For people who've forgotten what lynching actually means

This is late, but it's an important point from Jelani:

New rule effective immediately: no politician can use the term "lynching" to describe an otherwise routine political impasse. Nor can it be used for low-grade racial conflicts. Between 1880-1910 African Americans were lynched at a rate that averages out to two per week. These were people who were routinely tortured, shot and castrated before being set afire. Being passed over for a job -- even a job you deserve -- just isn't in the same category as recreational murder.

Yup, and when Rush threw that "lynching" card out there, he didn't just disgrace himself, he really trivialized, arguably, the most disgraceful eras in American history. Of course he wasn't the first:

First Clarence Thomas, inventor of the portable crucifix, hailed that he was the target of a hi-tech one (the only lynching to culminate in a guarantee of lifelong employment for the victim) and now every black politician who gets questioned on an expenditure smells kerosene in the air. (And this damn sure doesn't give Bill O'Reilly a pass on reckless lynching references either.)

Bobby Rush knows  (or at some point knew) better than this which is part of what makes the Roland Burris fiasco so frustrating. If Burris is not seated it will not be tantamount to a lynching. But he and Thomas have a surprising degree of common ground on the lynching issue.

Thomas threw out the L-word hoping to cow white Senate Democrats who were on the fence about his nomination. Seventeen years later Rush is tossing the term around pretty much for the same reason. In America, where cynicism is an art form, there's room for a kind of ironic appreciation for the fact that the most horrific element of black history can now be deployed to gain leverage over white politicians. That is, if it didn't consistently undermine the memory of what lynching actually was.

At the end of the day, cynicism is like using a mirror to look at a mirror -- in the reflection of a reflection of a reflection you eventually lose sight of what the real image is.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In