Why were some white Americans lynched?

America's racist lynchings: old cruelty in a new guise

In Georgia, plantation owners and their white employees had to serve in the militia that enforced the slavery laws in the 18th century, explains the American Civil Liberties Union. In US history, "White people have been appointed deputies to kill black people," says Green. "In Georgia, father and son were like slave-hunters."

The following scene is reminiscent of the violence that happened too often when enslaved black people were traveling without their passport, which according to the Black Codes they always had to carry with them.

A 30-minute cell phone video captured Arbery's violent death on February 23, 2020. It shows him jogging home on a street while two men are ambushing him. They were later identified as Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34.

Arbery tries to fend them off before they shoot him three times. He wants to flee, but then collapses dead on the street. It took two months for the two perpetrators to be arrested.

The Arbery assassination doesn't exist in a vacuum, says Coleman. It arises from a story of the “dehumanization” of black people. "All of these incidents are characterized by a common fear of being black."

This dehumanization was legalized in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott v Sandford case that Black Americans, free or enslaved, were not considered American citizens and could not sue in federal courts. This meant that blacks were not protected by the law "and blacks were not allowed to defend themselves," Coleman said.

This principle was also used in the murder of Taylor, says Coleman. The plainclothes police broke the door to their house in the middle of the night, causing Taylor's boyfriend to shoot them. "[The police] didn't shoot them just eight times," she says. “Because your boyfriend didn't understand what was happening and tried to defend his home, they arrested him for attempted murder of a police officer - because blacks are not supposed to defend themselves. For blacks this is a reality from the first day of their lives. "

Deadly allegations

When the nationwide protests broke out, the hashtag #AmyCooperIsARacist ("Amy Cooper is a racist") was also trending on Twitter. The incident reminded many of the danger black men face from allegations made by white women. The journalist Ida B. Wells had dealt with this problem in detail. In 2020 she posthumously won a Pulitzer Prize for fearless reporting of violence against black people during the era of lynchings.

Wells concluded that many black men have been lynched on false accusations made by white women. In a now famous editorial that appeared in her Memphis Free Speech newspaper on May 21, 1892, Wells wrote: “Nobody in this part of the country believes in the hackneyed old fairy tale of Black men rape white women. If the southern men are not careful, one could come to a conclusion that would be very damaging to the moral reputation of their women. "