worked to steer us away from the reductive parlor game of "Is this/he/she racist?" It's useful to a point, but ultimately self-serving. It underestimates our demons and it underestimates how an entire system warped nearly every institution in this country, and continues to warp it to this day. What I'd rather we us understand is some sense of the big system, some sense of American white supremacy as mechanized racism."

Read more.